Unsung heroes help track team

Tim Klobuchar

In the past, baseball has had a monopoly on bizarre trades.
New York Yankees teammates Fritz Peterson and Mike Kekich swapped wives, children and pets for a short time in 1972. And in 1913, the St. Louis Browns left a player named Buzzie Wares behind in Alabama after spring training as payment for stadium rent.
According to Jesse Rosen, the women’s athletics department may have pulled the trigger on a similar deal about two years ago when he was the women’s track and cross country sports information director.
Rosen, for new office carpeting and furniture.
He admits it may have been a coincidence that soon after he was told there wasn’t enough money to fund his position, new carpeting and furniture appeared in the sports information offices. But the point was made.
“That kind of told me where I stood,” Rosen said.
Rosen, now managerial director for the women’s track and field team, is among those who work with the program in some unglamorous capacity, toiling in obscurity and getting paid accordingly.
While working for a Division I sports program might qualify for mild bragging rights, most people would rather tell their friends they worked for the hockey or basketball team rather than the track team. Still, as women’s track and field coach Gary Wilson says of his assistants, “The program does not survive without them.”
Rosen liked working with the team enough to accept Wilson’s offer to stay on as an administrative assistant after his position was cut.
Though he says a lot of people don’t actually know what he does, Rosen is an integral part of the program. He is involved in meet entries, does the public address announcing at various meets and helps coordinate the travel arrangements for the team.
That includes booking plane and hotel reservations and setting up bus rides and meals. He had that task for both the men’s and women’s teams — 55 people in all — for this weekend’s Big Ten Outdoor Championships at Penn State.
“Rosen, a former Daily reporter and current University student, can’t exactly make a living off the job, though.
“If I made any less, I’d be paying them,” he said with a laugh.
Anyone who earns so little while working at a vital job must enjoy what he’s doing, and that is precisely why Rosen stays.
“I really like the staff I work with and the athletes,” he said. “It’s a people job.”
Ian “Bush” Elrod likes his job, too. But as a track lifer, he loves the sport even more. Elrod, classified as a technical assistant, helps Wilson with the distance runners and the computer recruiting process. His work is strictly volunteer, however. He works full-time in transport services at Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Elrod first attached himself to track when he was 8 years old. He was living in Nebraska at the time and had the opportunity to meet Glen Cunningham. Cunningham, who lived in a nearby town, was the last American to hold the world record in the mile before Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four minute mile.
Cunningham had been severely injured in an explosion years before his world record. At first doctors didn’t think he’d ever run again. Meeting someome like that at an early age served as an inspiration to Elrod.
“Glen Cunningham got me involved in track and field,” he said.
Elrod’s involvement with the sport eventually earned him his nickname. While in college, his cross-country team would train extensively in the forests of northern Wisconsin. Roughing it didn’t appeal to most of his teammates, but Elrod loved the running and everything else that went with the experience. So his teammates dubbed him “the bushman,” which gradually was shortened to “bush.”
Elrod used to be a full-time assistant coach for the Gophers, but because of evolving NCAA rules about the number of allowable coaches, he was eventually bumped from his position.
He does what he can now, which includes such adrenaline-pumping tasks as making tent arrangements for home cross-country meets, and scouting the area for the best bids on the construction of starting and finish line banners.
“I just do any special project, sometimes in an emergency capacity,” he said. “A lot of times it’s something that they couldn’t find anyone else to do.”