Harry Groves was Penn State's track and cross country coach for over 30 years until he retired in 2006. Harry has coached some of the finest athletes to come out of Penn State over the years. Some have become Olympians. In 2001 he was inducted into the US Track Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was a founder, in the late 60s, of the Nittany Valley Track Club (since renamed the Nittany Valley Running Club) of which I am a 20-year member and "Propaganda Minister" (I've done the Newsletter, web site, newspaper blog, and other duties suited to a big-mouth).
During the summer, the NVRC sponsors a film series at Appalachian Outdoors, a local outfitter. Last summer, the Club screened Fire on the Track, a biopic of Steve Prefontaine, a legendary American distance runner who died tragically in a car wreck in 1975 when he was still a rising star on the world track scene. After the movie, Harry gave a Q and A about "Pre", coaching, and one of Pre's great rivals, Penn State's Greg Fredericks. Harry recounted one of their closest head-to-head races (Pre won), and then went on to give a touching tribute to his younger "brother" Fredericks, whom I'm honored to be able to run with.
Coach Groves always had a reputation as a salty, curmudgeonly old cuss who would work his athletes hard, but also brought the best out of them. Even in retirement, Harry keeps in touch with and inspires his old team members, and up-and-coming athletes, too. Harry put together a team for the 20K Distance Classic at this year's Penn Relays. Captained by one of his former athletes and assistant coaches, Artie Gilkes, the team took first place with Gilkes finishing 3rd overall.
In the videos below of the Q and A, we see Harry on his best behavior. (Harry can say some startlingly inappropriate things, but also knows his audience.) But he's always honest, and entertaining. And generous. And really, quite a pussy cat when you get to know him. Harry just turned 80 a few weeks ago. And his younger "brother" Greg Fredericks? Greg just turned 60 last weekend. And he really is, as Harry says, one of the nicest guys in the world.
[HT - Tara Murray]