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Russell's Reflections

By T. Russell Wrenn '96

On the last Friday in September, as rain and a steady wind reminded all in attendance that the last gasps of summer were failing and that fall has truly arrived, I had the chance to help honor Lori Bristow in celebration of her retirement after 36 years at Gilman as our athletic trainer and, more recently, Co-Director of Athletics. It was a fun afternoon filled with home football, soccer, and volleyball games, but the thought of Lori no longer holding court in the training room that she founded in 1986 got me — and many of the alumni and retired faculty in attendance at the halftime ceremony — thinking about the passage of time.

If you walk the hallways of the gym, visit Mr. Ray Mills at the cage (he's still going strong in his forty-third year here!), or stick your head into the pool or locker rooms, it is easy to imagine that no time has passed. The sights, sounds, and, perhaps most indelibly, the smells of a day in Gilman athletics have not really changed. While mornings are relatively quiet, the start of sixth grade athletics just after 2 p.m. brings the rush of little bodies to the cage to pick up uniforms, signaling that the last class and best part of the day has begun. Those of us that work in the athletic center spend the next four or five hours sprinting through the rest of Middle School athletics, Upper School intramurals and interscholastic practices, and whatever games are on the docket for that afternoon. While this daily ritual has also remained largely unchanged over the years, there have recently been some significant changes.

The center of any fully-functioning athletic program should be the weight room. This fall, we opened our new C. Markland Kelly, Jr. Health, Wellness, and Fitness Center. While it is located where the auxiliary gym — what alumni from a generation before my time refer to as "the cage" — used to sit, I don't have words to adequately describe how completely that space has been transformed. A two-story, 4,000+ square foot gym, complete with air conditioning, big screen TVs streaming GTV broadcasts, and racks, weights, bands, and gadgets galore now serves as the true hub of afternoon athletic life. While the boys may be working out the same way they did in the old weight room, this new space allows for expanded participation; we now welcome Middle School students and have incorporated afternoon weight training classes into the curriculum. On any given day, upwards of 200 boys put sweat equity into the new space, doing their best to make sure the new fitness center will eventually smell like the rest of the building.

And outside, practices continue rain or shine. Watching teams use the two turf fields, particularly during bad-weather days like the many we have had recently due to remnants of Hurricane Ian, makes me thankful for the foresight of those who came before me. While I still remember as a student the unbridled joy that came from hydroplaning on "Lake Gilman" — the supersized puddle that ran the length of the grass field inside the track on rainy days — it is more satisfying to now watch four, even five teams use the turf for productive practices on rain days.

While facilities, coaching philosophies (including the mandatory character education program for Upper School interscholastic teams run by Jeff Gouline '00), and training techniques change over time, what makes me most proud of Gilman today is what has not changed about our afternoons. Seeing the Middle School teachers hustle each afternoon to transform into coaches; watching Upper School faculty play intramural ultimate frisbee alongside the boys; and hearing the boys cheering for one another from the stands all embody what athletics mean to our community. While we know they hone the body and the mind, the spirit component of the mission statement is our special sauce. On any afternoon — rain or shine, indoor or out — boys compete with each other, cheer for one another, succeed and fail together — all the while manifesting the pride that comes from wearing the "G" on their uniforms. Go Hounds!

Russell Wrenn '96
Director of Athletics
The Timothy Holley, Jr. '77 Athletic Directorship


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