Flint, Mich., much like Buffalo, has taken its share of lumps in the past, especially after Michael Moore's devastating portrait in the movie "Roger and Me." In city image nightmares, it was Flint's version of our blizzard.
Except for the mansions built by auto money, Flint is still not a place anyone would call pretty. Character, yes, but you'd never mistake its rebirth with say Cleveland's or Pittsburgh's.
But when Flint puts on a road race, other cities should take notes.
A fairly sizable contingent of Western New York runners went to last week's Bobby Crim Festival of Races and we came away mightily impressed. If only every day in Flint were like Bobby Crim.
The 10 Mile Run is the premier event, with nearly $50,000 prize money guaranteeing a large field of world-class runners, which in these days means Kenyans. They took 11 of the top 12 places. Gone are the days when Americans like Greg Meyer were the ones to worry about.
The race got off at 8 a.m. under steam-bath conditions -- 92-percent humidity and 80-degree temperatures -- and proved a challenging 10 miles through streets and neighborhoods where thousands turned out to cheer. Hear that, Buffalo?
After a finish down a wide brick street, runners wandered over to a huge tent for refreshments while a blues band growled outside.
With some of the 5,385 finishers still on the course, all of a sudden another 900 or so runners took off on a parallel street for an 8K Run. Fifteen minutes later, about 1,500 people started on an 8K Family Walk. A few minutes later, an 8K Race Walk took off with a 100 or so competitive walkers. Then it was a 5K with nearly 1,300 runners, and then a 5K Walk with another 1,800 and finally a Mile Run with 676.
By the time the Teddy Bear Trot for tykes went off, an astounding 11,567 people had run or walked through Flint's streets.
It was Flint's time to shine, the city's premiere event of the year. It was refreshing to see hundreds of volunteers and thousands of spectators, many who looked like they had never run a step, helping out or cheering everyone on.
Bob Carroll of Forestville, at 41, led the local runners with a 56:47 over the 10 miles, with Tonawanda's Bob Williams and Buffalo's Dan Loncto also breaking the hour mark. Former Ford Buffalo Marathon winner Karen Kemmis of Syracuse was the top woman among the locals, with a 1:03. Becky Heuer of Forestville was next in 1:05:02.
Bob Ivory, whose track and cross country teams at St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute from 1965-75 dominated high school running like no one's before or since, leads the first class of seven inductees into the new Niagara Track & Field Hall of Fame.
Ivory only coached for 10 years at St. Joe's, but during that time his teams took eight conference cross country and another eight conference track championships, an Eastern States title and two Penn Relays championships. His 1972 Penn Relays distance medley team of twins Alex and Eric Trammell, Gary Duszynski and John Kropski not only won but ran what was at that point the fourth-best time in history by a high school team.
"He was a tough taskmaster, he made those kids work, and he knew his stuff," says Emery Fisher, the former coach at Buffalo State College who still has Ivory as a member of his finish line crews at local races.
Also to be inducted in the Sept. 13 ceremonies at the Holiday Inn-Rochester Airport in the athlete category are: John Allen of Buffalo, a 1960 Olympian in the 50K Race Walk; Frank Berst of Buffalo, a seven-time U.S. champion in the 56-pound throw; Trenton Jackson of Rochester, a 100-meter sprinter on the 1964 Olympic team; and Cynthia Wyatt Reinhoudt, a Buffalo native who was one of the top national shot putters and also a member of the 1964 Olympic Team.
The two inductees in the contributor category are familiar to older runners, Herbert J. Mols, the longtime head of the Amateur Athletic Union; and Carl J. Roesch Sr., whose many good deeds include doing more for local track than anyone -- he founded and ran the Olympic Development meets for 25 years.
Now that the first class is picked, how about considering Mark Finucane, the greatest marathoner Buffalo ever produced, plus Nancy Mieszczak and Jennifer Colgrove Martin, the top two female marathoners, in the next class?
Toyfest 10K Race, East Aurora, 9:30 a.m., today, 687-5251; Nickel City Road Runners Aid to Athletes, 5K, Elmwood Avenue, (Buffalo News Runner of the Year race) 7 p.m., Fri., 694-5154; Wendelville Harvest Moon Run, 5K, Erie Canal, Pendleton, 6:30 p.m., Sept. 9, 625-6269 or 694-5582; Buffalo Police Chase 5K, Buffalo waterfront (Buffalo News Runner of the Year race), 11 a.m., Sept. 12, 851-4590; Lewiston Kiwanis Peach Festival 5K, 9 a.m., Sept. 12, 745-9702; Castile Library 5K Run, Letchworth State Park, 10 a.m., Sept. 12, 493-2075; Bertrand Chaffee TLC Challenge, 5K, Springville, 10:15 a.m., Sept. 13, 592-2871; Father Baker Run, 5K, Lackawanna, 5 p.m., Sept. 13, 828-9444.