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Speer: AHS grads fulfill Olympic dreams

July 20, 2012
Bill Speer - Editor/Publisher , The Alpena News

We all have done it.

It's the bottom of the ninth, two outs, and two strikes against us. We dig deeper into the batter's box next to the cardboard box serving as home plate. Today's "Field of Dreams" just hours earlier was the vacant overgrown lot in the neighborhood. Who would have "thunk it" that instead, it became the setting of our imaginary World Series, and the fate of the whole baseball season was resting on our shoulders. And with that, the pitch comes in, the sound of ball meeting bat shatters the afternoon stillness, and a homerun wins the game!

If baseball isn't your sport, perhaps it was the first dive into the swimming pool, and suddenly you're transformed into Michael Phelps in search of another Olympic record. Maybe you're one of the Manning brothers playing in a Super Bowl, Pele scoring the winning soccer goal or Tony Stewart getting the checkered flag.

All of us have imagined ourselves as heroes in a premiere athletic event.

Nowhere in sports is the stage higher than the Olympics, as the top athletes from around the world compete against each other for not only personal fame, but more importantly - patriotic glory for their country.

Back in 1967, the seeds for this year's London Olympics regarding gymnastics were being sewn in Alpena with the hiring of a gymnastics coach named Jack Discher. As he did as a child, Discher also had dreams as an adult - dreams of a state high school championship, grooming champion-caliber athletes and developing a successful gymnastics program from the ground up.

Like the Biblical parable in the Gospels of the seed falling to the ground, we understand that not all seeds germinate, grow and reach their full potential. Some wither, others are choked out by weeds while still others show some growth, then suddenly wilt and perish.

Discher apparently was a farmer at heart, for the seeds he helped plant and nurture during his tenure in Alpena have blossomed and grown into remarkable specimens today. Evidence of his success is everywhere across the region, state and country.

And, with the start of the Olympics this coming Friday, also in London.

Three coaches who "cut their teeth" in Alpena with Discher will be prominently visible at the Olympics, as all are involved with American gymnastics hopefuls. Kurt Golder, the coach of the highly successful University of Michigan men's gymnastics team, will be there coaching Sam Mikulak, while husband and wife team John and Kathryn Geddert of DeWitt, will be there coaching world champion Jordyn Wieber. John Geddert also will be in charge of the entire U.S. women's gymnastics team.

John Geddert and Kurt Golder both were coached by Discher, while Kathryn Geddert was a member of the girls' gymnastics squad here.

The three bring a very distinct, and visible representation of Alpena to the Olympics in London. Gymnastics over the years have been the "darling" of American Olympic primetime broadcast coverage, and this year should be no different since Wieber and her teammates are among the favorites for medals at this year's events. With such attention, we expect all three coaches will receive a good bit of air time during the next several weeks.

Alpena also will be represented in London by former Alpena resident Margaret Mack, who will be working with the NBC production crews to ensure Olympic coverage is transmitted smoothly back to the states. Mack is a veteran of Olympic events, and has coordinated with newspaper readers for several Olympics now, including again this year.

Somewhere next week a young child, after watching an Olympic event, will picture themselves as an Olympic athlete as they vault over a backyard fence, sprint down the sidewalk to the corner or dive into the lake for a cool dip.

And who knows, maybe someday they will be.

Olympic dreams really can come true, as evidence by this year's Alpena connection in London.



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