Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Books: Running For My Life By Lopez Lomong

Lopez Lomong's Running For My Life (photo - T. Nelson)

I recently reread Lopez Lomong's harrowing yet inspiring autobiography, Running For My Life. Lomong escaped the killing fields of South Sudan during the Second Sudanese Civil War only to spend the remainder of his childhood in the squalor of a refugee camp in Kenya. He was first kidnapped and taken from his family at the age of six while celebrating an outdoor church service. He was taken by the Sudan People's Liberation Army and warehoused in a prison along with other captured boys ('The Lost Boys of Sudan') who lived and - all too frequently died - due to the brutal conditions of their camp.

Life in the refugee camp was an improvement over prison, but it was still unfathomable in its unsanitary conditions and its famine-level provisions. While there he managed to briefly break free of the camp to the home of a nearby farmer, where Lomong and several of his fellow refugees were able to watch Michael Johnson's exploits at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. It was there that Lomong made the decision to one day become an Olympian and follow the steps of the record-breaking American sprinter.

Without giving too much of the compelling story away, he eventually was resettled in the US through an opportunity provided by Catholic Charities. From there, his relentless work ethic coupled with unflagging modesty and determination led him to a stellar high school career in Tully, New York. He ultimately arrived on the campus of Northern Arizona University and qualified for the US Olympic team. He represented the nation at the 2008 Beijing Games in the 1500m and represented his adopted nation's athletes when he was named the flag-bearer for the US contingent at the opening ceremonies. - TF

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Southland Conference: Long Night, Bright Future for HBU

Houston Baptist's Tony Dawson (Photo / HBU Athletics)

The HBU Huskies football team certainly had a long night on Thursday to open the 2016 season when they fell to Southland foe Central Arkansas (1-0), 56-13.

The score aptly tells the story of the complete victory by the Bears. Hidden beneath it is some good news for the Huskies. They're in just their fourth year of competition at any level, and NCAA Division I is not an easy place to start a sport from scratch, particularly football. This offseason they added quarterback coach Charlie Reeve, who arrives from UTSA, another Texas start-up program that is getting increasingly competitive within Conference-USA.

They currently have two quarterbacks vying for the regular starting spot, senior Tony Dawson and junior Max Staver. Late in the opening loss, Staver showed good touch on a 31-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver David Racine.

Dawson in game action against UCA (Photo / Russ Reneau, HBU) 
Neither QB is an underclassman, but a silver lining to shorter collegiate careers in front of them is that their younger backups can advance at a more studied pace than is typically afforded a new program at any level. Recall another Houston team, the Texans, who had rookie David Carr under center in their first year of 2002. Carr was sacked an NFL record 76 times, and the team didn't make its first playoff appearance until nine years later in 2011. By all indicators, the Huskies are making a more rapid ascent.

I had the opportunity to speak with Coach Reeve, Dawson, and Staver before their opener on the American Sports Network. - TF

Sunday, August 28, 2016

College Football: Tago Smith Takes the Helm for Navy Football

 (photo / ASN/USNA)
Annapolis, MD - Navy football has a new man under center, quarterback Tago Smith. Smith gets his chance to lead the Mids as a senior following the graduation of four-year starter Keenan Reynolds. I got the chance to write about Smith for the American Sports Network on his taking the lead for the Mids.

Navy opens against Fordham at home this Saturday at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

College Football on ASN

With August here, college football teams have returned to campus and begun setting the foundation for their fall campaigns. I've contributed several articles to the American Sports Network this month on teams in conferences that it covers including the American Athletic Conference, Conference-USA, Mid-American Conference (MAC), Patriot League, Ivy League, and several others.

Here are brief descriptions and links to two recent articles. - TF

Columbia University - The all-time winningest coach in FCS history, Al Bagnoli, now leads the Columbia Lions after nearly a quarter-century at the helm of the Penn program.

Rice University - Lance Wright was named Alaska's "Mr. Football" as a high school player and now plies his trade for Houston's Rice Owls. Wright has battled injuries throughout his high school and college careers but is ready at the outset of his redshirt sophomore campaign to have an impact. The Owls are members of Conference-USA's West Division and Athlon Sports 2016 college annual projects Wright as a starter in 2016.

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