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Friday, April 4, 2014

Happy 90th Birthday, Coach Shipley

Coach Gene Shipley will have his 90th birthday this year on April 18th. This page is the beginning of a virtual birthday party. I am posting pictures and inviting comments from people.

Posted Online: April 02, 2010, 6:41 pm

Moline marks 50th anniversary of boys' track title

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By Daniel Makarewicz,
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Dan Videtich
Legendary Moline High School track coach Gene Shipley acknowledges the crowd after the track at Browning Field in Moline was after him during the Shipley Invitational Track and Field Meet Saturday.
Upon arriving home after winning the 1960 state title on a chilly Saturday in Champaign, the Moline boys' track team simply stopped at Wharton Field House, gathered their belongings and went home.

There was no parade or firetruck ride through the streets. The welcome-home ceremony was held two days later.

"I took the trophy and it was in my living room," said Moline coach Gene Shipley, who led the team to the single-class state title.

Some well-deserved recognition soon followed.

"People drove by my house and honked their (car) horns," Shipley said. "So I put the trophy on my front steps."

Fifty years ago this spring, Moline won the school's first state championship and the first in the Illinois Quad-Cities since Rock Island shared the 1936 tennis title. To commemorate the historical feat, the team will be recognized during today's Shipley Invitational at Browning Field.

Several members of that team, including Shipley, will be present as signs honoring the 1960 state champions, the 1962 boys' track state runners-up and the 1988 boys' third-place cross-country team are unveiled during an 11 a.m. ceremony.

"This will be great," said Shipley, 85, who coached at Moline from 1954-85. "I haven't seen some of those kids since that particular day (in 1960). It's just as fresh in my mind as it was 50 years ago. I can picture that final day."

On that day, Moline not only captured the team title by 3 1/7 points over Alton, but won the program's first relay title as the quartet of Kenny Carlson, Jim Cunningham, Louie Ritchie and Henry Ritchie won the mile relay over Chicago Heights Bloom Township.

That particular relay qualified eighth for the finals after dropping the baton on the third exchange in Friday's preliminary race.

"The next day, we had good exchanges," said Dick Schluter, who was a senior on the team. "That was pretty dramatic. The last exchange (between Carlson and Henry Ritchie) was right in front of where we were standing. We just couldn't believe it. To see that happen, our stomach just turned."

In those days, only five teams scored in each event -- as compared to nine in today's state meet. But the Maroons displayed their versatility to get the title. Schluter finished second in the 220-yard dash and third in the 100, giving Moline seven points and becoming the second athlete in school history with two All-State finishes in the same meet.

John Anders won the school's first discus title after throwing 162-feet, 10-inches and the 880 relay took second, pushing Moline's point total to 21. Dave Jackson's fifth-place tie in the high jump forced the one point to be split seven ways, giving the team one-seventh of a point.

"It was a great thing to happen," Shipley said of the title. "It happened to a great bunch of kids who really wanted it. I can't tell you the elation you get when you win something that big. It's stayed with me all these years."

The state title was just the beginning of a memorable season. During the postseason banquet, former U.S. Olympian Jesse Owens spoke to the team. According to Shipley, the four-time Olympic gold medalist was visiting a friend in Geneseo and eagerly accepted the invitation to attend the banquet.

"We were shocked and awed that he would be at our school and be the speaker," Schluter said. "I had the opportunity to have my picture taken with him. It was just fantastic. ... As you get older, you think back and say, 'Jesse Owens spoke to us.' That was quite an experience."

Ten years later, Schulter, who lives in Sycamore and is attending today's ceremony, said he crossed paths with Owens again while living in Chicago.

"The president of my company knew of my involvement in track and he invited me to lunch with Owens," Schluter said. "I reminded (Owens)that he had been at Moline and he remembered."

The whole experience, from making school history to meeting one of America's most iconic athletes, is still fresh even today. It hasn't faded even though the years have passed quickly.

"I was always very proud to be from Moline," Schluter said. "As you get older, you learn to appreciate it even more."


Moline To Honor 1960 Track Team

March 31, 2010 11:32 pm  •  

Gene Shipley's "boys" are coming home Saturday.
"It's been 50 years, but I still picture them as young people even though some of them are probably 68 years old now," said Shipley, the longtime boys track coach at Moline High School. "It's going to be good to see those boys again."
Shipley's 1960 Maroons were the first downstate team in 25 years to win the Illinois state high school boys track championship and members of that team will be among those honored Saturday at the track meet that bears his name.
Signs recognizing three Moline state trophy winning teams - the 1960 state championship boys track team, the 1962 state runner-up boys track team and the third-place boys state cross country team from 1988 - will be unveiled at Browning Field at the Gene Shipley Invitational.
An additional sign listing all of the Maroons' individual state titlists is also scheduled be unveiled during a ceremony scheduled for 11 a.m.
"It's a great opportunity to celebrate some great Moline teams and some great individuals," said Jeff Quick, a former Moline athlete and coach. "It's recognition that is long overdue."
Shipley said he welcomes the chance to celebrate a team which ended a Chicago-area stronghold on the state title by halting a string of four straight championships by Chicago Heights Bloom.
"It was a special group. We had good sprinters, good quarter-milers, good field events and good luck and it took all of that to win," Shipley said.
A win by John Anders in the discus on a rainy, windy Friday at Champaign, Ill., then the site of the state meet, positioned Moline to chase a championship on Saturday.
Inclement weather continued on the final day of the meet, but second- and third-place finishes by Dick Schluter in the 220- and 100-yard dashes, a runner-up effort in the 880 relay and a seventh-place tie by Dave Jackson in the high jump - good for one-seventh of a point - positioned the Maroons to edge Alton for the title with a win in the mile relay.
Jim Cunningham, Louie Ritchie, Ken Carlson and Henry Ritchie won the event in 3 minutes, 30.4 seconds and Moline became the first team in Quad-Cities history to win the Illinois state team title.
"We went into state with the fastest time in the event, but we had a handoff problem on Friday in qualifying and were the eighth qualifier for the finals," Shipley said. "I was so nervous, I couldn't watch. I went to the washroom until it was over. Things turned out OK, I guess."
The Maroons celebrated their state championship in style the next week, welcoming Olympic legend Jesse Owens as the guest speaker at the team's season awards banquet.
"Jesse had a lady friend in Geneseo, and he was around here quite often at that time. That's how the group that hosted our banquet was able to secure him as a speaker," Shipley said.
"Our boys thought he would come in and pat them on the back for winning the championship, but he didn't. It was pretty straight stuff. I remember him telling the team that the only race that was important was the race of life."
A headline in the next day's Davenport Morning Democrat, a predecessor of today's Quad-City Times, illustrated the seriousness of Owens' message, reading, "Ex-Olympic star warns Maroons."
Owens, who still shared the world record in the 100-yard dash at the time, preached the value of higher education and was quoted as saying, "When the headlines are worn out, you're liable to become an athletic bum, jumping from one odd job to another. It happens to many stars."

With Santa, 1987.

Coach Shipley, 2008.

Dick Lewis, Mike Golding, Coach Shipley, and Wes Johnson

Track helpers 85, Mr. Catterton, Coach Shipley, Mr. L., Mr. Edlund
Coach Shipley being inducted into the Coaches Hall of Fame,
with Jeff Quick.
Last day of school, 1985.
Coach Shipley by the M, 1985.
Coach Shipley had a farm, 1970-1989,
where many of the track members ran
before school.