From left, Chris Brown, Jamie Bump and Dean Giopulos.
By JOHN ANDERSON
In 40 years, Dean Giopulos has seen a lot during the Wellsville Spring Day.
The high school track and field competition is one of the oldest — and best — in the nation, with the 90th anniversary Saturday (May 13, 2023)
On Saturday, you will want to get to the Wellsville track and field complex behind the elementary school on School Street to see it.
“We greatly appreciate the continued support of the teams who yearly compete in our Spring Day Invitational,” said Giopulos. “We’ve had teams from Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Corning compete regularly over the 90 years from the initial Spring Day, but it is the attendance of our local teams and our traditional rivals that means the most.
I’d like to think they continue to show up because we run a quality meet at a first-class facility. We have also had the continued support of the Elks and their members over the years and so many former athletes, too numerous to name who come back to either help or watch.”
Giopulos has coached Spring Day, but he was also a varsity runner for four years, setting many school records. Some have been broken, some will not because of the new measurements. Some records, he broke those held by his dad! But he has enjoyed witnessing greatness from Wellsville athletes and others from around the region.
“In all honesty, the events and performances at those meets have almost become a blur. The most vivid memories I have are of the prep time with (longtime girls track and field coach Chris Brown) Brownie leading up to the meet,” Giopulos said. “The hours, before computers, automatic registry and timing systems, we spent trying to get everything set so the meet with run smoothly were both exhausting and fun. That and the weather situations, we have spent more than our fair share of miserable cold and rainy Spring Days, which makes the beautiful forecast for this Saturday so welcome.”
AHHH THE WEATHER
While Saturday will be beautiful, one year, when Wellsville had a cinder track, the team had to turn to the baseball coach and athletic director, Dennis Miles.
With teams heading to Wellsville, lane 1 was underwater. Miles, who had years of experience digging make-shift tranches to drain the flooded infield just hours before a game, came up and did the same.
“It’s funny, but one that will stick out the most was the Spring Day that wasn’t … 1996 it was to be the last Spring Day on the cinder track and Dean and I had been up most of the night writing out the meet sheets (this was before automatic timing and online entries) and as we were working we kept noticing and hearing it rain outside but we were determined to finish the paperwork and be ready for the meet so we pressed on,” Brown said. “The next morning, we head up to the track and it was like a lake up at the track. There was so much water you couldn’t get to the bleachers because the water was pretty deep. Meanwhile on the track lane 1 was completely washed out so we called Dennie to ask his advice. He came up we started digging trenches in the field to get the water out of lane 1. But it just kept raining.”
The teams showed up and the track was not only flooded, so was the football field.
“We were appreciative of Dennie’s help but it was a lost cause. By now most of the teams started showing up and once the kids knew that the meet was cancelled,” Brown said.
Miles, covered with mud and cinder, water past his boots, sweat dripping down his full head of blonde hair, leaned on a shovel and canceled the Spring Day.
But the kids did not cancel the water sports part of the competition!
“The field became a body surfing paradise!” Brown said with a laugh. “At least they all had fun.”
Brown, is now a volunteer with the program and a track and field consultant. Jamie Bump is the new girls’ coach. Brown remembers the wins and the competition.
“Obviously, it is special when the home team wins – I feel proud that our teams (boys and girls) won our share of team titles and several overall championships (boys and girls team scores combined),” Brown said. “As an athlete, I remember running against former Olympian John Tuttle who competed for Alfred-Almond in the mid-70’s. He and I had become friends over the years as we competed with other at many meets.
In my Junior year I was starting to improve and as we were getting ready to run the mile, he asked me what time I wanted to shoot for that day. I told him that I wouldn’t mind running under 4:40 as that was my best up to that point. He said you just stay with me for the first 2½ laps and that will put you on pace – then you are on your own. It worked – he did beat me by almost a half a lap, but I ran 4:37 my best time by 5 seconds,” Brown continued. “I think many of the athletes that have competed in this meet over the years will have similar stories of camaraderie – track & field is a great sport for this as you compete against the same people over the years, and you develop that kindred spirit together.”
THE GREAT HELP
Giopulos calls the behind-the-scenes work vital.
“You can’t run a meet the size of Spring Day without a ton of help. You start with our athletes who do all the little things at a home meet that no one hardly notices because they do it so well, our parents who volunteer their time working the meet from raking the jumping pits to waiting on people and providing supplies for our concession stand, I can’t stress how vital Kelly Lynch and Justin Vossler are for running our FAT (electronic timing system) that make the meet move along quickly and ensuring the results are accurate, our fellow coaches who help out when they see we can use assistance with moving hurdles or other peculiarities that come up in the course of a track meet,” Giopulos said. “It’s a long day, and to see Brooksie (Chris Brooks from Wellsvillesports.com and the Wellsville Sun) there, and John Anderson and all the great sports writers over the years, it’s really something. A lot of news papers and websites don’t cover track or spend as much time as our local writers have over the years and we are very thankful.”
“The Elks have been tremendous for sponsoring this event, Nick Viglietta makes sure the facility is set to go and Wellsville Schools for allowing us to host this meet. Finally, so much appreciation for Chris Brown, he retired last year from coaching, but he is still here for Spring Day in every and all aspects and I’m certain he will continue to serve in that capacity because he is Chris Brown and it is Spring Day,” Giopulos added.
Brown added, “I’ve always said, this event cannot take place without support from so many people – we will have upwards of 500 some athletes up at the track on Saturday add in a couple parents for each then were talking 1,000 people potentially. We need all these great people – Elks Members, Parents, and many more dedicated friends to make this all come together for a great event.”
For Jamie Bump, she is excited for the event as a coach after dazzling with some great performances as a student-athlete.
“It is exciting for Wellsville to host such a big invitational. It brings schools from all over the area to Wellsville. It is nice for the community to see such a great opportunity for our athletes,” she said. “To know how long Spring Day has been going on for makes it special. The history and tradition attached to this invitational is special … I remember all of the great competition that came and the excitement of running in such a big meet in our hometown.”
HISTORY SINCE 1933
Brown is stunned by an event that has been around since 1933 is still going strong.
“Since this meet has been around for so long – it’s like a right of passage for many of the area teams (Allegany and Steuben county teams) I think the athletes look at this as an affirmation of things to come as they get closer to Post season competition because of the level of competition that is present at this meet,” Brown said. “As far as the community since I started as coach (1988) we got the Wellsville Elks involved as a community sponsor and we couldn’t have asked for better support. They have graciously provided support for awards (T-shirts for event winners) and with help at the meet by assisting officials- raking pits, timing, and other meet management duties. We also have had a great network of parents over the years to help run the concession stand.
“As they say – “It takes a village”. But this is how it all started back in 1933 – The Wellsville Merchants Division and officials at Wellsville High School (most notably founder Sid Miles) put this together and it is still going strong with support from many, many people over the years. An event such as this could not be possible without everyone’s support,” Brown added.
GET READY FOR NEW RECORDS
Brown said from Tuttle to Rush-Henrietta in 2019, records will stand, and records will fall.
“There have been many great performances from individuals and teams over the years. Recently (2019) the Rush-Henrietta Comets came for Spring Day and rewrote many of the meet records on that day, but it was also a great day for many area athletes as this propelled many athletes to personal and season bests on that day,” Brown said. “I mentioned John Tuttle – he still holds two meet records which I don’t think anyone has come close to since he set them back in 1977.
(Here are the meet records)
“You will see there are some pretty old ones still on the books,” Brown said. “This is a testament to the level of competition that has been present over the years and hopefully will continue for years to come.”