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Dr. J. on Running

Glenn D. Loucks Games

Weather a Hurdle

Published in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

The choice between a senior class ball and a track meet sent much of the family to White Plains for the Glenn D. Loucks Memorial Track and Field Games, the largest meet held at an American high school. The Loucks Games were dedicated to the memory of Glenn Loucks, an athlete, coach, teacher and leader who served the Westchester community for three decades.

Loucks graduated from Oneida High School and Syracuse University, where he excelled in football, basketball and baseball. He went to White Plains in 1931 as head basketball coach, and later coached the track team. After serving in the US Navy during World War II, he returned to White Plains, and eventually ascended to vice principal and director of physical education.

Upon his death in 1962, the local newspaper remembered him as an everlasting symbol for everything that is good in a man who dedicated his life to making responsible citizens out of the youngsters entrusted to his care.

Our trip to White Plains had another motive. We sought to broadcast the Games on the Internet, the world's first outdoor athletic event carried in live video on the world-wide web. Our successful multicast of the New York State indoors championships from the Carrier Dome last February gave us the confidence to attempt another world first.

The setting of the White Plains High School outdoor track presented new problems for the webcast team. The 400-meter track required cameras with a larger dynamic range than a 200-meter indoor track. The outdoor track was not wired for Internet access, and the entire set-up was at the mercy of the weather.

From an athletic perspective, the two-day meet ran like clockwork. All the events started on time. Qualifying entry standards produced exciting competition and national performances. Local athletes generated hometown pride and noisy cheers. Visitors invoked enthusiastic applause and genuine encouragement. Warm hospitality made everyone feel welcome and at home.

The first day of competition featured preliminary heats in running events. Several Central New York athletes advanced into Saturday's finals, including Shannon Morris, Katie Bubnack and Colleen Eccles in the 800 meters, Morgan Doherty in the 1600, Chris Dankiw in the 800 and Pat Brodfuehrer in the 1,600.

Off the track, many of our fears materialized. An intermittent rain required covering the computer equipment with a tarp and protecting the cameras with plastic bags. Severe backbone congestion on the Internet prevented the local encoder from accessing the remote server in Syracuse, and put the live webcast in jeopardy. Contingency plans went by the wayside as the network superhighway turned into a narrow trail. A local make-shift server configured in a hurry permitted a limited webcast to the White Plains region.

The first day ended with a community dinner in the High School cafeteria during for the athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers. Following dinner, host families invited visiting athletes and coaches to spend the night in local homes.

Friday's clouds and showers gave way to a dense fog and steady cold drizzle on Saturday. As we shivered in the blowing mist and technicians restored Internet bandwidth, we archived the video files of the first day and broadcast live the entire second day. The inclement weather impaired the visibility of the cameras, and repeatedly brought out the air blowers to dry the field.

Olympic-style opening festivities included a marching band, a US Marine honor guard, a flag-raising ceremony and runners carrying torches from the 1984 Olympics. The weather caused the cancellation of the parade of athletes, and damped the spirits of the spectators.

The competition on the track and field showcased many of the best scholastic athletes in the nation. Community leaders and former Olympians presented each champion with the Loucks Track and Field Award, based on the Olympian sculpture created for these Games by the late artist Martin Lumen Winter.

As thunderstorms ushered the end of the thirty-second Loucks Games and an elusive sun set on the city, we returned home with cold toes and warm feelings, leaving behind many new friends and a license plate. Our hearts have been filled with the spirit of Glenn Loucks, that lives on through the generosity and hospitality of the people of White Plains.

Kamal Jabbour plans to return to White Plains next year in the hope of better weather. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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