The Finish Line

Part two in a two-part Diversions series about Warren Area High School’s state championship cross country team of 1966. The first part of the series was published in last Saturday’s WTO.

Park in Erie. The Class B Grapepickers were led by Ted Miller, the only area coach whose savvy rivaled Shaw’s. Miller was establishing a track and cross country dynasty at North East that would last for more than three decades.

The Dragons that afternoon had to sit through a long lightning delay before eking out a 27-28 win over the ‘Pickers. As Pan Fanaritis (WAHS ’67) points out, the clutch performance proved a harbinger for the rest of the season. The Dragons also won a tough dual meet against District X ?ber rival McDowell.

A few weeks later, at the Gannon Invitational in Erie, with dozens of schools from all over competing, the Dragons finished second, losing only to perennial power St. Joseph’s High of Cleveland. WAHS even finished ahead of North Allegheny, the suburban Pittsburgh school whose top runner, Jerry Richey, was the defending PIAA individual cross country champion. A future sub-four minute miler at the University of Pittsburgh, Richey was not only the best middle distance runner in the state but among the best in the country.

WAHS dominated regular season opponents that fall, yet somehow lost a dual meet at Oil City when Cobb tripped over an oil drag line in the middle of the course (an act of willful negligence on the part of the Venango County School District that today would be grounds for a million-dollar lawsuit) and Shaffer stopped to make sure his buddy was okay. After the delay, neither could catch up to the lead Oiler runners.

Maxwell still refers to Oil City as their “meet of shame” and recollects that Shaw was none-too-pleased with their effort, Shaffer’s compassion notwithstanding. But Maxwell and Fanaritis both think that the Oil City shocker may have been a blessing in disguise. It brought into sharp relief what Shaw had been preaching: the small differences between winning and losing.

At the Section II championship at WAHS in mid-October, Cobb, Shaffer, and Maxwell, respectively, finished in the top three spots, with Fanaritis fifth. The Dragons similarly dominated the District X meet the following Saturday at Frontier Park, with Cobb and Shaffer finishing first and second, Maxwell fourth, and Fanaritis 13th.

One of the Motown tunes that Oriole, Fanaritis, Shaffer, and Cobb enjoyed mimicking was the Four Tops’ “Reach Out,” which made it to #1 on the national charts just as the squad was hosting the Section meet. It was written by Holland-Dozier-Holland, the Motown trio who penned half the tunes, including “Jimmy Mack” and “Stop! In the Name of Love!,” which still rattle around the brainwaves of baby boomers.

“Reach Out” salutes two of Jack Shaw’s favorite themes: teamwork delivering in the clutch for people you care about; and tenacity overcoming the hurdles that life throws your way. The last verse goes, “Just look over your shoulder, and I-I-I-I’ll be there, to give you all the love you ne-ee-eed, and I-I-I-I’ll be there, you can always depend on me-ee-ee.”

As the state meet approached, the Four Tops’ look-over-your-shoulder riff became their rallying cry. “You can always depend on me” was, Shaffer and Fanaritis recall, their way of saying, “Don’t worry, I’ve got your back in a tight race.” As Pan puts it, the song was “an ode to pack running.”

The upperclassmen had learned those values from a former teammate and favorite of Shaw and Randas’ named Alfred “Buddy” Erickson, who had graduated the previous spring. Buddy was witty and self-effacing, the kind of kid whose little gestures of friendship were always appreciated and whose nicknames for friends and teammates tended to stick. For reasons that will forever remain shrouded in mystery, Buddy christened Jim Oriole “Cotton Balls.” His own nickname, “Alf” or “Alfie,”poked fun at his starchy given name. His mischievous eyes and dimpled cheeks made him irresistible; girls “adored” him, Oriole remembers.

Erickson had been an outstanding middle-distance runner at WAHS, anchoring the two-mile relay squad while setting a school record for the 880-yard run of 1:58. Shaw had helped him win a partial scholarship to run track and cross country at Ohio University. As the Dragons devoured their competition that fall, Buddy paid close attention from Athens, scribbling notes of encouragement and straining his freshman-year budget by phoning Shaw and Randas to get the latest scoop.

When Mary Jane Miller was inducted into the WAHS honor society that year, Buddy sent her a congratulatory letter. Alf’s note meant so much to Mary Jane that she’s kept it all these years in a box that holds personal ephemera.

