The professor explains origin of Team Gilligan |

The professor explains origin of Team Gilligan

Mike Vidakovich
Mike Vidakovich
Staff Photo |

I was mowing a lawn a few weeks back on Polo Road in Glenwood Springs, when a white SUV-type vehicle pulled up to the curb, and down came the window. The car looked a lot like the notorious white bronco that cruised the Los Angeles Freeway on that unforgettable June evening in 1994, but the passenger in the driver’s seat was not Al Cowlings, and O.J. was nowhere to be found. Thank goodness. Instead, my friend from high school, and fellow runner of the roads, Jennifer Zanella, greeted me with a smile and a pleasant hello.

I asked Zanella about her hamstring injury, which had been bothersome on her daily runs, and I couldn’t help but notice that, as we talked, she was chomping on a pink-colored candy bar. Zanella admitted with a chuckle that she was a hopeless junk food eater, and I confessed to being the same. I’m always inspired by Doc Feinsinger’s health article in the paper each Tuesday for about a day and a half. And then the gravitational pull that gets me each time I walk by the City Market bakery is too much for human resistance. I purchase a filled long john, or two, and once that final swallow is down my gullet, I swear, as I always do, that I’m giving up sweets forever. This magnetic force that draws me to the bakery is much the same as the one I felt in college when my little yellow slug bug would almost automatically pull into the drive-up window of a place in Greeley called the Hamburger Stand. Every Wednesday was 29 cent cheeseburger day, and even though I would fight hard, the steering wheel always made that right turn from Eighth Avenue, and I would order three or four of those juicy burgers. Gravity is a hard thing to overcome.

As I do most days when I am out mowing lawns, I had on my white Team Gilligan shirt with the green palm tree emblazoned on the left chest. After a bit of chit chat between us, Zanella asked me curiously, “What’s Team Gilligan?”

If she was in a hurry to get somewhere, well, that was the wrong question to ask.

You see, during the late 1980s and all through the ’90s, Team Gilligan could almost be described as a force of nature in local running and racing circles. Attending races from Grand Junction to Aspen, and Carbondale to Vail, Team Gilligan members wore their red and white singlets proudly and answered all questions amicably as to where we were from and what the initials “G.C.G.” that were printed inside the palm tree stood for.

“God, Country, Gilligan,” we answered with more than a bit of a smirk on our faces.

My lifelong love affair with shows like “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “Sanford and Son” inspired me to put together a group of running friends and create Team Gilligan almost three decades ago. Everyone thought it was a good idea, and when Jerilyn (Chilton) Nieslanik, who owned Ultimate Athletics sporting goods here in Glenwood at the time, agreed to sponsor us, we were off and running, so to speak.

Who was Team Gilligan, you might ask, much like Zanella did. In my humble opinion, the group is star-studded, and a cast of some of the longest tenured runners in this area. A couple of our greatest members are no longer with us in body, but their spirit is felt with every step of my early morning runs.

The list of team members includes Bob Willey and Paul Driskill, two men who have passed on, but their names remain synonymous with running in this valley, and always will. Willey and Driskill rarely missed a race in this area. Darrell Stanley, who just keeps getting faster with age. At 72 years young, Stanley began running decades ago with Driskill. The two men would run laps around the grade school softball field because their fathers had passed away with heart disease. They wanted to avoid the same fate. Jim Richmond (aka Charley Marley) has been on the roads since the late summer of 1980. I noticed him running one evening around the little trail that circled the Glenwood High football field (There was no track back then), and I decided I would join him. He had on some high top basketball shoes, and I thought I would dust him in a mile run. Someone indeed got dusted. It was me. We ran our first race that fall on a Friday night in Aspen. It was called the “Take the Money and Run 10K.” We didn’t win any money, but we have been running ever since. Bobby “Speed” Barrows was the fastest member of Team Gilligan. Barrows is known to most of you around these parts for his basketball abilities. Barrows was an all-state guard at GSHS and the starting point guard at Mesa College. You can guess why we called him “Speed.” Our final member was not speedy — in fact, he was pretty slow — but Kent “Scoop” Mincer, former sports editor of the Glenwood Post, was always out there sweating up a storm with the rest of us. We all gave Scoop a hard time one July morning back in the mid ’90s when he got outkicked at the finish line of the Suicide Hill 5K up in Snowmass by a race walker. Scoop took it all in stride, as he always did, and we enjoyed the company of one another on a great summer day.

It was pointed out to me once that Team Gilligan had one flaw, and indeed it was a major one. We never had a female on the team, no Ginger or Mary Anne. I guess we never spotted anyone along the way who could fill those big shoes, especially my favorite, Ginger. There was a lady back then who we would often see at races in Aspen who was well put together and would always wear a red, white, and blue star-spangled, skimpy outfit when she ran. We simply referred to her as “Wonder Woman.” We thought about asking her, but I think we were all too afraid to talk to her.

Superheroes can be intimidating, you know. Besides, only Miss Kitty from “Gunsmoke” could fill Ginger’s shoes.

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