The Post-Journal

Chautauqua Sports Went Out With A Bang

It’s an amazing story. Perhaps it could be track and field’s version of Hoosiers since it definitely has a Hollywood flavor. Chautauqua Central School boys’ track coach Cal Cederquist said some people told him, “This is a Reader’s Digest story: a Paul Harvey story.”

Mainly, it’s a great story.

Chautauqua Central School will not exist next school year because it is merging with Mayville Central to become Chautauqua Lake Central School. In its 96 years of existence, Chautauqua had never claimed a state title in any sport – until last Saturday. And it came down to the last sports competition ever for Chautauqua to claim its first, last and only state championship.

At the state track championship at the University of Buffalo, the Chautauqua 1,600-meter relay team of Brian Jones, Vern Post, Todd Glenn and Luke Brown ran a time of 3:29.4 to finish first in Class C-D.

The officials for the event told Cederquist, “They ran that perfectly.”

The coach agreed and said, “All four boys executed everything we did perfectly. We figured we had to run under 3:30 to do it.”

When the season began, Cederquist had a feeling about this quartet.

“I knew I had four pretty good boys here,” Cederquist said.

Cederquist began to take notice when they won at the Super 8 Meet in Salamanca and LLAMA Meet in May. Then when he checked his relay’s times compared with other schools listed in The Buffalo News, Cederquist recalled thinking. “This is getting down to something serious.”

They went on to win the county and sectional meets and then practiced intently at Strider Field for the state meet under the watchful eyes of Cederquist and Assistant Coach Mike Whitney. They ran all lanes, practiced handoffs and concentrated on accelerating out of the exchange. By the time his relay team got to the state meet, Cederquist said, “They were extremely focused. I had a good feeling.”

And Jones, a sophomore, and Post, Glenn and Brown, all seniors, knew they were not competing just for a state title. It was also the last chance for Chautauqua to ever have one.

“They had it in their mind all the time,” Cederquist said. He said their feelings were: “We want to go out with a bang.”

The Chautauqua foursome was reminded of that just before the relay began when the public address announcer commented it would be the last sports event ever held for Chautauqua.

The race was close, but when anchor Brown got the baton, Cederquist recalled, “Lucas was two or three steps in the lead after the exchange. That was it. When he gets the baton, he hates to lose.”

And he didn’t.

Cederquist was particularly proud to win the state title in combined Class C and D.

“We’re the smallest (school) in Western New York and in all likelihood, the smallest at the state meet,” he said.

He added that an example of a Class C school is Southwestern, with nearly 400 high school students compared to about 75 for Chautauqua.

‘What’s satisfying is it’s a team that won (a state track title) instead of an individual,” Cederquist said. “To get a relay team out of a school that has so few boys (only 18 in grades 11 and 12).”

It’s only fitting that a relay team captured the state title because when Cederquist started as a track coach in 1973, he couldn’t even field relay teams because of a lack of people. When every meet began, the Indians were already behind 15-0 because they had to forfeit the relays.

On May 13, 1976, despite having a roster of only 11 boys, Chautauqua won its first dual meet in nearly 40 years. Twenty years later the Indians have won 33 of their last 34 meets.

The team kept progressing at the county meet with a third in 1977, second in 1978 and finally first in 1979. An all that was accomplished then, like now, without a track. Chautauqua never had track facilities, but kept on winning.

Cederquist, who left the track coaching position for nine years before returning in 1990, was elated to win a Class C county title in 1979 and then set his goal at sending someone to the state meet. Shawn Smith and Jill Bergman, running with the boys’ team, made it. But they couldn’t do what this year’s relay team did.

It won a state title that shouldn’t be forgotten, even though the school will no longer exist. Is something planned, such as a banner, to commemorate Chautauqua’s only state title?

“That’s a good question,” Cederquist said. “Something has to be done.”

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