The Post-Journal

Bakewell, Conlan: Local All-Americans

For the second time this year, area residents have reason to be proud of one of their own.

In January, Shane Conlan put Frewsburg on the national map with a heroic performance in Penn State’s Orange Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

A little more than six months later, Jamestown’s Karen Bakewell, a sophomore at Miami (Ohio) University, ran herself into the national limelight at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Indianapolis. Running in the 800 meters, Bakewell won the event in meet record time, although she was virtually a rookie, having run that distance competitively only since March.

Webster’s defines an All-American as “a hypothetical football or other team made up of college players voted the best of the year in the U. S.”

Conlan and Bakewell more than fit that definition.

Conlan, a 6-3, 225-pound outside linebacker, made 91 tackles for the 11-1 Nittany Lions, earning first-team All-American honors from the Football News and the Newspaper Enterprises Association, second team honors from the United Press International and third team honors from the Associated Press.

One observer called his effort in the Orange Bowl “One of the greatest single linebacking performances in the school’s history.” Thankfully – for Penn State fans anyway – Conlan has decided to return for his final year of eligibility.

If all goes well he become only the second Penn State linebacker to win first team All-American honors in two different seasons.

Bakewell, meanwhile, took the Mid-American Conference by storm this spring, leading the Redskins to the conference title two years after the team finished ninth.

Her performance in the conference meet has reached almost legendary proportions at Miami. After winning the 400 meters and the 800 meters, finishing second in the 200 meters and anchoring the second place 1600-meter relay team, Bakewell was named the MAC Athlete of the Year.

Then came her record setting performance last week when the former Chautauqua Strider posted a winning time of 2:00.85.

Her coach, Rich Ceronie, said, “It was simply an outstanding performance, no question about it.”

Bakewell and Conlan don’t seek the attention, however. In fact, they could almost seem uncomfortable with it. “I was just going to do the best I could,” Bakewell said modestly in describing her thoughts after her record-setting run.

But their superior performances on the track and the football field means they must answer the repetitive questions of reporters, who are seeking that all important story.

Yet no matter how many questions they’ve been asked, Bakewell and Conlan have always been accessible to me when I’ve needed to talk to them. Conlan even let me interview him in his hotel suite following Penn State’s loss to Oklahoma.

And you know what? I don’t think these two gifted athletes will change despite their rosy futures. Conlan figures to be a high draft choice in next year’s National Football League draft, while Bakewell appears destined for the Olympic Trials in 1988.

They are living proof of what college athletics should be. They are a credit to their families, their schools and their hometowns. Let’s sit back and enjoy them.

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