I ran track for Lancaster (OH) High from 1979-1981. We were state champs in 1980 and runners up in 1979 & 1981.
Our Coach, Bob Hamm, was a driver's ed teacher who really wasn't a great tactician of the sport but he never failed to challenge us to be great. People are amazed when I tell them that our team meetings always ended with the Coach pulling his paddle out and doling out some discipline in front of the team. I think I was boarded three times in my years, once for a snowball fight and twice for false starts. Usually it was in good nature but you never wanted to skip a class during track season.
We nicknamed him The Ground Hog for his incredible likeness to the rodent. Ultimately, the name shortened to The Grounder. One of the assistant coaches actually shot a ground hog and had the taxidermist stuff it and put little fishing hat on it and a stop watch around it's neck. It was hilarious.
The Grounder died yesterday morning. I know he had been in poor health for a number of years. The last time I saw him was at a friend's 40th birthday party. Despite his health, he was every bit as cantankerous as he was in the day.
I'm a believer that your life is really a culmination of the lives who have touched you. When you travel in vans from track meet to track meet, your coaches become nearly as close to you as your parents. After three years with The Grounder, I can say that I would never have been the man I am today without those years.
Coach Hamm, you'll be missed but you live on in each of us.