January 22, 2018

Tri-City Area Sports

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Fruit Belt Series turns 10 with Martin Quigley Jr. going for the Gold

 Martin Quigley Jr. of Coloma can relate to the theme of this year’s Glad-Peach 5/10k walk, run, and bike event scheduled for Saturday. “One step can change the beat of your world” strikes close to home for him. The theme encourages people to start – start walking, start running, start biking. It also lends itself to a thought process that people should start taking care of themselves. They should balance their life through healthy eating practices, exercise, and action.  The theme also strikes a chord with Quigley, who recognized the importance of all three after his father died of a massive heart attack in 1997. The passing of his father, who he describes as a giving man, propelled him to put his health first.  So, Quigley began running… and running, and running. Quigley was born and raised in Coloma. He is a 1980 graduate of CHS, and while he did not participate in sports in high school, you could say he is active now.  Back in 2006, the Glad-Peach run was on Quigley’s competition calendar. He happened to stop by a festival meeting in June of that year only to be told that the event was being cancelled. That was not going to work. You see, Quigley had listed that race as one he would run to qualify him to run with the governor across the Mackinac Bridge. Without the race, Quigley would not qualify and could not run. He was not about to let that happw adj Sports - FBS gold coinen.   Organizers told him, “Well, you have six weeks if you can organize it.” So he did. And then he ran with the governor. He also ran 34 other events that year, calling running “addictive.”  The 2006 Glad-Peach event was not the only walk and run Quigley had organized. He also had his hand in the St. Patrick’s Day walk/run in the 1980s.  The 2006 runs whetted Quigley’s appetite and gave him a few ideas about how other communities organized their races, what they offered, the good and the bad.  In 2007, he returned to the Coloma festival committee with an idea. What if our local 5/10k partnered with other walks/runs as sort of a series? Each  community would enjoy the additional participants, which would increase the fundraising efforts of the group.  Quigley considered, “What would make people travel to all three races?” He came up with a special commemorative gold coin that would be awarded to each finalist of all three races. It “is unique in that runners or walkers only need to successfully complete, with a recorded finish time, the selected number of events required for the particular season,” he shared.   Thus, with support from Dawn Geers in Sparta and Charlene Wilson in South Haven, the “Fruit Belt Series” was born.  In 2007, three courses made up the series: the Michigan Apple Run and Walk in Sparta, the Glad-Peach Run and Walk, and the National Blueberry Run and Walk in South Haven, our neighbors to the north.  Landing Sparta and South Haven were important to Quigley, he stated, “Those were the two I was targeting because of their [race] population.” Twenty-four gold coins were awarded in 2007.  In 2007, the State of Michigan Governor’s office contacted Quigley. They gave him the Michigan Governor’s Fitness Council endorsement and stated, “Never has there been such collaboration between communities and counties as the ‘Fruit Belt Series’ to support health and fitness.”  In 2008, Hartford, Traverse City, and Paw Paw – with their strawberry, cherry, and grape runs – joined the Fruit Belt Series. (Sparta had to drop out of the series due to changes in their event). That year, participants had to post times in four of the five races.  Quigley felt the series grew thanks, in part, “to the promotion of the fruit growers. South Haven’s race was already national and received attention.”  By 2009, Quigley knew the series was finding its footing. “People began to hear about it and call,” he said. “The fact that I started getting calls from reporters…well, that was unexpected. Something happens and it just takes off. What was supposed to be a little marketing thing for Coloma turned into this thing for Michigan.”  Things continued to take off for the Fruit Belt. In 2009, the series was hosted by six locations, with the National Blueberry Stomp in Plymouth, Indiana jumping on board. With the races now encompassing multi-state courses, the series became known as the “Michiana Fruit Belt Series.”  It was also, according to Quigley, the featured fitness series of the State of Michigan. The year 2009 also became the first year that race-goers had to post times in five FBS events to qualify for the gold coin. That number is still in effect today, although the number of events has grown to ten.  The race locations remained unchanged in 2010 as participation continued to grow.  In 2011, Traverse City and Plymouth, Indiana dropped out of the series and Watervliet joined. The series dropped “Michiana” and once again picked up “Michigan.”  Community race sites did not change in 2012, but the FBS gained notoriety in a huge way when it was recognized  “as meeting the standards of the Presidential Fitness Program by maintaining a physical fitness series which required the completion of five events over a seasonal period,” according to Quigley.  “Just to be able to fill out the application and meet all the Presidential Fitness requirements, just to reach that level was satisfying to me,” he said.  The series did not change again until 2013 when Traverse City was welcomed back into the fold.  That year saw a record 96 participants earn the gold coin since the series’ inception.  Benton Harbor and Bangor joined the slate of Fruit Belt races in 2014, and the series was recognized by the State of Michigan as a “Pure Michigan FITness Series,” shared Quigley.  Lawrence joined the FBS series in 2015, where the gold coin winners numbered 126. The Coloma Athletic Boosters’ Harvest Hustle will give the series 10 sites in 2016.  You might think that a summer fitness series would go off without a hitch. Quigley can tell you differently. There was the “treacherous downpour” in Sparta in 2006 that “made the achievement more special,” according to Quigley.  Gold coins were delayed following the 2011 FBS. The mint machine was broken and was not able to produce the coins until 2012. But, all in all, it has been a great run.  While the long-sleeved shirts of the Glad-Peach event have become a certain trademark of our community’s race, so has Quigley.  He stripes the route. He fills the gift bags. He reaches out to find like-minded communities for new race sites. He tracks FBS participants. He awards medals. He markets, fundraises, networks, designs the t-shirts, envisions the theme (and keeps it a secret), and reviews statistics. He participates in the events, including one where he power walked through the course because he could not run.  Quigley will be the first one to tell you he has not and could not create a series of this level without help, lots of help.  He gets support on the home front from his wife Christine and three kids: Jeffrey, 27; Samantha, 26; and Zachary, 18.  Quigley said, “I could not have chosen a better wife, helpmate, friend in my life. That is what love is.”  He is supported by the community race organizers that band together to spread the word about which towns are hosting races. It is about marketing, showcasing their community, and raising more money for worthy programs.  He is supported by those who volunteer as course marshals, at the registration tables, with the music along the route, the finish line coordinators, and the friends who help stuff goodie bags before the race. Quigley is quick to say, “I’ve been fortunate to have the help and I’ve been fortunate that they remain with me.”  And this year, Quigley will become the only participant over the last 10 years to earn a gold commemorative coin over the series’ lifespan. That is 10 coins. That is at least 47 qualifying races. That is dedication; or, perhaps the making of a legacy.  “If [by having created the FBS] I can change the life of one person or a family, it’s been worthwhile. You can have that impact.”  There is still time to earn a commemorative gold coin in the 2016 FBS, but do not delay. There are seven events left and you will need to post finishing times in five of the run/walks.  Register Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m. for the Glad-Peach event. Then add South Haven’s Blueberry Run and Walk on August 13, Lawrence’s Watermelon Run and Walk on September 3, the Paw Paw Grape Lake Run and Walk on September 10, Benton Harbor’s Pumpkin Run and Walk on September 17, Bangor’s Apple Run on October 1, and the Harvest Hustle on October 15.

