In this issue one of our writers pulls off something of a double play. On page 62 Bil Gilbert confesses that he spends about 40 days a year living out of doors, suggests that camping may be camp but not all that much fun, and tells you what to do if you persist—as he does—in having rain clouds as your roof.
But Gilbert is also a coach, and he persists at that, too. Five years ago he introduced SI readers to his girls' track team—the Fairfield Striders—an energetic group of teen- and subteen-age youngsters from Fairfield, Pa. who made the rounds of junior AAU track and field meets under the tutelage of Gilbert and a friend, Jim Strock. His article (Thank Heaven for..., Nov. 27, 1967) followed the girls during their first year or so of running and gave promise of bigger things to come. It is gratifying to report that bigger things have indeed come to the Fairfield Striders. Two weeks ago there they were, in Gilbert's tow, competing in the AAU national women's championships at Canton, Ohio.
It would be nice to say that the girls—now blossoming into young womanhood—electrified Canton and ran away with every blue ribbon in sight. They did not. But one of them, the team's shotputter, Beth Miller, made it to the Olympic Trials in Frederick, Md. this week. There she finished ninth, not good enough to merit a Munich trip or even mention in our story (page 16), but good enough to warm Coach and Camper Gilbert.
Much has happened to his team since Gilbert last wrote about the Striders. "Five years ago, competing in Harrisburg was a major expedition," he says. "Since those days they have run, jumped and thrown throughout the East, West and Middle West—in Colorado, New Mexico, California. Canada and plenty of points in between."
For part of that time, most of 1971 to be exact, Gilbert and his family were living in southern Arizona, where Gilbert was making a scientific study of the life-style of the coatimundi. "The one thing I really missed from the entire East was the Fairfield Striders," he says. "They are delightful, a rest from the cares of the real world. They tend to make the coaches who work around them gentler and more pleasant people."
The five young ladies grouped around Gilbert in the photograph above made up the Striders' contingent in Canton. From left they are Diane Deegan, age 14, who runs middle distances; Beth Miller, 20, the shotputter who went to Frederick; Mary Devlin, 16, a walker; Cindy Wright, 17, a quarter-miler; and Kim Sanders, 14, who runs the 880 and mile.
Kim and Cindy are two of the three original Striders still running. As for the others mentioned in Gilbert's 1967 article, one is working as a secretary in Pittsburgh, another got married last spring and yet another is raising her family now.
What made the Striders stride so far? "The desire to compete," says Gilbert. "It is common to all human beings, not just males. No matter what your talent, you become addicted to improving it, to seeing that the work you put into it results in something."
Right you are, coach. Now about camping....
WRITER GILBERT AND THE CANTON FIVE