It was teenage romance, in fact, that stirred Mary Jane’s interest in hanging out with the track and cross country guys. She harbored a crush sadly unrequited on Ed Christianson (WAHS ’67), a lanky and powerful runner who’d recorded a remarkable 4:26 mile as a sophomore and placed 42nd at the ’65 state cross country meet. Ed never again came close to matching his mile mark or to fulfilling his considerable potential. As a senior, no doubt weary of Shaw’s workouts, he chose not to go out for cross country. So the Dragons competed that fall without their #1 runner.

Despite the absence of her heartthrob, Mary Jane became a virtual member of the team. “We all liked her and she did a terrific job assisting the coaches,” Oriole says.

Mary Jane did much more than just show up at meets and cheer. She baked cookies and brownies for the guys, usually assisted by her mother, who had suffered from multiple sclerosis for most of her adult life. For Halloween that fall, the Miller women carved personalized pumpkins for the boys and their coaches and filled them with goodies.

The proud owner of a 1958 Austin-Healey “Sprite” sports car, Mary Jane also provided vital transportation services. She would often stuff two harriers into her passenger seat and one or more into the Sprite’s tiny back ledge. In that pre-seat belt era, she would schlep the boys from place to place, sometimes to escape the unforgiving eyes of Shaw and Randas.

On weekends, she’d grab her dad’s big sedan and drop off the gang at some crossroads 10 miles or so outside town. As her car kicked up dust and the boys began their lonely slog back toward the borough, she’d wave a cheerful goodbye.

Once Shaw taught her how to keep score at a meet, adding the finishing spots of WAHS’s top runners and contrasting them to the other team(s)’s top finishers (lowest score wins), she became the harriers’ scribe and historian.

“Mary Jane made us feel important,” recalls Bill Shaffer, expressing a sentiment echoed by his old teammates.

The feeling was mutual, Mary Jane says today. It meant a lot to her to be part of their success. She’s kept almost every scrap of paper from that fall’s exploits.

Shaffer and his teammates got out of school early on Friday, November 4, to drive down to State College to check out the championship course in daylight. As always, the seating protocol in Shaw’s Nova and Randas’ Bonneville was determined by a combination of seniority and the boys’ order of finish at the previous meet, which in this case was Districts.

District champ Cobb got to sit up front next to Shaw, with Shaffer directly behind him. Fanaritis was crammed next to Shaffer in the middle of the Nova’s back seat. It meant that Dave, Bill, and Pan got to listen one more time as Shaw held forth on the glories of running what made middle distance stars like New Zealander Peter Snell and Kenyan Kipchoge Keino click. It helped imbue in the boys a lifelong appreciation for the sport.

Maxwell, meanwhile, got to sit up front in Randas’ Bonneville, which meant he could join Andy in crooning along to the radio. Andy could carry a tune; Larry was tone-deaf.

The Association’s “Cherish,” one of the greatest and sappiest slow-dance songs ever recorded, had been replaced as #1 that fall by the boys’ mantra, “Reach Out.” But as Randas, Maxwell, and company motored through Clearfield, America’s chart-topper was the rocker “96 Tears” by one-hit wonders Question Mark and the Mysterians.

The Dragons weren’t shedding tears as they toed the line in State College the next morning. Along with other state meet competitors, they were gathered in a big semicircle along a ridge on PSU’s golf layout (today it’s known as the “White” Course).

WAHS, by virtue of its District X championship, got what turned out to be a favorable starting position: a spot on the right flank with a direct path to the swale below. The day before, as they walked the course, Shaw had stressed the importance of getting off to a fast start and not being intimidated by the big-name runners from the Pittsburgh schools.

Shaw’s strategy was simple: get to the front in a hurry, stay together in a pack, hang on for dear life, and finish strong. Randas would later adopt that same philosophy in advising Dragon runners how to approach the four-lap mile run: “Run the first lap as fast as you can and the last lap as fast as you can. In between, don’t slow down.”

After the starter’s pistol went off, Shaffer, the squad’s designated “rabbit,” sprinted to the front, followed closely by Cobb, McCartney, and Fanaritis. Per Shaw’s direction, they were intent on being the first to navigate a narrow pass in the valley. At the quarter mile mark, the four Dragons were all near the lead. McCartney and Fanaritis eventually fell off but Shaffer and Cobb continued to set the pace through the one-mile mark and beyond. As Shaw had anticipated, North Allegheny’s Richey and his arch rival, Mike Shurko of Bethel Park, then took over, distancing themselves from the rest of the field.

