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1973 Track and Field Team (2005)

On the heels of three straight, undefeated seasons capped by three straight Catholic League championships, the returning Rambler trackmen knew that the demands of precedent were high and called for an inspired response. Coach Frank Amato (Hall of Fame, 1990) and his assistants, Art Morelli, and Bob Bueter (Hall of Fame, 2005) had built a dynasty on Laramie Avenue, and dynasties dictate terms all too familiar to those who follow after: Preserve the record. Protect the legacy. Take care of the name on the uniform. Thus in midwinter came the incessant pounding of feet in the hallways, the gym balcony, and the cold, icy parking lot. Thus came the endless repetitions and the grueling time trials at McGaw Hall. Thus came the pain of preparation. A talented stable of distance and middle-distance runners joined a solid relay and field event corps to lead Loyola's assault on the record books. Senior co-captain Doug Smith (Hall of Fame, 1985)—the class of the Catholic League—fronted a deep pool of half-milers, milers, and two milers that included seniors Kevin Barr, Kevin Sullivan, Tom Victorine, and Bob O'Brien, juniors Jack Reiser, and freshman Barry Sullivan. The sprint relays were anchored by seniors Greg Fahrenbach, Hugh Benson, and John McMurray, juniors Joe Bonivel and Ron Herte, and sophomore Mark Fahrenbach. Leading the field events specialists were senior co-captain Sean O'Connor (pole vault) and Steve Semkowicz (shot put), who were joined by fellow seniors Knute Ruggaard (long jump) and juniors Sherman Reynolds (pole vault) and Bob Priske (pole vault). It was a team of good balance and depth, with star power to boot, as was evident in four new records in 1973: Smith in the mile run (4:23.5), Semkowicz in the shot put (51' 4.5"), Ruggaard in the long jump (21' 9.5"), and O'Connor in the pole vault (12' 2"). With a winter of intense training in the bank, the Ramblers faced their first real test of the season when they headed to the Catholic League Indoor Relays at the University of Chicago fieldhouse. Uncertainty quickly gave way to confidence as Loyola rolled to a 38-point victory over second-place Gordon Tech, taking seven firsts and three seconds on the day. Thereafter, the Ramblers galloped through their outdoor dual-meet slate with studied ease, going 12-0 to push the streak to an even 50 wins without a loss. Two major invitationals —the Euclid (Ohio) Relays, in which the Ramblers finished a strong second, and the annual Brother Rice Relays, which Loyola won impressively — provided the final tune-ups to the approaching showdown at the league meet. On May 20th, Loyola's 1973 team sealed its place in Rambler track and field history with a convincing victory in the Chicago Catholic League championship meet. The eighteen-point margin of victory over the nearest rival, meet host St. Laurence, closed in triumphant fashion a remarkable four-year run over Catholic League competition. The day belonged to Loyola, and particularly to the extraordinary Doug Smith, whose brilliance in the clutch cannot be overstated. In a command performance unseen before or since in the Catholic League, Smith completed the distance runner's version of the triple crown when he won the half-mile (1:59.6), the mile (4:23.5), and the two-mile (10:04) in a single day. He did so in spectacular fashion, setting a new school record in the mile run after winning a thrilling half-mile in a dead heat over teammate Kevin Barr (1:59.6). Loyola's only other individual title went to Sean O'Connor in the pole vault (11' 6"), but an impressive six second-places would help Loyola rule the day. Joining Barr on the runner-up podium were Steve Semkowicz in the shot put (50' 8.75"), Jack Reiser in the two-mile (10:08.8), Sherm Reynolds in the pole vault (11' 0") and Loyola's two relay teams — Greg Fahrenbach, Ron Herte, Joe Bonivel, and Mark Fahrenbach in the 880-yard relay, and Hugh Benson, John McMurray, Herte, and Barr in the mile relay. Knute Ruggaard took a third in the long jump (20' 5.25") as did Bob Priske in the pole vault (10' 6"). Rounding out the scoring with all-important points were Barr with a fourth in the mile (4:34) and five fifth places — Tom Victorine in the mile (4:35.3), Bonivel in the 220-yard dash (23.2), Barry Sullivan in the half-mile (2:01.9), and Bob O'Brien in the two-mile (10:22). Triple points in the half-mile, mile, and two-mile as well as in the pole vault proved too much for the rest of the league, as did the spectacular solo-triple of one Doug Smith. With tremendous pride, coaches Amato, Morelli, and Bueter accepted the 1973 championship trophy. His fellow league coaches honored Frank Amato with the Lawless Award for Coach of the Year, and did the same to Doug Smith with the Lawless Award for Athlete of the Year. The 1973 Track and Field team had done it — it had accomplished the mission, preserved the dynasty, and cemented its place among the elite in Loyola track and field history.

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