The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


April 6, 2013

Harold Raker's track and field column: So long old friends

After he lost his bid for governor of California (after also losing the presidential race to John F. Kennedy), future commander in chief the late Richard M. Nixon told reporters, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore."

Over the years, perhaps no Valley sport event was kicked around any more than Shamokin High's Purple and White Relays.

It had nothing to do with the competition; it just seemed that the brainchild of former Indians' boys coach Sam Weaver was jinxed by Mother Nature.

Perhaps the track organizers ticked off Punxsutawney Phil (who I believe is currently under protective custody).

The relays, fairly or not, just got that kind of reputation. People would check the date of the event before planning any early-spring activities. If it fell on trout season, you could hear the fishermen cursing under their breath.

One year, as runners were headed down the backstretch of the track, a heavy snow squall popped up, making for a great newspaper photo, but less than ideal conditions for the athletes.

It often reminded me of a late fall day at Beaver Stadium, where one could experience all four seasons in one afternoon.

Oh, you're asking the point of all this. Sorry for digressing.

Citing financial concerns, Shamokin officials before the start of the season cancelled this year's Purple and Whites. To make matters worse for track and field traditionalists, Mount Carmel just this week cancelled the annual Jerry Breslin Relays, which were closing in on 50 years at the venerable Silver Bowl.

Those relays, originally scheduled for April 26, were renamed for legendary Red Tornadoes coach, the late Jerry Breslin in the mid-1980s.

Both schools' athletic directors, Shamokin's Rick Kashner and Mount Carmel's Greg Sacavage noted the decline of participating teams in recent years, with more venues (and newer facilities) available.

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