Oct. 15, 2012
By Tracy Nelson, Army Athletic Communications
At an institution like West Point where the pursuit of excellence is as common as a Michael Phelps gold-medal race, it seems only natural that a select group of standout West Pointers went on to represent the United States on an even grander stage at the Olympic Games. Over the last century, members of the Long Gray Line have been participating and succeeding on a myriad of teams at what is widely considered the world's most esteemed athletic competition.
The Olympic Games are currently held biennially, with Summer and Winter Olympic Games alternating, meaning they each occur every four years. Some of the world's greatest cities have hosted the Games with the United States playing host to seven Olympic Games. The creation of the Olympics was inspired by the ancient Olympic Games, which were held in Olympia, Greece, from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. While the structure and authority has undergone a bevy of alterations over the last 100 years, the mystique and honor of representing one's nation on such a visible and prestigious stage remains unchanged.
As Army takes on Boston College today, several of those individuals will be recognized during a special halftime ceremony at venerable Michie Stadium. Included in the group of honorees are Col. Ret. George B. Moore (St. Moritz, Switzerland - 1948 - Modern Pentathlon), Col. Ret. Guy K. Troy (Helsinki, Finland - 1952 - Modern Pentathlon), Maurice T. Lough (Mexico City, Mexico - 1968 - Modern Pentathlon), Craig T. Gilbert (Los Angeles, 1984, Handball), Peter W. Lash Jr. (Los Angeles, USA - 1984 - Handball; Seoul, South Korea - 1988 - Handball), Brian A. Farlow (Los Angeles, USA - 1984 - Swimming), Maj. Michael G. Thornberry (Atlanta, USA - 1996 - Handball), Maj. Anita A. (Allen) Caskey (Sydney, Australia - 2000 - Modern Pentathlon) and Lorenzo Smith (Turin, Italy - 2006 - Bobsled).
Of those Olympians being honored this afternoon, Moore was the only medalist as he took home the silver in the modern pentathlon after a second-place finish in riding and a third-place in fencing. Army's more recent Olympic representation included a pair of West Point Class of 2000 members in Allen and Smith, both of whom were track and field stars during their time at the Academy. Allen finished first in the riding portion of the modern pentathlon before ending the Sydney Games 18th overall in the modern pentathlon. Just shy of medaling, Smith placed fourth in the four-man bobsled event at the Turin Games.
"Walking through the opening ceremonies at the Olympics was quite possibly one of the best moments of my life, so far," said Allen of her Olympic experience. "You can't put into words what it feels like walking into that stadium to be a part of something that's so big with such great history."
While the nine aforementioned West Point standouts are with us rightfully being honored during today's game day festivities, they are just a small percentage of former cadets, along with current and former coaches, who have represented Army on the grand Olympic stage.
Some of those most notable corps squad names include Dan Browne (track), Mike Silliman (basketball), Mike Krzyzewski (basketball; head coach) and Jack Riley (hockey; player and head coach). All four were synonymous with greatness in their respective sports, and all four are members of the Army Sports Hall of Fame.
Run, Dan, Run!
An All-American distance runner during his four years on the banks of the Hudson, Browne was the first Army runner to break the four-minute barrier in the mile. He went on to represent the United States in the 2004 Olympics in Greece, participating in both the 10,000-meter run and the marathon.
Going For Gold
Silliman graduated as Army's all-time leading scorer and was a three-time all-America selection on the hardwood. He later served as team captain for the 1968 U.S. Olympic Team, which went undefeated en route to capturing the gold medal in Mexico City.
Silliman's gold-medal efforts as a player are similar to those exemplified by Kryzyewski, the current head coach of Team USA men's basketball. A 1969 West Point graduate and former player and coach at the Academy, Krzyzewski led Team USA to a gold medal in both the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2012 London Games. Krzyzewski, who can still be seen wearing his Point ring at all times, has led won four NCAA national titles as the head coach of the Duke University men's basketball team.
Miracle On Ice
The Riley era of Army hockey included 542 wins over a remarkable 36 seasons (1951-86). Along with his duties mentoring the Black Knights, or Cadets as they were called during his tenure, Riley served as head coach of the Team USA Hockey in 1960, which beat Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Germany, Russia and Canada on its way to the team's first gold medal.
Riley chose to add the Cleary brothers, Bill and Bob, and cut Herb Brooks, in a move made famous in Disney's Miracle, a film about the Brooks-coached 1980 gold-medal winning squad. The Clearys combined for 12 goals during the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics, and Brooks used the experience to win his own gold medal. The 1960 Games were not Riley's first brush with the Olympics. He was a player on the 1948 Olympic squad that finished fourth in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Krzyzewski was not the lone member of the Long Gray Line at the Beijing Games as then-current West Point cadets Stephen Scherer and Stewart Glenister joined him. Members of the Class of 2011, wide-eyed teenagers Scherer and Glenister made history as the youngest West Pointers to compete after qualifying as plebes. Scherer competed in rifle for the United States, while Glenister was a member of the American-Samoa swimming team. Appointed to serve as the head coach of the small American Samoa swimming contingent for the games was current Army head swimming coach Mickey Wender.
Just The Beginning
Overall, more than 100 former West Point cadets and members of the coaching staff(s) have competed in the Olympic Games, a number that is sure to grow as the 21st century continues to unfold.