Track services

Race honoring Conant’s legendary track coach nears finish line

A Hall of Fame track coach after a 29-year career at Conant High School, Ron Gummerson, 66, was responding well to cancer treatment and appeared on the verge of recovering from melanoma in the spring of 2011.

“Then he came back at the end of April, and he died on May 12,” says Sheila Gummerson, his wife of 42 years.

“We were all shocked,” recalls Kelly Higgins, now 49 and the eldest of the couple’s seven children. “We all felt this huge loss.”

Higgins and siblings Molly, Kevin, Brendan, Sheila, James and Kathleen responded by tapping into their father’s playbook in 2012 to launch Ron Gummerson’s Summer Track Meetan annual event that allowed grandchildren, would-be runners, high school athletes, former track stars, parents, grandparents and entire families to run and compete in the long jump and dive other events.

“It was so heartwarming for all of us,” Higgins said, noting the goals were to honor their father, introduce people to the joys of athletics and raise money for scholarships.


With seven children and a busy life, Ron and Sheila Gummerson found the time to snap this photo on Father’s Day in 1992.
– Courtesy of the Gummerson family


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Do. Do. And There you go. Thursday, this tradition will end with a final meeting at Conant High School, 700 E. Cougar Trail in Hoffman Estates. Registration begins at 5 p.m. Fees are $5 for unlimited events and $3 for children 3 and under. See gummersontrack.com for more details.

None of today’s high school athletes were alive when Gummerson retired in 2002. Teachers and coaches are leaving and retiring. Things change. When the pandemic canceled the event in 2020 and 2021, it had pretty much run its course.

In the event’s decade-long history, race day has raised enough money to award 21 college scholarships to Conant track and field athletes, totaling approximately $29,000.

“It was more the spirit of the thing,” says Sheila Gummerson, who says her late husband’s passion and kindness have energized people of all ages, including the athletes he coached. “They would come up to me and tell me how wonderful he was and how much they loved racing for him. And I loved having my kids hear those stories too.”

The idea of ​​an athletic meet for all ages and abilities was launched in 1973 by Ron Gummerson and Jack Ary. Gummerson was Conant’s head track coach and Ary was the head cross country coach, and they served as each other’s assistants.

“Ron had a way of getting the most out of the kids whether they were very talented or not,” says Ary, who is now 79 and lives in Huntley but has been an integral part of summer racing at Gummerson’s. Memory.

“I ran the start line,” says Ary, who couldn’t resist joining the other runners at the age of 70. “When the mile came, I put down my megaphone and jumped in.”



Beloved track coach at Conant High School, Ron Gummerson has passed away at 66, but a summer all-ages track and field competition is part of his legacy.

Beloved track coach at Conant High School, Ron Gummerson has passed away at 66, but a summer all-ages track and field competition is part of his legacy.
– Daily Herald file photo

Support for the event also came from former Conant coaches Al Goodman, who died in 2013, and Bob Borczak, as well as current Conant coaches Kalli Dalton and John Powers, and athletic director John Kane.

Ron and Sheila Gummerson met “in the staff room” at Proviso West High School in Hillside, where she was an English teacher and he taught business, Sheila Gummerson says. She remembers telling her mother that her boyfriend was running across the country.

“Oh, cross-country skiing? his mother replied. ” When does he leave ?

Sheila Gummerson learned to be a partner in her husband’s athletic career, but she was never a runner. “Oh my God no,” she said. “I just ran after the kids.”

His son Kevin Gummerson followed the path set by his father. He raced track at Schaumburg High School, competing against his father’s teams. Now 45, he teaches social studies at Minooka Community High School and coaches boys and girls in cross country and girls’ track.

“Kevin is like his dad. He’s a great teacher and people love him the way they loved Ron,” Sheila Gummerson said. He even keeps a pencil behind his ear, like his father always did.

“I remember going to these summer races when I was little,” says Kevin Gummerson. “It was such a positive experience. It was a good thing for so many kids. Watching him over the years, he inspired me to become a coach. Everything he did continues.”



Started a generation ago by legendary coaches Ron Gummerson and Jack Ary, the annual summer track meet at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates features races for all ages.

Started a generation ago by legendary coaches Ron Gummerson and Jack Ary, the annual summer track meet at Conant High School in Hoffman Estates features races for all ages.
– Courtesy of Ron Gummerson Meet

About half a dozen kids coached by Ron Gummerson became coaches as adults, Ary says. Kevin Gummerson is the third generation of the Gummerson family to coach, as his grandfather, Roy, was so instrumental in building the sport in Illinois that he earned the nickname “Mr. Track.” .

The track was special to her late husband, says Ron’s widow. In basketball, football, baseball or soccer, many students love the sport and spend a decade playing it, before being kicked out of the varsity team in high school. The track allows everyone to compete.

Ron Gummerson used to remind his athletes that track and field, unlike those other sports, was not a game. “You really are competing against yourself,” he would tell his athletes. Of Gummerson’s nine grandchildren, ages 1 to 17, one couple are runners, Sheila Gummerson says.

The first time Ron and Sheila Gummerson’s children competed in the summer track meet, 4-year-old Kelly stopped on the track halfway to let her 2-year-old sister, Molly, ride. catch up, remembers their mother. Kelly continued to run track in high school, but Molly realized that gymnastics suited her better.

Family members and organizers agree the event went well, but they knew it wouldn’t last forever.

“It’s bittersweet to watch the encounter unfold,” Ary says. After two years of the pandemic, canceling the event, even bringing it back for one more year takes a lot of effort. Instead of just letting it fade away, the Gummerson kids wanted to have one last run.

“They decided to do it one last time,” Sheila Gummerson says, adding, “I listen to my kids.”