Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Carter Holmes' Hall of Fame Speech

Carter Holmes running in Masters competition in the
steeplechase at Hayward Field in Oregon.
On Sunday Carter Holmes was inducted into the Minnesota Track & Field Hall of Fame in the Veteran Athlete category. While Holmes has accumulated many medals upon his return to running at age 50, it is how he has lived since a heart attack nearly took his life in 2008 that has left perhaps an even greater impact on those around him. 

Those who knew John Carter Holmes before the heart attack rallied around him.  Those he didn't know have also been there for him.  The latter group is chronicled a bit in a couple of articles in the local media.  The Minnesota Daily story on how Carter got help redesigning his home to accommodate him after the heart attack is HEREStar Tribune story on Carter and his neighbor Charlotte, who walks with him is HERE.

The thing that attracts people to Holmes is his zest for life that has not been diminished by the medical setback.  Holmes sense of humor that was illustrated by a story told by Holmes' Gopher teammate and friend Tim Zbikowski, who MCed the MN Hof F induction ceremony. He recalled how Holmes explained how he had to go through a bit of bureaucracy to get his college degree.  "My full name is John Carter Holmes," Zbikowski recounted the tale for the audience.  "And they told me I didn't have enough credits to get my degree."  Holmes knew that was wrong, so he had the University check its records.  They discovered that, Holmes said, half his credits went to John Holmes, the other half to Carter Holmes.

A mere blip in the storied life of one Carter Holmes.  He wrote his acceptance speech and had his friend, fellow MN T&F HOF member, and U of M teammate Don Timm read it for him at the induction ceremony.  It reflects the irrepressible approach to life and humor of Carter Holmes.  It's reprinted below in its entirety.

 "All thru grade school I would run home at lunch time!  In those days all the kids would go home for lunch.  The bell would ring at 11:30.  I’d be out the door of Kenny School like a lightning bolt and a swirl of dust would follow me across the park.  I was the next Roger Banister in the making.  

"Up the hill I’d zoom by Anthony Junior High and continue west on 58th Street.  Then I’d turn left and race up the alley, make a sharp turn to the right and enter the back door.  I’d shout: 'Mom, I’m home and I’m hungry, what’s for lunch?'  As if she didn’t know.  

"She always had my favorite meal ready for me.  Chef Boyardee Spaghetti and meat balls, a glass of milk, and a Forever Yours candy bar (they are now called Milky Way Dark).  Then I’d turn on the television and watch The Price is Right with Bob Barker. 

"When I was in the sixth grade I set the goal of holding the school record for the President’s Physical Fitness 600 yard run / walk.  We didn’t have any coaching, nor was there a track on which to practice.  We ran on the sidewalk around the block of the school and finished in the dusty park.  I won but I missed the school record.  

"There was no track program for young kids and my next race would not be for three years.  Again, it was the President’s Physical Fitness run.  I even trained for this run.  I wanted to set the Susan B. Anthony record, but the event was rained out twice, and then cancelled.  This missed opportunity led my Dad to tell me the mythical story of Oporknockety.  All I could think about was the story of  'Oporknockety tunes but once.!'  I warned you(about his sense of humor), Timm ad libbed.

"While at Minneapolis Washburn High School during my sophomore year I had the idea that I would be a star football player.  Shortly before my first game the coach told me: 'I’m going to make you a starter Holmes; you’re going to be a starting bench warmer. Now go and sit at the very end of the bench.'  That turned out to be my last season of football.  At least I can say that I started every game except the first!  

"I wondered what I would do because I loved the contact of playing football.  My football coach’s words got me to thinking about Cross Country.  I also thought that wrestling would be a great way to get in shape for track in the spring.  I ran track as a sophomore and won my first race.  My success was brief though, as I injured myself and ran only the one race. 

"In my junior year at Washburn, I settled on Cross Country, Wrestling, and Track as my sports of choice.  I earned All-City honors in all three sports in both my junior and senior years.  In my senior year I placed third in the region meet and earned a birth in the State Cross Country Meet as an individual.  Washburn also qualified as a team for the State Meet.  In wrestling, I made All-City in the 133 pound classification.  I was the Twin City 2-mile champion and ran on the team that won the Minneapolis Sprint Medley championship.  Both of these races set city records.  The Minneapolis Star-Tribune listed me as Honorable Mention All-State for the 2-Mile.  

"I ran Cross Country and Track in the years 1968-1972 for Coach Roy Griak at the University of Minnesota.  We were known as 'Roy’s Boys.'  Although I was not in the top seven runners, it was great to be member of the 1969 team that won the Big Ten Championship in Bloomington, Indiana with Gophers taking the first three places in the meet.  