“Cobb stayed in the top 25 at the mile-and-three-quarter mark, with Shaffer and Fanaritis in the next group and Maxwell about 100 yards behind,” Steele wrote in his WTM&O account. McCartney continued to slip. With less than a quarter-mile left, Cobb overtook a gaggle of runners. Dave finished in 17th place, which was adjusted to seventh once non-team runners were eliminated.

Maxwell also surged the last few hundred yards, passing Fanaritis and getting within a couple of strides of Shaffer. Fanaritis hung tough, keeping Shaffer and Maxwell just off his shoulder and making up ground on the final hill. By executing Shaw’s game plan “to perfection,” as Steele put it, Cobb (17th), Shaffer (27th), Maxwell (30th), and Fanaritis (33rd) enabled Oriole to pull off his last-hill heroics.

None of it was happenstance. It’s clear from the pre-race articles in the WTM&O that Shaw never reticent to express a point of view had gamed out the state meet, figuring that if WAHS’ 3-4-5 runners could outpace their counterparts from North Allegheny, Penn Hills, and Bethel Park, the Dragons would have more than a fighting chance to win.

Mary Jane remembers doing the arithmetic as the results began coming in. She yelped “We won! We won!,” exulting with her dad when she realized that the Dragons had come out on top. For a half-century, she’s preserved the small notebook paper on which she scratched out her calculations.

Shaw and Randas, huddled with Steele near where the officials were comparing notes, at first refused to accept Mary’s Jane’s numbers, somehow convinced that the Dragons would end up a close second.

Soon enough, though, it was official: Warren had won, with Penn Hills and Bethel Park tied for second and mighty North Allegheny slipping to a distant sixth. The Dragons’ District X adversary McDowell finished fifth, surely a satisfying moment for Coach Randas, who would devote much of his life over the next three-plus decades trying to beat the big-school Trojans in cross country, track, and basketball. It was never easy.

The boys can’t remember how they reacted to the sweet news. Some recall shaking hands with a smiling Shaw and taking a photograph with the championship trophy in a nearby gym. But it was the pre-high-five era. There was no hugging, no ritualized celebration or we-did-it! chanting.

Shaw and Randas got them standing room tickets to see PSU’s football team play the Syracuse Orangemen that afternoon. The gang watched the Nittany Lions lose, 12-10, in one of five defeats they suffered in Joe Paterno’s first season as head coach.

At some point, the coaches phoned WNAE Radio and WAHS principal Joe Passaro to break the news. Passaro told them to take their time getting back to Warren so he’d have time to organize a victory celebration. So Shaw and Randas slow-poked their way home; the two-car caravan made stops for gas and took a couple of bathroom and snack breaks.

They pulled into the WAHS circle after dark to be greeted by a small but enthusiastic throng of parents and pals. Mary Jane and Ernie Miller, fresh from Rt. 948, were there, of course, leading the applause as the slightly sheepish Dragons climbed out of the Nova and Bonneville. Mr. Passaro, a wonderful man who left us not long ago at age 101, shared some heartfelt remarks and introduced Coach Shaw and Captain Fanaritis.

A WAHS ’67 shutterbug named Steve Beyer took some photos that the WTM&O used in Monday’s paper. One of them captured Captain Fanaritis hugging the trophy, with fellow senior Jim Oriole beaming in the background.

The beaming didn’t fade for a while. After homeroom that Monday morning, there was an all-school assembly. Maybe because they weren’t wearing the protective shields of their Motown outfits, Shaffer and Oriole felt intimidated; they stared at the floor while Mr. Passaro sang their praises.

For a while, the boys were treated like celebrities. That week, the Sports Boosters hosted an event in their honor. The Boosters announced that they were ordering special blue-and-white jackets for the harriers to commemorate the championship. At a WAHS awards assembly months later, the team surprised Mary Jane with a trophy for her yeo-woman contributions to their triumphs. She choked back tears as she accepted it on the auditorium stage. Fifty years later, Mary Jane still pulls out the trophy on occasion and buffs off the dust.

Shaw, to his credit, kept them focused that fall. A couple of weeks after States, they won the huge JFK Invitational in Olean, New York. It was the last event that Jack Shaw would ever coach at WAHS.

