Setting the Record Straight: Petrels of Fire Winner Mark Olas ’01

Mark Olas '01, the Petrels of Fire record holder

Last month, our campus celebrated Oglethorpe Day with the annual Petrels of Fire race around the quad in an attempt to beat the 12 chimes of the carillon bells. Another year went by without a “winner”, but unbeknownst to this reporter, there has indeed been someone who achieved this feat, and it’s time the story of this overlooked legend is told to all.

In 1998, Mark Olas ’01, who was a member of Oglethorpe’s soccer team and still holds the school’s record for the 400m, accomplished what many considered impossible: he crossed the finish line within 30.5 seconds, becoming the first and only Petrel to ever win the race.

Mark Olas '01 in his soccer jersey

“It was the only other time the race was run at 1:00 p.m. rather than at noon,” explained Cross Country Coach Bob Unger, who hosts the race each year. “The clock had not been properly reset as it was this year to ring twelve times at 1:00 p.m., (so) a former music instructor of the university (rang) the chimes manually.”

Coach Unger also had his stopwatch ready to ensure that the race lasted a full 30.92 seconds, which was the time allotted in previous years. But the manual ringing finished in less than 28 seconds, meaning that racers had nearly 3 more seconds to run after the bells had stopped ringing.

“As the crowd counted down the chimes and reached twelve—and no one had finished—a moan went up,” said Coach Unger. “I looked up to see Mark Olas leading the group to the finish. When he crossed the line, I stopped my watch at 30.5 seconds. He had beaten the bells!”

Sadly, few people realized Mark’s achievement that day, as most spectators assumed the race was already over.  But Mark’s victory is certainly worth remembering and acknowledging—the only time in Oglethorpe history that the feat has been accomplished.  It might be 15 years late, but congratulations, Mark! May your win inspire other students to attempt the impossible, to compete with their hearts, and to soar into victory.

Oglethorpe Day: A Beloved Tradition Grows

The Petrels of Fire Race ca. 2012

Oglethorpe Day is an annual celebration of Oglethorpe University’s namesake, and as Dean Michelle Hall puts it, a “pride-in-my-school-and-organizations day.”

And this year, there are numerous ways to show your school pride. Student organizations (and maybe even some staff and faculty) will be decorating shopping carts for the parade of shopping cart floats (contact Kendra Hunter for more details). And, to celebrate President Schall’s affinity for wacky socks, the Programming Board is sponsoring a sock decorating event today in The Petrel’s Nest. Then, at 12:45 p.m. tomorrow, on Wednesday, February 13, put on your craziest socks and head to the quad for the exhilarating annual Petrels of Fire race!

While the race usually begins at noon sharp, this year it will begin at 1:00 p.m., due to class scheduling… which doesn’t mean that the bell will only ring once! It will ring 12 times, and runners will race around the quad in hopes of arriving back before the last bell tolls. To my knowledge, no one has ever won this race—maybe you will be the first?

This year's Oglethorpe Day speaker: President Schall

After the race, a surprise guest (a local celebrity!) will lead attendees to Conant Performing Arts Center for the Oglethorpe Day annual address. This year’s speech will be delivered by our own President Schall on the topic of “Non nobis solum (not for ourselves alone): What is the Role of a University President in Liberal Society?”

“We have a very student-centered president,” said Dean Hall.  ”Students know they are known and loved by their president…The theme (of his speech) will focus on how to make a difference, and that’s something we want all our students to think about.”

The occasion will include The Ogletones, our new a cappella group, and end with Oglethorpe’s Alma Mater and Fight Song (The Stormy Petrel March), courtesy of OU Winds and Singers. Attendees are then invited to enjoy Coke floats and peach cobbler and ice cream, all served in observance of the day’s Georgia theme.

“We’re building some more traditions into this tradition,” said Dean Hall, who went onto explain that the Presidents of other schools and organizations will be recognized during the event, and that the class with the most participants will win a prize. “Come if you want to support your class, if you are an athlete or the head of an organization… or if you just want to see what socks Dr. Schall is wearing.”

I know my curiosity has been piqued. Join us at Oglethorpe Day, this Wednesday, February 13th starting at 12:45 p.m. on the quad!

Oglethorpe Celebrates National Girls & Women in Sports Day

As a woman who has been “blessed” with two left feet, butter fingers, and a penchant for laziness, I can honestly say that sports intimidate me. I have always associated sports with winning and being “the best,” two things that are not easily accomplished without the aid of hand-eye coordination. But last week, thanks to the women athletes of OU, I learned something extraordinary about sports and what they have to offer: the real winners in sports are not rewarded with trophies (… though yes, winning trophies can be really great, too!), but with confidence, good health, and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Tennis, lacrosse, basketball and soccer were only a few of the women’s sports teams that came out last week to celebrate the 27th National Girls and Women in Sports Day. This annual event is meant to commend women athletes for their perseverance and excellence in athletics, as well as to encourage other women (and men) to participate in sports.

