History of the Badgerland Striders – Ron Winkler May 2007
Times Past: Yesterday and Today - May 2007Posted by Ron Winkler - BLS Historian
History of the Badgerland Striders
Happy Birthday to Us!
(Editors Note: This article was published in 2007) Thirty-five years (so it’s 45 years) have passed since our club was founded as the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee (UWM) Track Club and thirty years have elapsed since we changed our name to the Badgerland Striders. It has been eight years since the last time that our club history was printed. During those eight years, we have obtained many new members who may not be familiar with our history. Also, more of our history has become available. Therefore, I thought that it would be good to take a break from my series on Badgerland Striders Lifetime members in order to tell the story of the Badgerland Striders.
Milwaukee Track Club
Our roots go back to October 1, 1959 when the old Milwaukee Track Club (MTC) was formed by Jim Hanley and Brian Murphy. Additional support came from Peter Murphy, Jr. and UWM track and cross-country coach John Tierney. Some other names that may be familiar to long time Badgerland Striders are Bengy Altheimer, Terry Rebholz, Garvin Smith, Larry Whiteside, Wally Schuk, Pete Glaser, Dave Griffiths, Bill Marquette and Clarence Trinkner.
Other pioneers were UWM runners George Carns and Wulf Koehlert, who promoted distance running and cross-country. Koehlert drove many of us all over the Midwest to the few races that were held in those days.
In 1965, the MTC offered a lifetime membership of $50.00. Lifetime members received free entries for all club-sponsored meets or meets that the team competed in. The club competed against colleges, universities and other track clubs in track, cross country and race walking.
Photo 1: UWM 1966 Cross-Country Team: From left, John Christensen, Wulf Koehlert, Jim Dardis, George Carns (with glasses). Far right, John Miller. Third from right, Coach John Tierney
Wisconsin’s Oldest Race
In 1961 the club successfully bid for the United States Track and Field Federation (USTFF) National 10-Mile Championship. Brian Murphy was the race director for the race, which was run on a two-loop course at the lakefront on Lincoln Memorial Drive between the old Gun Club across from Bartollotta’s Lake Park Bistro and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Wulf Koehlert took over as race director in 1970 when Brian Murphy moved to Detroit. The next year, Koehlert moved the race to Cudahy, where for many years it again was the USTFF National 10-Mile Championship. Koehlert also added a 3-Mile women’s race that was the USTFF National Championship. As a result, the race grew from 15 runners to over 500. The 10-mile race continues to this day on the first Sunday in August. This year will be the 47th running of this race that evolved into the Cudahy 10-Mile, making it Wisconsin’s oldest distance race.
Photo 2: Clark Bowerman, UWM Track Club Cross-Country Coach who later became president and was awarded Lifetime Membership.
Almost a Marathon
Today’s marathoners who aspire to run a marathon in every state or on each continent or every weekend of the year would have been taking on a very long term goal back in the olden days as there were very few short races, let alone marathons. Paavo Nurmi was the only local marathon, in addition to the well-known Boston Marathon. In December 1968 the MTC sponsored what would have been Milwaukee’s first marathon. It was run on a three-loop course along Milwaukee’s lakefront between the Milwaukee Art Museum and Atwater Park in Shorewood. The weather on race day was cloudy and 37 degrees. As the race progressed, precipitation started as rain and progressed to sleet. A strong wind off the lake added some variety. In a decision that probably would not be duplicated today, officials shortened the race to two loops.
Founder Brian Murphy was an all-around trackman who competed in almost every event. He also did most of the work for the MTC by himself. Therefore, when he moved to Detroit, the club missed his leadership. Enter Peter Murphy, Jr., who most old timers will remember as the starter at track and cross country meets, but who also put in additional hours behind the scenes to promote our sports. In 1971, Murphy met with runners Walter Towne, Grant Nelson, and his brother Vern Nelson. Nelson was a marathon runner and his brother was a letter winner in track at the University of Wisconsin- Madison. Several meetings were held with the purpose of revitalizing the MTC and providing more racing opportunities. Over time John Archer, Carroll Sternberg, John Peychal and Ned Redding joined the group. The reorganized MTC attracted so many new members that by 1972, its membership consisted of 99% new blood.
In 1972 a club newsletter was started by Doug Irvin, vice principal at Nicolet High School. He was assisted by Carol Milner, who ran with the old Badgerettes women’s team. Walter Towne gave the newsletter its name of “Footnotes.” The front page of the newsletter carried a statement that the paper was published for the Milwaukee Track Club Men’s Division and Badgerettes. Dues were set at $3.00 per year, plus twelve self- addressed stamped envelopes for mailing of the newsletter.
The Badgerettes was started in 1968 by Gerry Zimmerman who had been appointed by retiring MTC president Brian Murphy to form a women’s division. The Badgerettes, open to girls and women of all ages, were undefeated in Wisconsin State Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) competition. They were the 1971 and 1972 National USTFF Cross Country Champions and over the years they scored high in many Junior National and Open National AAU. The Badgerettes provided a vital service in the days before interscholastic athletics for girls and women.
Photo 3: Dr. Knud Stobe – Veteran of numerous Marathons
At the same time that the MTC was being reorganized, UWM coaches John Tierney and Russ Coley were organizing the UWM Track Club with the intention of retaining post college athletes. In January 1973, the time was right for a merger. The well-organized MTC had a large membership with officers and a newsletter, but lacked a base of operations. Conversely, the UWM Track Club, formed in 1972 and short on members, offered a base for operations and the potential to boost MTC’s image. Therefore, in January 1973, the men’s division of the MTC merged with the UWM Track Club. The entire slate of MTC officers and its “Footnotes” newsletter were transferred to the new UWM- Track Club.
Those officers were, president Wulf Koehlert, vice president Grant Nelson, secretary Vern Nelson and treasurer John Peychal. Koehlert served as president for two years, after which he became vice president of the north region of the old Road Runners of America. Vern Nelson succeeded him.
Family participation was encouraged by the addition of developmental track meets and fun runs. Cross-country teams were organized for men and women, with an annual banquet held in December at UWM to honor the teams. Clark Bowerman was the men’s coach and Mary Belling was the women’s coach. The banquet evolved into the club Christmas party and finally into the now familiar January Holiday Party. However, by 1977 it was time for another change.
Next month (Actually August 2007): The Badgerland Striders