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 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.

“Football” Fever!

In the summer of 2010, all eyes were focused on the 2010 FIFA World Cup and one Petrel alum kept the world’s soccer fans updated, play-by-play, on the world’s largest sporting event. Sportscaster Brent Latham ’97 played soccer at Oglethorpe and reported on World Cup action on ESPN.com. He was also 1/7th of a team of American soccer bloggers around the world.  Brent sounds off about World Cup action at www.USA10kit.com.

Landon Donovan and the U.S. team were ousted from the tourney last week…Which team are you rooting for?

We asked Petrels around the world if they watched the World Cup that year, and here’s some of the responses we got…

@Evan Britton ’11:

“Absolutely. Argentina, Brazil and Chile were my teams but it’s down to just two of those now…Brazil and Argentina

:( ” 

 

@Kofi Nketiah ’10:

“CHYEA!!!! MY BLACK STARS [GHANA] DID WORK!!! LET’S GO GHANA!!! SORRY USA”

 

@Dr. Herschler:

“Of course!  My Dad grew up in Europe and he played soccer in the 1950′s…so I grew up around the sport.  It’s kind of sad that Japan and the U.S. are out of the competition, but I’m still enjoying  the game…”

 

@Julie Vaughan ’09:  “I think it’s going to be between Brazil and either Argentina or Germany.”