Tom Bassett, ’67 – Several Fond Track Memories
In 1967 I qualified to run at the NCAA National Championship Track Meet in Ogden, Utah. Coach Woody Greeno hadn’t planned on anyone going to Nationals. The regular season was over, and there was no money left in his track budget. So, he sent me to President Vance Rogers’ home to hopefully get the necessary funds. Dr. Rogers was happy to help out. He gave me a handwritten note to take to NWU Treasurer, Dick Johnson, to get a check to cover my expenses. I was a one-man team, placing 5th and 3rd respectively in the 100-yard and 220-yard dashes (yes, yards, not meters). I earned All-American honors of which I was very proud and so was Woody.
A week after the meet in Utah, I returned to campus to take two summer classes. Coach Greeno phoned me and said he wanted me to come to his office so he could give me my running jersey. I thought “Wow, Wesleyan is retiring my jersey.” I called my parents, my sister and some of my best friends to tell them the big news.
I went to Woody’s office the next day. He was there but no reporters, or photographers or well wishers, just Woody. He reached into a large cardboard box, pulled out a jersey, and tossed it to me. He said, “Here you go, Tom. I thought you would like this. We’re getting new uniforms next year.”
Well, it wasn’t the hoopla I had envisioned; but in a way, Wesleyan did retire my jersey.
Probably the best memory of my NWU track years took place at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, while participating in the javelin event. I think only eight or 10 of the track team traveled. Of course we had no fancy bus, however we had Wesleyan’s station wagon, or maybe it belonged to Coach Greeno. With Woody as our chauffer while chewing on his pipe and the javelin tied to the door handles, we were off.
With many thousands of Drake Relay fans in the stadium, needless to say I was an awestruck 20-year-old. In the javelin event all colleges and universities competed together, so I threw against some of the big schools from around the country. Anyway, after my adrenaline came to life and maybe some help from above, I placed fifth and set a new mark at NWU.
Afterwards, I met a glowing Woody Greeno at midfield. We both agreed even a small school can compete with the large universities. This was my most thrilling track memory at NWU. The year was 1963.
I must say my achievements are minimal compared to my admiration and respect for coaches Woody Greeno and Ray Westover. They were bothe excellent leaders and mentors. Woody would always get up very close to your face and say, “Good job, you’ll do better next time.”
Also, I must comment that my total college experience from all parts of NWU were some of the best years of my life. I would not trade it for any other university.
Thank you, Nebraska Wesleyan University.