The Post-Journal

Chautauqua Track – A Study In Adversity

One thing that has kept pace with the skyrocketing rate of inflation is the success of the Chautauqua Central School track team. In June 1976, this column told of Coach Cal Cederquist’s amazing team that ended a 40-year drought by winning its first dual meet with only 11 participants. Since that time the Indians have made a constant climb up the ladder of success.

That first win along with a fourth place finish in the County Class C Meet sparked an interest in track at Chautauqua. “We won a meet with 11 kids that year,” recalls Cederquist who believes that is what helped get students interested in track. He adds that the running craze and the publicity track received at the 1976 Olympics didn’t hurt either. But mainly he points to his 1976 team. “They proved it could be done.”

Proving it could be done suddenly proved to be rewarding for Cederquist who was surprised to see the largest turnout ever for his team the next year – 27. So instead of having to forfeit all three relays in every meet due to a lack of bodies, the Indians’ mentor found himself with almost a normal-sized roster.

With more names on the roster, more wins showed up on the ledger as the team began its current string of three consecutive winning seasons. That’s quite a turnabout when you consider Chautauqua had never won a meet in 40 years. Coming of its fourth place finish in the 1976 county meet, the Indians progressed a step at a time by taking third in 1977, second in 1978 and first this season.

Winning the County Class C Championship was the ultimate goal for Cederquist. “My first goal was to win a meet,” he explains. “Then it was to have a winning season and then to win a county title. Now I’m feasting!”

However, at the beginning of the season it looked like Cederquist might be fasting. After finishing only four points out of first place last year, the Chautauqua team was certain it could take the County Class C title this season. But then, like an annoying alarm clock, an unforeseeable problem awoke Cederquist from his dream. Just before the season began he learned his top three men, all county champions in their events, were ineligible due to disciplinary action.

“It hit them (the other team members) hard,” recalls the coach who watched what supposed to be his most successful season open with a loss to Westfield. But the Indians regrouped and fought adversity, something Chautauqua track teams have done throughout their existence, to finish with a 5 – 2 record before capturing the county title.

“It took a lot of character for them to come back,” says the coach in praise of his crew. He also emphasizes there were no bad feelings toward the suspended team members. “There is no ill will and they will be out running again next year.”

Cederquist points out that he thinks the fighting spirit of his track squad is typical of all the Chautauqua athletic teams. It is the smallest school in the county with an enrollment of 120 but it still captured a sectional basketball title this season and now the track team holds the county championship.

Since all of Cederquist’s goals have been reached, will there be a letdown in Chautauqua track? “I don’t foresee that,” he answers. “The only thing that could hurt is a drop in enrollment.” But then Cederquist did think of a new goal – to send one of his cindermen to the New York State Championships. That would be quite an accomplishment since Chautauqua would be one of the smallest schools represented.

That goal could have been reached yesterday as 10 members of Cederquist’s team competed in the state qualifier at Sweet Home, but none advanced to the state meet. But don’t count the Indians out for long. They have obtained every other goal Cederquist has set.

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We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.