Manasota Track Club – History
It was March 22, 1975 and the First Annual Florida AAU Masters Track and Field Championships were being held in St. Petersburg Florida. Trophies to be given included one to the winning masters team. Enter Bill O’Brien, Jewel and John (JC) Shenk, Melanie and Guy Paschal, Mike McLeod, John and Denny Beith all who competed on the first day of the two day event. O’Brien and JC recognized an opportunity to win it all, but first they needed to form a team. A quick vote was taken and the ManasotaTrack Club (MTC) was born!
After the first day of the two day event the MTC was in second place just behind the St. Petersburg Track & Field Club. The woman made their contribution felt by entering several events and piled up the points. Few woman entered such meets in the early years so they made a world of difference. The group went back overnight to Sarasota and Bradenton and recruited two more women – Nancy Carson and Doris Wilson to the team. The team returned the next day and won the championship! In fact the MTC also won the next seven Florida Masters Track & Field Championships!
The first formal meeting of the club was May 6, 1975.
JC opened the first club bank account in April 1975 and the group decided on a one dollar membership fee!
The articles of incorporation were presented to the membership on November 4, 1979 and formally voted on December 14, 1979 thus the Manasota Track Club, Inc. was born.
Officers at the time of incorporation:
Attorney Bob Widman, member, assisted with the articles of incorporation and application to the state without charge. The Articles stipulated the first annual meeting was to be held in January 1980. By this time the club had grown to 150 individual and family members from the handful of runners in 1975. The dues at the time were $1.00 individual and $2.00 family.
During the early years the club continued to grow and prosper, continuing to win the Florida State Masters Track and Field meets.
On occasion, Jim Fixx would show up at one of our runs. His mother lived in Sarasota and he would visit her occasionally. While in town he would show up at a beach run or other weekend run. I got to know Jim and he would call me when he arrived in town and ask if there was a run that weekend. If there was, he would ask if I could pick him up and take him to the site of the run. When I showed up with Jim, he became the focus of attention. The club didn’t have a very big budget in those days, but I thought what the heck, I’ll ask Jim to speak to the club. I told him we could only afford something like $300.00 and he agreed. This became one of the biggest turn outs for a meeting. For those not familiar with Jim Fixx, he was the author of The Complete Book of Running. It was the bible for all new runners at the time. Jim died at the age of 52 of a heart attack while running.
Walter Rothenbach: During his career he worked his way up to be head of Sarasota County Parks and Recreation. He was instrumental in developing many of the business aspects of the MTC. In particular, he established our 501-C-3 Non-Profit status.
MTC Highlights over the years...
The Manasota Track Club has a long and established history in the Sarasota Manatee area. It continues to be the premier running club in the area as it is a Road Running Club of America chapter and a member of USA Track & Field. The club and its members have distinguished themselves over time by supporting running and the community. While the details of the club's members, activities and community support are in the club's newsletter archives, the highlights throughout the years are Identified below. It's a fun read and if you find that a significant event or important detail or fact has been overlooked, please send us an email and tell us about it.
Bill O'Brian Founder and President 1975-1980
Bill O'Brien was an avid runner himself. He also coached track at Manatee High School. He started the Manasota Track Club in May 1975 while competing at the Florida State Masters Championships in St. Petersburg, Florida. He formed a team for that Championship that won the event that year and seven years following. Bill presided over the initial form and growth of the club and established the foundation for the clubs future growth. He was president for six years.
Blaine “Boots” Baesler became the first newsletter editor and publisher
The first newsletter was issued in September 15, 1980. It was four pages and cost 15 cents to mail. During this same period the MTC became a member club of the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) and became a 501-c-3 tax exempt organization through the RRCA. In December 1980 the first budget was approved with income expected of $6,200 and an ending balance of $2,700.
The beginning of a new era of organization
This year saw the beginning of a new era of organization and activities under the leadership of President Walt Rothenbach. Walt introduced the formality of publishing a meeting notice with an agenda and every member was invited to attend. The response was immediate and a new location large enough to handle the crowd was needed. Fortunately the club was able to use the Twin Lakes facilities for board, general member meetings, the annual installation banquet and annual club picnic. The banquet (see the 1981 December newsletter for details and pictures of the first banquet) and picnic both had there start under President Rothenbach. The club logo was designed by the graphic artist on his staff that is still in use today. Walt and his team were instrumental in changing the summer beach run format from a four mile run each week to having a different race distance and format each week during the summer runs. Many of those changes are still in evidence forty years later.
More MTC History Coming Soon!
We are hard at work, compiling the interesting stories from the last 45 years. if you have any great stories, please let us know.
Jay Jaffe, Walter White, Doc Wiley, Kent Morgan, Jerry Scott, Tom Dixon, the Opitz family and so many more were there at the beginning. These are the guys that put the club together and held it together for all these years. Sunday mornings a group would run Siesta Beach then sit around Jays pool on the beach and eat bagels and drink beer. I think the club is still the same now as it was in the early years. Friends running together in races and on the weekends and enjoying the magnificent Siesta Beach.
We wouldn’t be who we are today without the people that shaped our programs and services. Since 1975, the unwavering dedication of the Manasota Track Club leaders, (many of them are still involved today) helped shape our mission and the future of the MTC. For more than 45 years, these individuals have worked to make the Manasota Track Club what it is today!
Past Track Club Presidents (1975 – present)
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