Tori Van Wyen ’14, a member of the women’s golf team, explained that “it’s a great opportunity for all kinds of kids to be introduced to sports… it’s a great thing for OU and the community.” Coach Cindy Vaios, who organized the event, expressed hope that it would introduce sports to elementary and middle school students, while attracting the interest of OU students.

Area children showed up to the event, all eagerly awaiting their chance to try out the track and field obstacle course, or to throw around a basketball. Oglethorpe athletes were in attendance to help these children learn the ins and outs of playing, and to encourage them to participate on future teams.

“It’s not just about the players,” said Tori.  “It’s about involving the community… These kids might see those female athletes and think, ‘hey, this might be me one day.’”

Athletic Director Becky Hall agrees, admitting that there are some sports that she is just “not good at,” but that it doesn’t stop her from loving sports.  This idea, that there is something for everyone in sports, seemed to be the consensus of all in attendance.

“All of my best friends are on my team,” added Caitlin Hollis ’16, a freshman on the women’s soccer team. ”Sports gives you a way to be with other competitive, driven people… (my team) is like a family to me.”

Sydney Sparks '16, a center mid-field player for OU Lacrosse.

A similar sentiment was expressed many times throughout the day by others. Lacrosse player Sydney Sparks ’16 added that the lacrosse team was “like a sisterhood,” and that ”playing at the collegiate level is really exciting… I’m excited to be part of a brand new tradition at OU.”

Paolette Matute ’16, a member of the tennis team, referred to tennis as “an empowering princess sport,” before enthusing that “the most important thing, even if you’re not an athlete, is (to) go out and exercise… Get those endorphins running!”

The message of the day was clear, and based on the excited looks on children’s faces, that message was well received: sports are something that everyone should consider trying, as they can offer something worthwhile for everyone. Being active is not solely for athletes, nor are sports enthusiasts solely concerned with winning.  Sports are about camaraderie, growing, and thriving, and the women athletes of OU are not simply looking for teammates; they are looking for friends to join their family through the bond that only sports can offer.

Oglethorpe Places First in Coaches’ Preseason Golf Poll

The Golf World/Nike Golf Division III College Preseason Coaches’ Poll has been released, combining the resources of Golf World magazine, Nike Golf and the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA). The complete results, including those from Divisions I, II, NAIA and NJCAA will appear in the September 3, 2012 issue of Golf World and are live now .

Oglethorpe once again has been named ”the team to beat” in Division III as the 2012-13 college season begins. The Stormy Petrels garnered 12 of the 16 available first-place votes to grab the No. 1 ranking in the Golf World/Nike Golf D-III preseason men’s coaches’ poll. Oglethorpe comes off a season in which it won the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship along with the national title.

This prestigious poll ranking gives the Petrels further reason to celebrate, as the team members and their coach, Jim Owen, have recently received numerous other accolades.

Accolades Continue for Oglethorpe’s National Golf Champions

Following a national championship and top national D-III coach honors for Coach Jim Owens, the honors for the 2011-2012 Oglethorpe men’s golf team continue.

Petrels Golfers Earn Academic Honors

The Oglethorpe men’s golf team earned recognition as a Division III All-Academic Team for the 2012 season, the Golf Coaches Association of America announced recently.

To be eligible for recognition as an All-Academic Team, a squad must have a team grade-point average of 3.0 or better for the academic year. Oglethorpe is one of 27 teams to earn the honor this season.

The Petrels brought home their second national championship, in addition to their 10th SCAC title, in May. They return all but three players from last year’s squad next season.

Rebitch Earns All-Academic Scholar Honors

Oglethorpe senior golfer Matt Rebitch recently was named a Division III Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar by the Golf Coaches Association of America. Rebitch is one of 48 Division III golfers to earn the award this year.

A student-athlete who is eligible for a Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholar award is either a junior or senior academically and competes in at least two full years at the collegiate level, participates in at least 70 percent of his team’s competitive rounds or competes in the NCAA Championships, has a stroke average under 79 in Division III, and maintains a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.2. A recipient must also be of high moral character and be in good standing at his college or university.

Rebitch helped the Stormy Petrels to their second NCAA championship in May, finishing in a tie for 40th in individual competition at the national tournament.

Maccaglia Named to All-Nicklaus Team

The Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) named Oglethorpe freshman Anthony Maccaglia to its All-Nicklaus Team late last month. Maccaglia is one of 24 golfers named to the team, which awards the top men’s collegiate golfers in all divisions of college athletics (all three NCAA divisions, NAIA and NJCAA). He is the first Stormy Petrel ever named to the squad.

The accolade is another in a flurry that Maccaglia received after leading Oglethorpe to its second national championship in May. He was the NCAA individual champion, for which he won the Arnold Palmer Award. He also brought home the GCAA’s Phil Mickelson Award as the nation’s most outstanding freshman, and was named to the organization’s PING All-America First Team. His overall tournament score of five-under-par was the only individual below-par score posted over the course of the week.

Maccaglia also helped the Stormy Petrels to their 10th SCAC title in April, and earned SCAC Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-SCAC honors.