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Catching Up With ...
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2022-01-05

Susan Bauman Harpel

          Growing up in East Greenville, Susan Bauman Harpel played all kinds of sports. So when she got to Upper Perkiomen High School, continuing to compete was a no-brainer.

Susan Bauman Harpel

            "I went out for everything," said Harpel, a 1969 graduate. "I liked all sports. It was a popular thing to do. I liked to stay busy."

            She excelled in four sports for the Indians. However, Harpel considered basketball her best sport.

            "I could shoot," she said.

            Harpel played on the first girls tennis team, competing at No. 1 singles. She remembers one match that lasted three hours.

            During the first season, everyone on the team had to learn the game, according to Harpel. She said she learned it from her brother, who coached at Perkiomen School. Her uncle, Mike Duka, coached the team.

            "I was the only girl who knew which end of the racket to hold," Harpel said.

            She played midfield on the Tribe's field hockey. In the spring, Harpel played left field on the softball team.

            "I was better on defense than I was a hitter," she said. "I don't think the pitchers threw as hard then as they do now."

            According to Harpel, her experiences in athletics taught her get along with people and adjust to certain situations. She says the bus rides to road games were fun.

"            I enjoyed being with the girls," said Harpel, who currently lives in Upper Hanover. "We were all friends. We got along and had a good time.

            Since attending college was not an option, Harpel focused on a trade. She worked as a hairdresser for 30 years.

 

Michael Connelly

            Michael Connelly's competitive running career peaked in April of 1987. Standing on the podium inside Franklin Field after posting a personal be in the 10,000 meter race, he flunk his silver medal into a proximate brick wall out of joy.

Michael Connelly

            "I was ecstatic," Connelly said. "I had finally run to my ability. It was an amazing effort."

            His second-place finish at the Penn Relays put the Green Lane native on track to accomplish his goal of competing in the Olympic games. Connelly qualified for the Olympic Trials.  "I thought I had a shot," he said. "It's what every runner dreams of."

            However, a right knee injury suffered during training for the July 1988 event in Indianapolis prevented Connelly from participating.

            Though it ended his career, the recovery set him on the path towards becoming a chiropractor. He earned a doctorate degree from the Life College School of Chiropractic – located in Marietta, Georgia – in 1992.  "I found my calling," said Connelly, who operates the Centre for Healing Arts, located at 695 N. Lewis Road in Limerick and lives in Pottstown. "I never think of it as work."

            During his senior season at West Virginia University, Connelly's Olympic dream seemed to be coming true. His performance one year during the annual carnival at the University of Pennsylvania – a time of 28 minutes, 37 seconds – qualified him for the NCAA Championships and set a school record that still stands (WVU dropped men's track and field after the 2004 season).

            A case of mononucleosis prevented Connelly from competing in the NCAA Championships in May of 1987. The following spring, while training for the trials, the No. 3 ranked performer in the event developed knee pain.  "I could only run for five minutes before it locked up," he said.

            Connelly underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee in May of 1988. He said doctors found no structural damage in the joint.  "The doctors told me it was all in my head," Connelly said.

            Left with no other options, he made an appointment with a Pennsburg chiropractor. Connelly said that he was back to running without pain after three visits. That interaction motivated him to shift his career path, from an athletic trainer to chiropractic medicine.

            However, the discomfort – which prevented Connelly from the necessary optimal training – forced him to withdraw from the trials. At the time, he described it as a "tough pill to swallow."

            Nearly 34 years later, Connelly says he doesn't regret the missed opportunity. He views it as a life lesson.

            Connelly earned three PIAA Championships, numerous awards, and more than 20 Division I scholarship offers during a dominant career at Upper Perkiomen. The Class of 1983's Senior yearbook dedicated an entire page to his accomplishments.

            He won a pair of state titles in the 3,200 meter run during the spring as a sophomore and a senior. In between, Connelly captured PIAA gold in cross country.

            As a senior, Connelly set the state record in the two-mile run the day after attending the prom. His time of 8 minutes, 58.9 seconds, on a sweltering track at Shippensburg University, stood for 31 years.

            "That was a highlight," said Connelly, who was inducted into the Pennsylvania High School Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1999.

            In 1983, he placed first in both the mile (4:20.8) and two-mile (9:18.2) at the Track & Field Coaches' Association of Greater Philadelphia's Meet of Champions in 1983. Connelly also won the Eastern States Indoor two-mile championship as well as state indoor titles in the mile and two-mile races.

            As a senior, he finished second in the National Cross Country championships. The previous year, he ended up fifth.

            Connelly followed his older brother into running. As an eighth-grader, he was elevated to the varsity cross country team.

            Though he weighed just 85 pounds as a ninth-grader, Connelly says he worked hard to improve. He credited former track and field coach Alan Treffinger for his development.  "I worked on the sport and became really gifted," Connelly said. "I have always said that I may not be the smartest guy in the room, but you are never going to outwork me."

 


 

 

 

 

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