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‘Lusker’ legacy lives on through mannerisms

Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
April 11, 2019
Tony Lange

Greg LuskWho is this old guy and why is he yelling? That was my first impression of Greg Lusk. He was actually 51 years young at the time, but my 14-year-old self didn’t know any better.

I was busy winning the boys annual octonary competition my freshman track and field season with Frank Gibas as my head coach in 2002 at Kenston High School. Lusk, or better known as “Lusker” by his athletes, was the girls coach who took over the Lady Bombers’ track and cross-country programs in 1979.

Lusk and Gibas were like peas and carrots, both teaching in the district for 30-plus years and coaching for 28 years apiece when they retired together in 2007. They remained active on the coaching scene after.

Lusk died at age 68 in early February, after a long battle with an illness. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to get to know him on the track, in the classroom and as a public-address announcer during varsity football games.

But in 2002, I was wondering why that “old guy” was out and about and exercising his vocals on the track. I think he might have been misunderstood by some of my fellow freshmen male athletes, but most of us who stuck around long enough learned to get a kick out of his idiosyncrasies. I know the girls adored his sense of humor and his trademark laugh.

That’s how I came to an understanding that Lusk wasn’t yelling; he was just being loud. That’s how he socialized. That’s how he enjoyed himself. So, I quickly learned not to shy away from him, but rather to egg him on.

“Lange!” he’d say, shouting my last name like he did with others. “Go play in traffic.”

I wasn’t the first person he’d tell that to, and I definitely wasn’t the last. I took it as a compliment, which is the way I think he wanted it.

Out of nowhere, he’d also shout things like, “What. Is. Happening?” That was one of my personal favorites.

I also think his Lady Bomber runners admired him because they knew he cared. He cared about their success. He cared about their athletic experience. And he cared about their well-being.

My senior year, I also had the pleasure of being his student in AP Calculus.

I remember him often wearing a Cleveland Indians polo with his back to the class at the dry-erase board as he proudly narrated a problem he was solving. When done, he’d put the cap on the marker, toss it up in the air and say, “Ta-da!” in sarcastic fashion, as if he had just one-upped Sir Isaac Newton.

When someone would raise his or her hand to ask a question, Lusk would respond, “Don’t get excited.” He also used that phrase out on the track, followed by an athlete’s last name of course. His sayings were repetitive, but, somehow, they never got old with the character he put behind them.

After I began as a full-time sports writer for the Chagrin Valley Times in 2011, Lusk often emailed me, letting my know that one of his former runners was doing well at the NCAA level or participating in a marathon and that I needed to write an article.

During football season, I had the privilege of taking notes next to Lusk in Kenston’s old press box, as he announced the plays during games. Although the old press box wasn’t very spacious, I looked forward to covering home games for the Bombers knowing he’d share his section with me and there’d be some good laughs between us.

More than a decade after I first met him, the sayings, “What. Is. Happening?” and “Don’t get excited, Lange!” still applied. Lusk also had a new one for me: “Is this thing still on?” he’d say, referring to his microphone that was connected to all the speakers throughout the stadium.

It was a good time. I’ll miss Lusker.