"I did run cross country for four years, but in those days freshmen were not eligible to compete in NCAA events.  Coach Griak entered his freshman team in a race held in Chicago’s Washington Park.  Our opponents were many small Illinois, Wisconsin,  and Indiana colleges. 

"Because local gangs had taken over the park the Chicago,  police led us around the course.  I was safe because I was in the middle of the pack, but our top runners: Gene Daly, Mike Hanley, Greg Nelson, and John Hopko were running scared because they were leading the race.  The Gopher freshman victory that day was one of the clearest memories of my Minnesota Cross Country career.

"As a member of the Gopher track team I ran the 3,000 meter steeplechase and the mile.  As a senior I became the number two all-time steepler in Minnesota history(behind Don Timm).  I competed in some of the biggest track meets in the country when I ran the steeplechase in the Kansas Relays and the Drake Relays and in my last two years as a Gopher placed sixth and seventh in the Big Ten Championships.  

"Because the Texas Relays did not have a steeplechase, Coach Griak gave me the chance to run the mile.  I did win the mile race at the Manto Relays at St. Olaf.   However, when I stepped up on the winner’s platform I was announced as Carter Holmes from the University of Minnesota-Morris.  To add insult to injury, 25 years after my race, (St Olaf)Coach (Bill) Thornton told me that I had lost my record as they were changing the race to 1,500 meters.  I  lost a 25-year-old record that I never knew I had!

"After my days at the University of Minnesota I lived in Los Angeles for four years and worked in the carpenter shop at UCLA.  I met Johnie Wooden and became a big fan of UCLA basketball.  I began to officiate high school basketball and baseball games.  I was also into the surfing scene.  

 "Santa Monica and Newport Beach were my favorite spots and if the surfing report was good I would often skip my four to ten mile run after work and head for the beach.  I was a California Beach Boy for a couple of years.  The ocean water bleached my hair and the sun gave me a great tan, but I never did have a bushy bushy blond hairdo.

"When I returned to Minnesota I became a high school and college recreational official and refereed and umpired hundreds of games each year in basketball, softball, baseball, wrestling, volleyball, and football.  I stayed active with all the running I did as an official and continued to run around Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun on days when I did not officiate games.  

"After my parents died in the 1990s I thought long and hard about when I had been the happiest and what I most enjoyed doing.  I realized that I had been happiest when I was running and competing in track and field so I resumed my competitive career.  In addition to many Minnesota State titles as a master runner, some of the highlights of my career as a master runner on the national level include a national title in the Pentathlon in 2001, a second place in the steeplechase in 2002, a third place in the 2003 steeplechase and three second places and a third in the national 400m Intermediate Hurdles.

   "I would like to thank the following people who have made a tremendous difference in my life:
  • Coach Roy Griak at the University of Minnesota who encouraged me and gave me the chance to wear the Maroon and Gold.
  • Coach Bob Hoisington who coached me in master’s track and for his constant support since my heart attack.
  • Coach Conrad Emerson at Washburn High School (ORANGE & BLUE).  Coach Emerson coached me in CC, Wrestling, and Track.
  • Coach Al Haley (Mpls. Southwest) When I was in high school Coach Haley gave me a 1,000 mile club shirt reserved for Southwest runners when he saw me constantly running around the lakes even though I ran for Washburn. The shirt was maroon and gold; colors I would wear again at the University.
  • My parents Mary and Kenneth Holmes for their support and encouragement.  My mother made meals and washed mountains of running clothes to support me when I was sometimes doing three workouts a day.
  • My brother Tom who was a frequent training partner and excellent runner himself.
  • Teammates Greg Nelson at Washburn and Don Timm at Minnesota."


Danielle Bitz said...

Thank you for publishing this speech, as well as the articles following up on Carter Holmes. This seems about right; I remember chatting with him during his early Masters years- we were about to race in the 300 meter hurdles at Star of the North. His reason- because they were "like the steeplechase, but shorter!" Hahaha! And later on cheering his comeback, competing with one hand on his walker and one on the throwing implements. I was proud to be competing with the likes of him that day. Congrats Carter!

Tom said...

If you see this you may not remember me...I was a shot put and discus thrower as a sophomore at Washburn when you were a senior...I'm the one you always got on due to our lack of running and still on a track team. I remember your humor and you as a friend. Your story is remarkable and one all should read. Keep fighting and I wish you good health.
Tom Bergman