Writes Headline Stating "Checkers Women Beat GBTC Women"
BUFFALO, NY (1998) - Greater Buffalo Track Club (GBTC) members were astonished one morning in 1998 when they awoke to find an amazing story in their morning paper, the Buffalo News. Their favorite journalist, Michael Beebe, had published a headline and story stating that the Checkers women had beaten the GBTC women in the annual USATF Niagara District Championships track meet. There were no GBTC names anywhere in the article.
The story was especially perplexing because GBTC did not participate in that meet. They couldn't because the track meet falls only one week before the club's biggest annual event, the Corporate Challenge. GBTC members were busy with pre-event preparations. In fact, the club hadn't fielded a track team in years.
The Checkers Athletic Club is the areas largest running club. There has not been any sense of rivalry between the clubs for years and some runners now enjoy membership in both organizations.
One GBTC Runner Against All of Checkers?
Apparently, Beebe had fallen victim to a tongue in cheek inspirational article penned for the Checkers newsletter, a usually reliable information source. It was based on fact but omitted some very important details.
It turns out that the "GBTC Women" were actually one solitary GBTC woman. Sue Devlin, a mother of two high school aged children, had ventured to Rochester on her own to see what track running was like. Nervously, she had entered two events.
An Astounding Upset - Sue Wins The Gold!
What happened next was worthy of its own headline, but apparently not in the Checkers newsletter. Sue, running in her first ever 1500 meters race, found herself pitted against her friend, Checkers president and veteran track master, Diane Sardes. Diane and Sue ran stride for stride through the first half mile. It must have taken great courage for Sue to force herself to move in front of the more experienced Sardes, but she did it. Then she shocked all in attendance, including herself, by stretching out a commanding lead and winning the women's race out right! It was probably the single biggest upset surprise at the meet that day. The lone GBTC runner had won gold in front of the Checker's titular head. How ironic this is in light of the mystyfing Beebe story!
Sue went on to earn a silver medal in the open women's 800 meter run , finishing behind Checkers' star middle distance runner Becky Heuer. This was another amazing achievement for the 38 year old Sue, running all alone, in her first track meet.
Rude Words From The Misinformed
An unfortunate result of the story was a surprising encounter Sue experienced shortly after the it was published. Fellow GBTC members, including a now erstwhile club officer, confronted Sue while running downtown. He inquired whether she had been at the track meet, then actually stated that she had "let the team down" and then suggested that she no longer wear her club uniform when competing out of town.
This was certainly quite hurtful, and would have nudged a weaker person to quit the club or even quit running altogether. But fortunately, Sue found the inner strength and the patience to deliver a stunning and happier ending to the story a year later.
See part 2 of this story: Sue Wins Team Title!