Back from the races
By Sarina Trangle
Jasper track athletes giggled from the back rows of a Hayes Hall auditorium as Aliann Pompey, a 1999 Manhattan College alumna, and Joe Ryan, the second-longest Jaspers coach, rehashed their two and a half decades together during the Sept. 17 lecture of Manhattan College’s week-long Olympic talk series.
Ms. Pompey, a four time Olympian who competed in the London Games, and Mr. Ryan, the Jasper’s assistant track coach who helped her get there, reenacted a pre-race ritual that brought the coach-trainee team from the Manhattan College campus to Olympic villages across the globe.
Dozens of students attending a Sept. 17 talk heard Ms. Pompey describe decades of avoiding her coach’s “touch of death” before race warm-ups.
While Ms. Pompey said she prefers silence and meditation before the shotgun, she described how Mr. Ryan would pace in front of track with coffee in hand, nervously spewing out words of encouragement and trying to sneak in pats on her back.
“If he touches you it’s the weirdest thing because it’s like all of his weight goes to his hand,” she said, while thrusting her hip on stage and stimulating her latest dodge at the London Games.
“I did a matrix move to get away from his hand … My friend, she was like, ‘What was that little dance move back there?’ I said, ‘Listen if that man touches you before you run, it’s like the touch of death.’”
Cullen Jones, the second African-American to win a gold medal in swimming, kicked off the lectures, followed by Nastia Liukin, a five-time gymnastics medalist. Also on the roster were, Lindy Remigino, who won the gold medal in the 100-meter dash during his junior at Manhattan College and Amanda Beard, a seven-time Olympic swimming medalist.
Though runners saturated the audience, a handful of other Jaspers came to hear how things have changed since Mr. Ryan’s and Ms. Pompey’s first encounter, when Ms. Pompey enrolled in college in 1996.
Ms. Pompey said when her father introduced her to the two Jasper coaches; Mr. Ryan gasped at her 90-pound frame and said, “Oh my God, we have so much work to do with you.”