By Dennis Martin
Noting the obvious, WPHS didn’t have a football stadium or track & field facilities on campus. So, how did WPHS become so dominant in track and field? How did WPHS become so feared around the state? How did we become the first HS team to take the Miami Relays trophy out of Miami? It was all due to the excellent coaching of Coach Bob Mosher. Coach Mosher was the first U.S. high school coach of the year (that’s a national honor – all 50 states) to NOT be a football, baseball, or basketball coach. He was that good and that well-recognized among his peers across the country. He was instrumental in building the current track facility at Showalter Field. Each day Coach Mosher would prepare a different workout routine for each player on the team – hurdlers, sprinters, middle distance runners, field events, long distance runners. I’d see him working on these at his desk in the locker room. Can you imagine the stench – an office in the boys’ locker room?
Another small, overlooked ingredient in our success may have been our daily run to the Glenridge Junior High track and back. That’s where the track team practiced every day. In between the run over and the run back were two hours of grueling practice – stretching, wind sprints and laps. As part of the training, team members were expected to run to Glenridge, practice, then run or walk back to the high school.
There were two ways to get to Glenridge. You could stay on the main roads: Pennsylvania Ave to Lake Sue Ave to Winter Park Rd to Glenridge Ave. Or you could take a more direct route: zigzagging on side streets, cutting between people’s houses, running through orange groves behind the houses, and along Lake Virginia. The runners, for the most part, ran the direct route, while the shot putters and discus throwers – the big guys – would take the main roads. We’d always jog to practice, but often would just walk most of the way back, after an exhausting practice. The most memorable part of these trips back, was walking through the orange groves, stopping to pick and peel oranges, munching on them all the way back to school. I could easily eat two a day.
But something peculiar was happening. The big guys, upperclassmen, the lumbering shot putters and discus throwers – Vogel, Chapman, Sias and Maliska – were beating the runners back to WPHS on the main roads. Were we lingering that long in the orange groves? Or was it a geometrical illusion that the main roads were a longer route? Determined to figure it out, I left Glenridge after practice at the same time the big guys left, running all the way back, taking every shortcut I knew, not stopping for oranges. They still beat me back. So I thought, even though it seems longer on the main paved roads, maybe it isn’t. I’ll jog back with them tomorrow. On the way back the next day, it became clear. If you stayed on the main roads, you were more likely to have a friend drive by and give you a ride back to the school. Duh.
During track season in the Spring of 1966, stories surfaced about a new liquid, a new wonder-liquid developed at the University of Florida – called Gatorade. It was only being used in Gainesville by their college athletes. It wasn’t yet available for the public. Not exactly clear on what this stuff was or did, and not wanting to be part of a doping scandal, we stuck to our menthol liniment, salt pills and dextrose tablets. Even when it became available to the public, Gatorade didn’t taste nearly as good as orange juice, and how could a drink made from powder be better than a naturally-grown fruit?
So, what’s it going to be? Natural or artificial? Jogging or a car ride? Orange juice or Gatorade?
Well today, fifty years later, jogging is out, and a slow walk to the car is in. I’ll take a mimosa, screwdriver or tequila sunrise any time. And Gatorade? I keep it on my night stand in case I get one of those mysterious nighttime leg cramps.