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Fred Thompson Jim Polite Pete Moss

The Founders

 

Walnut High School opened in the fall of 1968. Jim Polite taught there for the next thirty-nine years – and coached there for over half a century. According to his San Gabriel Valley Tribune obituary, “He was the driving force behind the rise to prominence by Walnut’s cross country and track and field programs.” And, as one of his track colleagues observed, “he always had a stopwatch around his neck.”

 

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After serving in the Marines and working in a factory, Pete Moss went to college. He began teaching at Benzie Central High School at age 33, and over the next half-century transformed the school into “a running powerhouse.” As his obituary in the Traverse City Record-Eagle notes, Mr. Moss was known for his toughness. But, as one of his runners – who later became his physician – said, “we knew that behind all of that fire was love.”

 

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After excelling in track during high school and college, Fred Thompson became a lawyer in Brooklyn, where worked on child negligence cases. As his New York Times obituary recounts:

Mr. Thompson founded the Atoms Track Club … mostly out of frustration with New York City public schools that, for budgetary and other reasons, limited the participation of girls, but not necessarily of boys, in physical education and high school sports.

This track club for girls was independent of any school, and largely financed by Mr. Thompson himself. He produced many successes over the next fifty years, both on the track and beyond:

Many of the Atoms’ victories could not be clocked by stopwatches. In its first 15 years, the club produced 50 college graduates, a remarkable record given the economic status of their families.