http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/02/03/225 ... worth.html
Fraley's Run for the Dream is worth tracking
Posted at 11:16 PM on Thursday, Feb. 03, 2011
By Matt James / The Fresno Bee
If you wanted to start a movement of any kind – an event, a belief, a tradition, a religion – you should ask Bob Fraley to help.
Because he's too damn stubborn to give up.
His Run for the Dream Indoor Track and Field Invitational is still alive, still beeping on the heart monitor despite being annually wedged wherever it will fit at the Save Mart Center between more lucrative events like George Strait concerts, pro wrestling, business seminars and Fresno State basketball games.
This year, the meet affiliated with Martin Luther King Jr., is being held Feb. 26-27, no less than 40 days after the man's birthday. But at least it is being held, which it was not in its second year (2007), and has yet to draw a decent crowd in four runnings.
And still it survives, at least partly because Fraley, the retired Fresno State track coach and internationally known pole vault advocate, refuses to give up. It's not that he never fails. It's just that he'll try everything, isn't afraid to fling every single idea against the wall until it looks like something Jackson Pollock worked on.
Fraley started the National Pole Vault Summit in Fresno in 1988 with 22 people meeting at the University Inn. He's still running the event, but it is now held in Reno and draws 3,000 people, coaches from all around the world, and experts in nutrition, biomechanics and every other aspect of pole vaulting you could possibly imagine.
You could bet against Run for the Dream, but it would be foolish.
The indoor track meet now has an open division, the best junior colleges in California and a growing high school invitational. Fraley has drawn Olympians in the past and this time is to some extent going the rock star route. He's got Brandon Estrada, who pole vaulted at USC and will be trying to make the Olympics for Puerto Rico.
Fraley refers to him as the "Taylor Swift of the pole vaulting world," which would make more sense if Swift were also the son of actor Erik Estrada and was once arrested three years ago after having a meltdown on a Northwest Airlines flight that ended up emergency landing in Oklahoma.
Any publicity is good publicity, as they say.
Fraley often refers to himself as a "big, fat, old guy" but he is all about figuring out what the kids are into. He's a marketing man who genuinely cares. He wants to make track and field matter again in elementary schools and junior highs. He wants kids to be healthy. He wants to make a dent in the $147 billion he says was spent fighting obesity in 2008.
This year on the Friday before the meet starts, they are holding a "Youth Track and Field Summit," which will have speakers like Joe Newton, the famous Illinois cross country coach whose teams have won 27 state championships. Fraley spoke for him once in Newton's Chicago suburb, and so Fraley finally cashed in the favor. It really is a big deal. Newton has had a documentary made about him called "The Long Green Line."
Fraley has invited pretty much every school to the summit at no cost, 32 schools at least, and one of them will take home a $4,000 high jump pit that has been donated for a raffle.
"We're trying to sell health," Fraley said.
It is a noble effort. It is a noble cause. Track and field is not exactly the most popular thing in America, but in a health sense, it is a valuable tool. Bob Fraley has not given up. He will not any time soon.
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