In 1968 Tom Vichich came to teach and coach at Shadyside after a short career at Bellaire. Tom brought a vision with him from Bellaire – create a quality track meet for smaller schools to complement the Bellaire Relays that catered to the larger schools throughout Ohio and the region. Shortly after arriving at Shadyside and beginning his duties as the assistant track coach under the legendary Jack Berger, he and Berger began developing the idea of and plans for the Shadyside Relays. The Shadyside Relays was born and became a major track meet for 1A/2A schools. With Vichich’s vision and leadership, the guidance of Berger and the blessings of school administrators, Donald F. Miller, Superintendent, Floyd Wright, Principal and Lawrence Falbo, Athletic Director, along with the board of education, Jim Donkin, Bill Allietta, Dr. Emmett Millit, Axel Ottoson and Dr. Jim Antalis, the first Shadyside Relays was held on the third Saturday of April in 1971.
Input was requested and received from several track and field coaches and officials throughout the Ohio Valley. Cal Giffin, Joe Gill, Sam Mumley, Bill Thomas and Ed Davis were just a few of those involved with the first relays. Also part of the planning, development and start of the 1971 relays were, among others, Lou Postage, John “Gizzle” Ciszewski (a HS student at the time), Steve Montgomery, Jim Bittengle, Butch Joseph, Frank “Slick” Ciszewski, Chuck Vogt, Wilbur Coates, Jack Bonar, Bob Bittengle, Clyde “Kiggy” Kiggins and several of the Shadyside Boosters Club. A letter was sent to many of the 1A and 2A schools in the Ohio Valley and surrounding region to seek their participation interest. To make travel as convenient as possible and in a same-day-travel concept, the meet was designed to begin field events at 10:30 and running events at 11:30.
Along with Berger’s support, guidance and leadership, Vichich received considerable help from John Ciszewski who sorted all track athlete entries on individual index cards by time, distance or height entered. A “heats meeting” would subsequently be held on the Thursday before the Saturday relays. Entrants from the sorted cards would be placed in heats, sections or flights on chalkboards in several classrooms in Shadyside High School. School secretaries would type all the information from the chalkboard and duplicate all heats, sections or flights of all events on a mimeograph machine.
In addition to the competition, there were several other related activities developed. One of those activities was called the “Smoker.” This activity was a social and reception for the officials and coaches. The smoker was originally held the Saturday night after the relays in 1971, but was switched to the Friday night before the relays in 1972. Major donations were received from Suter’s IGA, Shadyside Convenient Mart and several other businesses.
A major challenge for the first and early relays was the track and field preparations. The track surface was a cinder track at the time. For the relays, a better ash was obtained from the Ohio Edison power plant in Dilles Bottom. The Army Corp of Engineers rolled the ash tight. The surface, after rolling, became a hard and resilient surface. There was a 6-lane liner used to line the track with athletic field lime. Colored lime was also used to line the relay exchange zones and staggered lines. When it rained hard enough, the lines bled and disappeared. The track then had to be relined, if this was even possible.
During the early years, with little money to begin the process, Vichich and the school were billed for the materials and supplies. To pay these bills, the revenue from entry-fees, gate receipts and sponsor donations were used. The Football Moms provided a luncheon for the coaches and officials.
Shadyside HS was the original sponsor of the Shadyside Relays. After about two years of operation, Vichich sought and received the help from the Boosters Club. In about 1978 the Shadyside Boosters became the sole sponsor. In 1980 the Boosters delegated the relays to a separate Shadyside Relays Committee. In 2007 the Boosters again took back sole sponsorship and administration. Then, in 2012 the relays went full circle; Shadyside HS once again became the sponsor and administered, through a relays committee, the Shadyside Relays. In 2014 SHS partnered with a community based Shadyside Relays Committee to sponsor, administer and operate the Relays.
The first Shadyside Relays committee, first formed in 1980, was composed of: Jerry Narcisi, chairman, Wilbur Coates, Guido Narcisi, Tom Vichich, Pat Miller, Matt Sweetnich, Henry Lowe, Slick Ciszewski, Jack Martin, John Krupa, Dan Bland, Jack Bonar, Gene Timbrook, Clarence Adriano, Ken Steiner, Punch Hill, Jim Carte, Butch Joseph, Ray Ponzo, Dick Stone and Joe Bonar,
This year’s 2018 committee is composed of: Jayson Johnson-Chairperson and President, Jerry Narcisi-Assistant Chairperson, Cole Elliot-Treasurer, Jenna Coyne-Secretary & Meet Director, Donna Joseph-Meet Manager, Bob Caldwell, Homer Ullom, Kate Krupa, Nick Ferelli, Brianne Johnson, John Triveri-SHS Athletic Director, Jeff Campbell, Erick Krupa, Heidi McConn, Larry Falbo, Jim Bittengle, Rich Rosser, Robert Thomas, Jeremy Simms and David Bonar.
In the early 1980s, the relays reached a high number of 42 boys teams. With the addition of more all-weather tracks throughout the region and travel becoming a liability, the number of boys’ teams dropped. With this trend in mind, the relays committee decided to add girls’ teams to the format in 1991. There was a meet designed and started for girls’ teams in 1986. This format, separate from the boys, continued until the 1991 conjoint meet. Surprisingly, the 1988 girl’s relays had to be postponed from its original April 4 date because of an 8” snowstorm. The meet was subsequently held the following Thursday. Now the Shadyside Relays hosts both boys and girls team and have hosted as many as 26 boys teams and 26 girls teams.
Original composed by Jerry Narcisi April 17, 2012 from information and/or documents from or developed by Craig Whitmore, Tom Vichich, Butch Joseph and Jerry Narcisi. Revisions are made yearly.