3 Questions for Dr. Larry Arrington
Larry W. Arrington, Ed.D. '63, has written books chronicling the Cross Country and Track programs at Roanoke College. In his third and most recent, "A Decade of Surprises," he writes about the College's Cross Country and Track teams of the 1960s. We asked Arrington about the book, and about his love for the sports.
Q: What led you to write not one, but three books about Roanoke College Cross Country and Track?
A: In 2005, about five years into retirement, I was on an RV trip to the American West. I received a phone call saying that the newly-refurbished outdoor track at the College was being dedicated to former coach and teacher Homer Bast. I arrived in Salem the day before the dedication ceremony. During the event, Homer gave a short talk about his teams of the 1940s and 1950s. As I sat there listening to him, I thought "This is a story worth telling." And I made a promise to myself to write a book about Homer and the countless young athletes that he had influenced after his arrival in Salem in 1946. That idea quickly expanded to the point where I decided to write a complete history of Cross Country and Track at Roanoke. By 2008, I had researched and published two of the books - "Dawn of a Sport" (the history of track and field athletics at the College through 1930, after which the sport was canceled), and "The Bast Boys" (covering Homer's amazing teams from 1947 to 1960, when he retired). The third book, just published in December of 2011, is "A Decade of Surprises," the story of the successful cross country and track teams of the 1960s. There will be four additional books to round out the series, each covering a decade of the two sports. Number four (the 1970s) is being researched now.
Q: What sparked your love for Cross Country and Track?
A: I competed in track while in high school in the Roanoke area, setting records in the shot put and discus. I chose Roanoke, in part, because I knew the school's reputation - a result of Homer Bast and his many undefeated teams. At Roanoke, I competed in Track for four years. After graduating from the College in 1963, and then a couple of years later working on my master's and doctoral degrees, I returned to the school as Dean of Men and then as an assistant professor and head coach of Cross Country and Track. I continued to coach at Roanoke until the end of the 1973-1974 season.
Q: Which of the three books would make for a great movie?
A: There are remarkable stories in each of the three books already published. "The Bast Boys" is the publication that easily could become a great movie. Homer Bast was a unique individual. He was smart (and a wonderful classroom teacher), and he knew how to motivate his "boys." But his best trait as a teacher and coach probably was that he cared about all students, not just those who competed for him.