There is no doubt that Pioneer running is legendary, but who would have ever of thought that its legacy started fifty years ago and has carried on this long?
On Saturday, April 14 Pioneer cross-country and track and field were celebrated for their spectacular legacy of fifty years with alumnus and alumna filling Osborne Hall, reminiscing and catching up with old teammates from as early on as the 1950s.
“It’s a shame that when the four or five years are over, they leave and very seldom come back,” legendary head cross-country coach Jack Hazen said. “This is a great event, and I seriously wish we could do it much more often.”
Hazen was one of the prime focuses that night of the celebration. Throughout Pioneer running history, Hazen has coached forty-five of those fifty years, making winning history from his croaky sense of humor to his remarkable coaching ability.
“Everyone knows Coach Hazen for his witty-sense of character,” former student-athlete Ira Wentworth said. “I’ll never forgot one time during cross-country camp, and coach Hazen came up to me and asked ‘Ira, do you know how to drive an Amish buggy?’ And I said ‘No, coach how do you drive an Amish buggy?’ ‘Tickle his feet’.”
“During that time in the 1990’s…”
Wentworth, who was a student-athlete in the 90s and the record holder for the track outdoor 5000 meter run, spoke at the celebration; sharing and laughing over the memories him and his teammates had shared during the time they spent as Pioneer runners.
“During that time the whole team stayed on the same dorm floor,” Wentworth said. “We stayed in middle Barclay.”
“We had four guys run 14:45 or better in the 5000 at the University of Tennessee relays,” Wentworth said. “And as we walked off the track, holding each other around the shoulder, one of the coaches asked coach Hazen ‘Man how did you get your guys to do that?’
[pullquote]Coach Hazen also had me sign a letter of intent on a napkin when I was 6 years old,” Fresenko said. “He had the napkin still whenever I was looking at other schools.”[/pullquote]
“It was the time when we stayed on campus all summer long and wouldn’t go home because we wanted to train together, we wanted to be better.
“It was the time when the MCC chant was the only chant at the starting lines and we would silence the crowds before the meet.
“It was a time when runners transferred here; they wanted to run for Malone.
“It was time when we had a little attitude and had a lot of love for each other and a lot of love for the team. Those were the 1990s,” Wentworth said
Eleven times an All-American, Chris Sinick, also had a few words to say to about his experience as a Pioneer runner.
“There’s a lot,” Sinick said when he was asked about a funny memory of Coach Hazen. “Probably a lot of them involve his driving and his old man jokes.”
In one word, Sinick summed up his experience as a Pioneer runner being “unforgettable”, and expressed what Pioneer running has done for him.
Past to Present
It is fair to say that Pioneer running hasn’t changed much from its men staying in middle Barclay, chanting the legendary “MCC chant” at meets and to winning title after title.
With second generation Pioneers on the team, Pioneer running has carried on its tradition.
“Malone has always been a big part of my life,” sophomore long-distance runner Nick Fresenko said. “With both my parents going to school year, running, it seemed like I really didn’t have a choice whether or not I was going to go here.”
He was literally expected and meant to come here, Hazen helped make sure of it.
“Coach Hazen also had me sign a letter of intent on a napkin when I was 6 years old,” Fresenko said. “He had the napkin still whenever I was looking at other schools.
“With all this family history involving Malone, I’m pretty sure I was destined to come here. Malone has always had an excellent tradition of running, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
Fresenko, who is the second generation of the two former Pioneer runners, Jerry and Deana Fresenko, also shared with the Pioneer running family how coach Hazen is still the same guy he was years ago.
“Coach Hazen has still been the same guy he was all these years,” Fresenko said. “He is still driving like he always has and still has the same sense of humor.”
Through fifty years of hard training, determination and winning head track and field Coach Mark McClure finds Pioneer running to be promising in the near future with the athletic programs currently joining the NCAA II GLIAC Conference.
“I am excited to see what God has in store for little Malone,” McClure said. “Yes, our students go to chapel two times a week but we can still be Christians, and be competitive.
“God calls us to bring our best every single day, and in the past fifty years, Pioneer running has done just that, and we will continue on keeping that tradition.”
Tina Oprean is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW