Coach: Titan track and field set to celebrate 50th year

  • Jon Cohn

    Jon Cohn

 
 
Updated 4/20/2022 1:27 PM

Glenbrook South track and field coach Kurt Hasenstein is no stranger to challenges.

In his 30-plus years of coaching at Glenbrook South High School, he has taken on many: From dual-meet competitions, to weekend invites, to sectional- and state-level competition, plus injuries and weather-related cancelations. All difficulties that must be overcome.

 

But now he might be taking on his toughest challenge of all.

As part of the Titan Track Invite on Friday, May 6, he will attempt to assemble as many alumni, athletes and coaches as possible from the past 50 years of GBS track for a big reunion.

Degree of difficulty: about 9.5.

Trying to track down 50 years worth of athletes and coaches is no easy task. You figure there is an average of maybe 12 seniors per season on a track team, so we are talking close to 600 individuals, not to mention the many coaches.

Considering those 600 are surely spread all over the country at this point, and maybe a few even in other countries, and sadly some who've likely passed away, the task in front of Hasenstein, as he tries to plan this reunion, is herculean.

"We are going to try our best," says coach. "We have been putting the word out and using some forms of social media and, so far, it is going pretty well."

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And really how cool will this be? To see all the different generations of Titan track athletes socializing, recalling some of the great times from days gone by and, of course, celebrating and cheering on the current crop of outstanding Titan competitors.

The reunion will take place at John Davis Stadium, home of Titan track, on the same day they host this special 50th version of the Titan Track Invite.

It was Coach John Davis himself, a beloved teacher and coach at South who died in 2001, who started the invite. That was back in 1971, and except for one year canceled by the pandemic, this great meet has gone on every spring for a half-century.

Glenbrook North won the first year. Last year? The Titans, with maybe their best team ever, took home the trophy. And it wasn't the first time for GBS. The Titan tracksters have won the competitive invite, usually including around 12 different schools from various conferences, 11 times over the previous 49 years.

"That is part of what we are celebrating," says Hasenstein, "the long and successful tradition of Glenbrook South track over the many years, started by Coach John Davis, and Dave Pasquini, and many other coaches along the way."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's personal for me," adds coach, "I have invested a lot of time and energy into the program, and proud of what we have accomplished, trying to keep alive what Coach Davis and Coach Pasquini started, and this 50 year reunion will be kind of a celebration of all that."

There have been some great and famous names over the years who have graced the track for GBS. All Staters and stars, such as two-time state champion sprinter Colin Hepburn (2009,2010), the uber athletic John Strickland (300 hurdles state champ, 1990), powerful Jim Blondell (state champ in discus throw, 1983), Ryan Faut (state champ last year in discus), lightning quick sprinters like Joe Tracy and Neil Melcher, distance running all staters like Greg Harper and Scott Lidskin, and recently thrower extraordinaire Max Leonard -- just to name a few with apologies included here for leaving out so many others.

But this reunion is not just about the stars. This is about every athlete who has ever put on the Titan track blue and gold singlet. Any who have been part of this proud program

Truly, one of the great and unique aspects of the sport of track and field, and one Hasenstein and his coaches regularly emphasize, is the camaraderie that develops between these athletes. It is a sport where all feel like part of the team. It is different in some subtle respects in this area, different from almost any other sport.

That is, in part, what will make this huge reunion so special -- the bond they all share having been part of this great program.

Coach Hasenstein is encouraging any ex-GBS track participants to not only show up on May 6, but to pass the message on to others.

"Getting the word out to so many different athletes over this many years is tough," says coach, "but we are going to give it our best shot and hopefully make it a big success."

After the meet, there will be a social gathering at North Branch Restaurant for all alumni, but a head count is needed, so athletes are asked to email coach to RSVP and for more information: khasenstein@glenbrook225.org.

Titan track notes

While we get ready to celebrate over 5 decades of Titan track, let us not forget that, right now, we are in the midst of one of the best streaks ever in GBS track history.

Last year's season was a huge breakthrough. The deep and talented Titans won every meet, then proceeded to capture the CSL South conference championship for the first time since 1987. Topping off a great 2021 season, GBS placed fifth in the state -- the highest finish in school history.

A tough act to follow, no doubt. But the curtain is going up on Act II.

The 2022 squad, return many from last years powerhouse team and hopes to challenge for high honors once again. They prepped for another successful outdoor season by winning the indoor CSL conference invite for the first time in school history.

But spring has been a little frustrating, unfortunately.

"We really haven't been able to compete much," says Hasenstein. "The weather has canceled a couple of big weekend meets and, really, we just have had a couple of dual competitions so far. The kids are champing at the bit and ready to go, but the main thing right now is we are just trying to keep everyone healthy."

The Titans did finally get to compete in an invite this past weekend in Buffalo Grove; they finished in a strong second place behind powerhouse Prospect. Wind and cold were factors throughout the meet.

Some familiar names from the past dot the roster of this year's squad. The Flying Shapiro Brothers -- twins Nathan and Noah -- are multiple event participants and chalk up points like Dennis Rodman used to gather rebounds-in bunches. Brian Hiltebrand is a state-level contender in the 800, while senior Michael Jerva is another distance runner who has been through the trenches and should score well when it counts the most this spring.

Ben Friedinger and Scott Peters are key relay sprinters, while Brian Tanaka gave up a promising tennis career to try his hand at cross country and track and field; he has had an immediate impact on the program.

Add in Ryan Schafer, who continues to do his thing in the long jump, high jump and hurdles, with the improving Elie Nassif in the pole vault, wrestler Jason Buchta in the shot put, and some young, up-and-comers, and you already see the potential.

That potential is just waiting for some good weather.

One final note: The Titans will be hosting the state sectional meet on May 19. Some of the top teams in the state will be competing, so it should be a good one.

• Jon Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired PE teacher, sports official and prep sports fan. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email jcsportsandtees@aol.com.

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