By Budd Bailey
Three more superb runners entered the Western New York Running Hall of Fame on a perfect Friday night in the Elmwood Village. Here is the text of my induction speeches from that event:
The running boom was moving ahead at great speed in the late 1970s, and – as usual – Lanny Doan’s timing was perfect. He had graduated from Amherst High School in 1974 and attended the SUNY-Oswego and the University at Buffalo, and was ready to take part in the growing number of races in Western New York by 1977.
When Lanny did participate, he usually won. Indeed, he dominated the local running scene in a way that was almost unmatched in Buffalo history. Has there been anyone else who ever won more than 30 straight races? Doan wasn’t fussy about distances, either. If someone put up a finish line, he’d beat the rest of the field to it. He was part of some great Checkers A.C. teams from the late 1970s. The Amherst native joined such runners as Kevin Foley, Kevin Corcoran, Bill Whitman and Bill Mangan.
The only way to stop Lanny from winning turned out to be a change of venue. He took a job in 1983 in Virginia Beach, Va., as an earth science teacher. But he still returned home quite often to see his parents, run a race, and pick up a medal. Doan even ran while on vacation. He happened to be in the Poconos in 1993 when he read about a 10K race. Less than 27 minutes later, Lanny had another win to his credit. The years didn’t seem to bother him much. He was called one of the best masters runners in the country at one point in his career.
Meanwhile, Doan turned his attention to coaching along the way. Not surprisingly, Lanny was really good in that field too. He ranks as one of the great high school coaches in the history in that part of the world, guiding more than 100 athletes to all-state status. No one has done it better, or longer. One of his best pupils was Charles Clark, who ran for Team USA in the 2012 Olympics. Maybe he outlined his recipe for success in an Instagram post for the school’s cross country program. It stars off by saying “We practice regardless of rain or sun,” complete with illustrations of clouds and sun.
They may love him in Virginia, but we still remember him in Western New York. That’s why he was chosen for the Western New York Running Hall of Fame. Welcome back, Lanny, and welcome to the Hall.
Lining up against Paul Hulme at the start of a road race must have been a frightening experience for his competition. After all, you probably knew that he could beat you at his favorite distance, and beat you at your favorite distance. This was a runner who in about 100 races recorded 37 wins, eight second-place finishes, and 60 showings in the top five. In other words, Paul seemed to have a permanent place on the podium.
Hulme started running formally at East Aurora High School, as part of a great tradition that continues to this day. Brothers Mark and Mike are part of that legacy as well. He graduated in 1987. In 1989 he moved on to West Virginia University, where he was captain of a conference championship team in cross-country.
By the 1990s, Hulme was as consistent as a Swiss watch when it came to performance. He broke 15 minutes in 5K races nine times, broke 32 minutes in 10K runs 15 times, ran a half-marathon under 70 minutes, and had two sub-2:30 marathons to his credit. No wonder he won The Buffalo News’ Runner of the Year Award in 1995, and would have won it again in 1997 had he not moved away.
Western New York called him back later in life, and he showed he could still keep up with his peers after resuming running at 48. What’s more, he’s still at it. Earlier this year, Paul completed the sixth and final marathon in the Abbott World Major Marathons. He had to go all the way to Tokyo to do it, and his time was pretty good for an old-timer – three hours and seven minutes. That was better than most of the more than 40,000 runners in the field. The time qualified him for the Boston Marathon next year.
Paul lives right where he belongs – in East Aurora – these days. His children are part of the East Aurora tradition as well. His talent is still recognized and appreciated to the point where he’s now in his rightful place in running – alongside the best Western New York runners in history as members of the Hall of Fame.
We didn’t think much about it when Nolan Swanson captured the 1993 New York State High School Championship in 1993. It was unusual for someone from Sherman to claim that title, but someone is a state champion every year. Swanson had been participating in the state championships for four straight years, so the progression to the title was a happy one. What we didn’t know is that the event became a coming-out party for one of the best runners ever produced in Western New York.
Swanson was an outstanding all-around athlete in high school. He had a great career as a basketball player, and did quite well in baseball because Sherman didn’t have a track team. Nolan went to Wake Forest, and treated competition in the Atlantic Coast Conference like he was still back in a Western New York high school. Nolan won the ACC title in cross country, and captured conference crowds in the indoor 5K, the outdoor 5K and the steeplechase. Swanson won the Arnold Palmer Athlete of the Year Award at Wake Forest in 1998. Who won that award in 1997? Basketball’s Tim Duncan. When you’re mentioned in the same breath as Arnie and Tim, you’re doing well.
Swanson took the next step after college, becoming a professional runner. He competed in top races internationally and nationally, such as the World Cross Country Championships. Nolan posted a 13:52 time for 5 kilometers in 2002. That puts him in very good company. It was a fabulous career, and it certainly fulfilled the prediction of Nolan’s kindergarten teacher. Deb Palmer had told his parents at the time that Swanson was going to be a whale of an athlete. She was right, and then some.
Swanson thought his association with running had come to an end some years ago. He runs a golf course now in the Southern Tier, and he thought he had his last moment in running when he entered a race in Buffalo some time ago. But, as the saying goes, just when you think you’re done, you get pulled back into the family. Nolan may be wearing golf spikes now, but he did some of his best work in running shoes. That’s why we welcome him now into the Western New York Running Hall of Fame.
(Follow Budd on Twitter @WDX2BB)