PRECARIOUS POSITION...Jeff Berry, a part-time employee of Watervliet’s Public Works Depart-ment, played a round of disc golf at Flaherty Park on Sunday. Berry found himself in a precarious position on hole number seven, launching a final shot from the edge of Mill Creek. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

PRECARIOUS POSITION…Jeff Berry, a part-time employee of Watervliet’s Public Works Department, played a round of disc golf at Flaherty Park on Sunday. Berry found himself in a precarious position on hole number seven, launching a final shot from the edge of Mill Creek.
(TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

High School sports start soon

 Practice fields will soon be full with junior varsity and varsity fall sports teams and the fall sports schedules have been set. It is time, once again, for fall sports in Coloma, Hartford, and Watervliet.  Varsity football practice begins Monday, August 8, while practices for cross country, girls’ golf, boys’ soccer, boys’ tennis, and volleyball all begin Wednesday, August 10.  Football districts will be held October 28 and 29 and November 4 and 5. Boys’ soccer district games will kick off October 17-22.  Volleyball will head into district competition on October 31.  Cross country  regionals have been scheduled for October 28 and 29, and boys’ tennis players will face regional foes on October 6, 7, or 8.  Check out the upcoming issues of the Tri-City Record for previews of your favorite local team.

World of Outlaws rained out Friday at Hartford’s Wicked Half-Mile

 There were plenty of disappointed fans Friday night as the return of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series had to be postponed due to rain.  With heat races in the book

ON A GREAT COURSE...Kevin Dillenbeck of Benton Harbor watches as his shot, just off the green, travels to the hole on two at Paw Paw Lake Golf Course on Sunday. Dillenbeck was joined in a round of golf by his cousin Dale Dillenbeck. The two golf at least once a week. (TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

ON A GREAT COURSE…Kevin Dillenbeck of Benton Harbor watches as his shot, just off the green, travels to the hole on two at Paw Paw Lake Golf Course on Sunday. Dillenbeck was joined in a round of golf by his cousin Dale Dillenbeck. The two golf at least once a week.
(TCR photo by Kristy Noack)

and two qualifying races complete, the rain just would not let up, causing the track to become a muddy mess before the feature event. The decision by race and promotion officials to suspend the action was not made lightly and was in the interest of driver safety.  The good news is the event is not a total washout. The Craftsman Sprint Cup Series will return to the wicked half-mile track on Wednesday, September 21 and will include a full line-up, including hot laps and time trials.  Do not throw away your tickets or pit passes from Friday’s rain-soaked event.  Both will be honored in September.  In the meantime, head out to the track this Friday for MTS non-wing sprints, modifieds, stock cars, and cyber stock racing.  Gates open at 5:00 p.m. Racing begins at 8:00 p.m.  Circle Friday, August 12 and Saturday, August 13 on your calendars for the Hartford Off-Road Challenge. Super truck, super stock truck, super buggy, and 1600 buggy races will be held. The season is just getting started at Hartford Speedway.