All these years later, the aging boys of ’66 cannot bring themselves to throw out the commemorative jackets. Whenever Bill Shaffer bumps into the coat in his closet, he chuckles while thinking about his Motown buddies. Eventually Shaffer, Fanaritis, and Oriole fessed up to Cobb that when they drew straws before the ’66 faculty Christmas party to determine who had to sing lead, the three seniors rigged the drawing. So Cobb, a junior, and his stuffed balloons had to impersonate Diana Ross in front of Mr. Fowler and the rest of the WAHS staff.

Dave has already informed his son that like it or not he’s inheriting the jacket and has to take care of it in perpetuity.

If Shaw earned the grand sum of $100 to spend untold hours coaching cross country, how much did his assistant Andy Randas make? Chances are the answer is “next to nothing.”

Randas taught geography at Beaty and coached basketball, track, and cross country for the better part of four decades at Warren and Sheffield Highs. His eyes twinkled when he told stories which meant his eyes never stopped twinkling because he never stopped telling stories. He could wisecrack with the best of them. His anecdotes were often prefaced with: “Remember this, but more important, remember who told you.” Or if he had to demonstrate something, he’d chortle and say, “Here, let me show you a little trick I learned in the service.” Andy had learned a lot of tricks in the service.

He had a soft spot in his heart for kids from the wrong side of the tracks or from fatherless homes. What Randas lacked in knowledge of the nuances of track and field or cross country he more than made up for in enthusiasm.

Buddy Erickson was one of Randas’ favorite pupils. Andy loved to extol Buddy’s supreme athletic confidence and quick hands and feet.

During spring break his sophomore year at Ohio U. in March 1968, Buddy decided to visit his friend Doug Smith (WAHS ’66) at Washington & Lee University. He braved the late winter chill and hitchhiked from Athens, Ohio, to Lexington, Virginia no mean feat. He’d never been to Washington, D.C., so a couple days later he hitched up the Shenandoah Valley to visit Pan Fanaritis, then completing his freshman year at Georgetown University surrounded by Vietnam War protestors and National Guardsmen.

Alf enjoyed his time with Pan and flew home on Friday evening, March 22. The Bradford airport was so fogged in that the plane was rerouted to Erie. A kindly couple drove Buddy to the Erickson’s house on the South Side.

Warren friends also home for spring break swung by and persuaded Buddy to join them. At some point early the next morning, the car spun out of control down an old country road on which Buddy had no doubt trained as a Dragon harrier. Dan Phillips (WAHS ’66), a track and basketball letterman and, like Buddy, a sophomore at Ohio University, was killed at the scene. Buddy and the driver were both seriously injured and hospitalized.

On April 4, 1968, the same day that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was murdered, Buddy died at Warren General Hospital. Any young person’s death devastates a community. But there was something wrenching about Buddy Erickson’s passing. He had left such an indelible impression; everyone had looked up to him. Seeing the suffering in the eyes of his family and friends at the funeral home was unbearable.

Alf’s death drained the life and innocence out of Warren at a time when life and innocence were being drained out of too many American communities. After the nightmarish spring of 1968, things were never quite the same.

Years later, whenever Buddy’s name would come up, Andy Randas’s voice would crack; it was excruciating for him to say Buddy’s name out loud.

Five decades after Alf’s death, Mary Jane Miller and Jim Oriole say they still weep when they hear the Dionne Warwick song, “What’s It All About, Alfie?”

Ed Christianson enlisted in the Marine Corps in the summer of ’67, just as the U.S. escalation in Vietnam reached its zenith. Private, then Corporal, Christianson was deployed in Vietnam from 1967-1973, much of it in front-line combat. Like so many Vietnam veterans, Ed returned home disabled, facing a lifetime of challenges. The father of four died much too young, at 62, in 2012.

The Harrier Five worked hard and earned their luck in life, but given the harrowing realities of the late ’60s, they were lucky indeed and they know it. Two of them served in uniform: Jim Oriole spent four years as an enlisted man in the Air Force, much to his mother’s consternation; and Dave Cobb served a stint in the Army after dental school. But both had stateside duty; neither served in or near a combat zone.

Jack Shaw left WAHS at semester break in the winter of ’66-’67 to become a graduate assistant in Ohio University’s track program and to resume his graduate studies in physical education. He then became the head track and cross country coach at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia, before accepting an assistant’s position at the University of Pittsburgh and the head job at Western Michigan, where he stayed for thirty-odd years and earned his graduate degree.

