Publisher's Note: The PA girls' class of 2008 is special. Two Foot Locker finalists as juniors. An 800 runner who medals at states in cross country, but also competes on the national stage against world class talent as a junior in the two-lapper. Pretty rare you say? Actually, it is. But it was a Pennsylvania class of girls in 1982 who wrote the record books on those events, and whose records and accomplishments this current class is chasing. In this three-part series by Neely Spence (yes, that Neely Spence), she'll introduce you to this talented group, tell you about their accomplishments, and give you some perspective on why those marks still stand.
We'd like to give special thanks to Penn Relays Carnival Director Dave Johnson for his insights and for the stats on these special talents. And thanks to Neely Spence for dedicating a lot of time over the past few months to researching and writing this series. And when you follow this current class through the remaining months of their prep careers, savor it – you're watching something very rare, indeed.
Part Three: After High School:
By Neely Spence
Why are their records still standing? Reflecting on their high school careers, they realize they needed each other to succeed.
The third and final section of this trilogy now unfolds. What are the plans for these new high school grads? Where will they be spending their next few years?
Kim is focused on making an Olympic team. Lois is beginning her scholastic studies at Harvard. Lynne is headed to North Carolina State, ready for competition. And Gina got that college scholarship she wanted. Reflecting on their fairytale high school careers, they wonder: would they have accomplished what they did without each other?
KIM SPENT 9 YEARS FOCUSED ON THE 800 BEFORE SHE
RAN HER HIGH SCHOOL NATIONAL RECORD OF 2:00.07.
What is a common thought for high school seniors? That’s right, college. Kim’s story is an exception however. She was thinking running, 800 meters, and the Olympics.
as a sophomore - the meet was at Fort Indiantown Gap
Coached mostly by her elder brother Bart prior to 1983, he helped her find a club, and settled on Chuck DeBus in California, who coached her from 1983 until 1988. Kim at long last made her dream come true. She ran in the 1984 Olympics and earned a silver medal in the 800.
Now that she had met her goal, some people might think that Kim would retire and live her happily ever after life. But for Kim, she was just igniting.
Her training became more precise and in her races she ran like she was on fire. That flame is what carried her to her second consecutive Olympic final in 1988-the height of her career-where she ran 1:56.91 in the 800 to take home a bronze medal. She was then ranked fourth in the world by Track & Field News.
Kim had an amazing career, earning 12 PIAA state gold medals in high school, setting state and national records (some still have yet to be surpassed), receiving All American honors at Upper Dublin high school, Penn Relays champ, and is now a member of the Pennsylvania T&F Coaches Association Hall of Fame as well as the Penn Relays Hall of Fame.
Someone might ask how Kim accomplished all this when the facilities she had available were rather primitive. Her high school coach Jack Fuery said, “The best track in the area was the one that was used for the State meet... the Shippensburg University track at that time was a green, all-weather surface.” He also mentioned, “Our uniforms were very hot and heavy and didn’t breathe. If it was windy, they would turn in to sails.”
So why haven’t Kim’s records been broken? How did she stay motivated in high school and not lose sight of her Olympic dream? Well, to answer the first question she had an incomparable ability to push herself to the max without close competition.
Fuery had some ideas, “We would usually have a Saturday meet and during the week we had more time for training than most high school teams now. There weren’t as many teams (because running was still a newer sport for girls) so there weren’t as many dual meets. We still limited the number of races or events, so when she raced, she raced.”
Raced she did. She was competitive and was always there to win. Fuery added, “Kim competed against the top girls in the nation who just happened to be from the PA as well. She had high regard for them and admired their competitiveness, but she expected to win.”
With PA being a national hotbed for track and field, it was a golden era. It is still amazing what Kim was able to accomplish because she was a forerunner and was ahead of her time.
It is safe to say that Kim had talent and admittedly that helps. But she was focused, goal-driven and highly motivated… she spent nine years concentrating on the 800 before she ran her high school national record (2:00.07).
Regretfully, Kim died in November 2002 of cancer, leaving behind a young daughter Jessica, who now lives with Kim’s parents. With a passion as strong as Kim’s was for running, to this day in heaven she certainly must still be kickin’ butt. Her brother Bart had died in 2000.
IF IT WAS COLD,
WE’D WEAR LONG UNDERWEAR OR SWEATPANTS TO RACE IN.
In 1982, girls weren’t allowed to take official college visits. Moving on to college was also not as common as it is today. But Lois was a hard worker and always strived to be better. So college was definitely on her mind.
She was injured during her senior year of track, so she used that extra time to do some research. “I talked with the coach at Wake Forest and he said that he would give me advice and help me find a great college. Harvard: good academics and good running. It was exactly what I wanted.” She added, “I focused on my academics, which probably affected my athletics, but I wanted running to be fun.”
Using running as her stress reliever, Lois graduated from Harvard and became a lawyer. She still runs to “stay healthy and sane” and uses it as a social time but has off-and-on Achilles pain “from all those years in spikes!”
Reflecting on her high school career, Lois has no regrets. Even she finds it amazing that her records are still standing,
“The technology in clothing is so much more advanced now. We didn’t have licra tights, if it was cold, we’d wear long underwear or sweatpants to race in.”
