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
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By Daniel Makarewicz, firstname.lastname@example.org
|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.
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