Shaw passed away at age 70 after a struggle with a form of cancer known as multiple myeloma. He was one of the most successful coaches in the annals of the Mid-American Conference. Seven times he was MAC coach of the year in track, compiling a .780 winning percentage and winning five coach-of-the year awards in cross country, too. Of the 56 All-Americans that he mentored, 29 competed in outdoor track, 21 in indoor track, and six in cross country.

His friend John Beatty, WMU’s SID, marveled at Shaw’s ability to coach field and weight men. He may never have thrown a javelin himself but he knew how to motivate a young person to master it.

Shaw’s widow Karen and their two sons, Scott and Tim, scattered his ashes in a stretch of woods near Kane where he loved to hunt and fish. They engraved a rock with words that captured what he’d meant to his many hundreds of student-athletes over the years: “The life that touches others goes on forever.” They placed the rock on a bed of leaves.

Kalamazoo Gazette columnist Jack Moss once wrote that “Jack Shaw could be the coach of this year or any year.” After Shaw retired in 2002, the WMU men’s track and field program was dropped due to budget constraints; it’s never been restored.

Not long before he died, Shaw generously donated his Sports Boosters ’66 state championship jacket to WAHS. For years it was displayed in the trophy case near the gym. Since the school’s renovation work has temporarily taken away the trophy case, the jacket has been hanging in Athletic Director Jeff White’s office.

When Mary Jane Miller reflects on Shaw and the impact he had on young peoples’ lives, she thinks of the great Janis Joplin quote: “You’re only as much as you settle for.” Jack Shaw wouldn’t let himself or his mentees settle for anything less than their best.

Mary Jane went to the Rochester Institute of Technology after high school, then moved to New York and studied at the New York School of Interior Design, earning degrees in design, retailing, and business. For more than 35 years, she has run her own immensely successful interior design and image consulting business in Bristol, Virginia; she has clients all over the world. Her company, Along Came Mary LLC, is named after a 1966 song by the Association, “Along Comes Mary,” another ditty that baby boomers can’t get rid of once it invades their brainwaves.

The Austin-Healey Sprite is long gone, of course. She now drives a Hyundai Genesis crammed full of high-tech gadgetry that’s not nearly as much fun to figure out as a four-on-the-floor stick shift.

After Larry Maxwell graduated from WAHS in 1969, Shaw, then coaching at Marshall, persuaded him to enroll at the school and compete in both cross country and track. But before the cross country season began, Shaw accepted the assistant’s coaching position at Pitt. So Maxwell was never tutored in college by Shaw. Still, Larry ran varsity track and cross country at Marshall through his junior year.

Larry worked as an emergency medical technician after Marshall but decided he wanted to administer health care inside a hospital, not an ambulance. He went back to school and got his nursing degree. He’s still at it, supervising nurses in the critical care unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Erie.

Having just turned 65, he’s the only member of the Five who still jogs regularly. The kid who shelled out an outrageous 16 bucks from his own pocket for training shoes a half-century ago recently splurged for a pair of high-end Newtons. They cost him $150; sadly, he ended up not liking them. He’s now lacing up $60 Asics. Larry likes to run with his dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer named Jasper.

Three of the other harriers also ran competitively in college. Bill Shaffer went out for cross country his freshman year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and surprised himself by running a sub-4:30 mile in training. He ended up a letterman, running cross country through his junior year. Bill was forced to give it up his senior year when the academic rigors of his zoology major proved overwhelming.

As an 18- and 19-year-old, Bill was as far removed from the cloistered world of Warren High as a kid could be. He found himself on a campus consumed by protests against Vietnam and the military-industrial complex, a rancorous time chronicled in one of the best books ever written about the 1960s, David Maraniss’ They Marched into Sunlight.

Bill earned a graduate degree from Wisconsin in oceanography and limnology before deciding to go to medical school at what is now the Medical College of Wisconsin. Dr. Shaffer has been a family medicine practitioner and a gerontology specialist in Milwaukee and Madison ever since, but now he’s spending fewer hours in the office. He stopped running 20 years ago when his back no doubt suffering from all that pounding up Quaker Hill Road in Purcell sneakers began acting up.