She says all the credit goes to her competitors. Yes, Lois was driven and gifted and motivated; but she wanted to win, and to do that, she had to work her tail off. “Lynne and Kim were incredible runners. I never would have run as fast as I did without that competition.”
Speaking about technology, Lois noted that the internet wasn't really available then. Now athletes just get on-line and “google” any name they want and find out everything about their competition. In 1982 that luxury just wasn’t there. “I would check out T&F news rankings and get newspapers from Lynne and Kim’s area to find out what they’d been up to. But unless you knew someone from your competitor's home town, and they sent you newspaper clippings, it was hard to find any useful info.”
Lois has six state medals, one of them gold; two District 3 AAA records; a Kinney (Footlocker) Northeast regional title; plus all America first team status at the 1981 Kinney (Footlocker) Nationals with her second place finish.
Lois spent a day last spring at the Shippensburg University track, watching the District 3 track meet; she says, “It’s about time these records get broken!” Don’t be surprised if she attends next May, it might just be the year.
WE ALL DROVE EACH OTHER TO BE BETTER,
IT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SHOES.
After being heavily recruited since 10th grade, Lynne decided to go south… maybe all those trips to Kinney (two in San Diego and one in Florida) influenced her warm weather decision.
Either way, she was headed to third-ranked North Carolina State. “College kind of killed my spirit; in high school I had the whole package… the coach, the team, the support. In college, I also had a great coach, but I really didn’t feel the same as I did in high school. Everyone on my team was great individually, but we never really worked together, we just competed.”
Lynne stuck with the program; she continued to excel in athletics. However, she had lost the spunk she had in high school. Running became hard and often un-fun. Each practice turned into a race, and in the middle of her senior year, Lynne gave up running. “After a teammate went through an eating disorder, I was disgusted by what people were willing to go through to become better. I couldn’t enjoy running anymore, so I walked away from the sport.”
Lynne became a very successful businesswoman, working in the corporate world. She got married, then started “doing the Mom thing.”
Lynne, who overflowed with charisma and had so much spring in her step during her high school career, couldn’t walk away from running forever. In 2004 she made a New Year’s resolution… she was going to run every day that year. Since then she hasn’t missed a day.
“I look back on my running career and realize that my fondest running years were those with my high school team.” Lynne was a three-time, first team All American and has probably owns the most consistent Kinney (Footlocker) record (placing second her first two years and third her last.) She was a five-time PIAA gold medalist, and a two-time Penn Relays 3k champ.
Strauss continued, “Kim Gallagher and I raced and she was phenomenal. She was a bundle of God-given talent, and I really admired her. Lois Brommer had the biggest heart of anyone. She might not have had the raw natural talent like Kim Gallagher, but she had the drive and the competitiveness. We all drove each other to be better; it had nothing to do with the shoes!"
Why haven’t our records been broken? "There are a lot more sports available to girls now than there were then… so it spreads the talent thinner.”
Lynne now spends her time running, weight lifting, being a Mom and currently taking tennis lessons with her two children. “If I could change anything about my high school running, I would have lifted weights.” She also added, “I wish we were all still alive and could reunite and reminisce about those four special years.”
IN THE 1980s, TIGHTS, JOG BRAS, RACING FLATS, WAFFLES…
WERE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN, IF EVEN EXISTANT.
Photo: Sun Valley's Gina Procaccio leading he first 100m of the state XC Champs in 1979 at Fort Indiantown Gap, when the class of '82 were sophomores.
Gina had great high school coaches and thought that all college coaches had to be better. “I didn’t understand that there were different coaching styles and philosophies. I just was excited to have been offered a scholarship.”
Gina spent her first three years at the University of Florida, before realizing that it was not the atmosphere she wanted and transferred to Villanova for the remainder of her collegiate athletics.
Upon graduation, Gina turned pro and ran personal bests of 15:26 for 5k and 8:45 for 3k. She used her experience as a high profile athlete and became a coach at Villanova in 1994.
“When I first started coaching at Villanova, the girls’ team took off their shirts and ran in their jog bras. I was like ‘oh my gosh, what are they doing?’ In the 1980s, tights, jog bras, racing flats, waffles…. were all few-and-far between, if even existent. Spikes were a lot heavier, but in high school we didn’t know any different.”
Repeating what Gina quoted in an earlier article, “It was all about being a state champ, and since most of the top girls in the country happened to be from PA, it was tough competition… you had to run fast to win.”
THERE WERE TWO OTHER GIRLS THAT IN ANY OTHER CLASS
WOULD HAVE BEEN TRACK QUEENS.
Holly Murray from Plymouth-Whitemarsh ran 10:46.0 in the 3200 her junior year to finish third at the PIAA state meet and 4:53.07 in the 1600 her senior year to finish second behind Lynne. Joanne Kehs from Perkiomen Valley was a 10-time PIAA AA state champ (eight of those were relays). Individually, she won the 800 in 2:11.9 her junior year and 2:09.68 her senior year. Joanne attended Villanova and matured into an even more decorated athlete.
A PLACE IN HISTORY.
Time does have a way of changing things; the ivy grows and the beauty is hidden, but never lost; it is merely just waiting to be uncovered. Hopefully, these girls’ happily ever after high school careers are no longer a mystery to you. There are, of course, some things that remain unknown – for how could anyone understand exactly what it was like to be a part of the most incredible girls' distance running class in PA history – the class of 1982.