Pan Fanaritis didn’t go out for cross country and track until his junior year at Georgetown. He’d forgotten how much he enjoyed the camaraderie of a team and the moxie it takes to stick to training. Pan was so absorbed by running, in fact, that he chose to dedicate his career to it. He got a masters’ degree in the education of exceptional children at Penn State. When he played golf at the White Course, flashes of the ’66 championship race would come to him.

He served as an assistant track and cross country coach at Georgetown, Missouri, and Villanova before becoming the head coach for both men and women at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. He retired in 2011 having coached one Rhodes Scholar finalist, three NCAA postgraduate scholars, nine presidential medalists, and 10 Division III All-Americans, winning some 15 North Coast Athletic Conference team titles.

Pan returned to Warren for three years after he retired from Denison. He volunteered to coach track at Beaty. Four-and-a-half decades after he pitched a tent on Beaty Field determined to break a “world record,” Pan introduced the Shaw-Wilt workout routine to another generation of Warren runners. But he went easier on them than Shaw used to go on him. Like Shaffer, Pan stopped running in his mid-forties, citing general “wear and tear.”

Dave Cobb ran his first two years as an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh. His Pitt teammate Jerry Richey, the North Allegheny High star who won back-to-back individual state championships in both cross country and track, used to give Cobb grief about the team from “the sticks” that somehow eclipsed the mighty Pittsburgh area schools at States.

Cobb majored in biology at Pitt and went on to dentistry school at Case Western Reserve. To offset dental school expenses, he worked at a hospital in Case’s pathology department. He joined the Army to gain experience before opening his own dental practice. In the 1970s he established a practice in Greensburg outside Pittsburgh and only recently started to wind down.

Jim Oriole kept running through much of his stretch in the Air Force and didn’t hang up the training shoes until his mid-thirties. He used the G.I. Bill to get his degree from Edinboro. Not long after graduating, he was offered a position with the Bechtel Corporation, the global engineering and construction conglomerate, and has been with them since. He’s now a procurement manager at Bechtel’s corporate headquarters in Reston, Virginia, and commutes from Germantown, Maryland.

They’re separated by hundreds of miles, these old Dragons and Motown celebrants. Not surprisingly, they’ve drifted apart. Cobb and Fanaritis get together for occasional golf getaways. And every now and again there’ll be an email eruption over something silly, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. The gathering at Memorial Field tonight will be their first real reunion.

“Even though most of us have lost touch with each other, I am most proud of how everyone turned out in life,” Dave Cobb wrote recently. “I can’t help but think those days at Warren Area High and Coaches Shaw and Randas had a profound effect on our lives.”

A half-century ago, while gulping for air on a hillside in State College, the 16-year-old Cobb looked over his shoulder and his buddies were there. Just as they promised they’d be.

It’s probably not a coincidence that the kids who had the chutzpah to publicly impersonate Motown luminaries were also fearless enough to win a state championship. Jack Shaw, after all, had made them believe they were capable of great things.

WAHS’ 1966 state cross country title was the perfect confluence of people and events, one of those serendipitous moments when stars align: a dogged and charismatic young coach; a smart and tough-minded group of teens; and a community culture that rewarded stick-to-it-iveness and teamwork. Everyone got to live the Chip Hilton dream.

Warren was a much different place back then. The term “Rust Belt” and all the heartache that phrase embodies hadn’t been invented when the boys were running past sadly doomed factories. Wal-Mart, the bane of downtowns everywhere, consisted of just two dozen stores in the mid-’60s; none of them were located outside the company’s native Arkansas.

Now on a Friday night, you can walk down Liberty from Third to Pennsylvania and never have to sidestep another soul. “Jimmy Mack” is not coming back.

The Harrier Five Plus One represented the very best of Warren when Warren was at its best. Jack Shaw was right. That finish line at PSU turned out to be a starting point.

Carpe Diem, lads and lass. You’ve lived extraordinary lives.

Shaw could not have been prouder of his state champion harriers. He saved almost every photo and clip from his days in Warren. Upon his enshrinement in the Western Michigan University Hall of Fame, he made sure that WAHS’ ’66 title was acknowledged on his plaque.

“Now when you feel that you can’t go on,” Holland-Dozier-Holland reminded us in 1966. “And all of your hope is gone! And your life is full of much confusion! And happiness is just an illusion! And your world around is crumbling down. . . Darling, reach out!”

Or, more accurately, reach back, to a time when Warren’s factories were humming, when a root beer cost a dime, when Motown blared from every transistor radio, and when five young Dragons charged up a hill and came down state champions.