Clock tells much more than time
Saturday was a big day for Darcy Gillen.
The 4-year-old daughter of Ann and Jeramy Gillen of Yuba City was going to see her mother get an award.
“She always asks me, ‘Mom, can I see your trophies?'”
Ann Gillen has lots of awards from her track and field days in high school and college, but those trophies and medals have been boxed up and stored away for more than a decade.
But the latest honor will sit proudly on a mantle - a clock - symbolic of all the other accolades.
Gillen was inducted into the Stanislaus State Athletic Hall of Fame on Saturday, 14 years after she finished a track and field career in which she still holds the record for the fastest 100 meters at the school.
Her times in the 200, the 100 hurdles, the 400 and 1,600 relays as well as her heptathlon score are among the top three recorded at Stanislaus.
“But I didn't do so well with my speech. I actually cried. I tried to go up there and be strong, but I was just so honored,” Gillen said.
Gillen, who moved to Yuba City three years ago and works for the Yuba City Parks and Recreation Department, said she did not prepare anything.
“I didn't know what to say, and I just got so nervous every time I thought about it,” she explained. “And I wanted to say what I felt at that moment. I wanted it to be real.”
It's a moment that encapsulates more than 20 years of passion for a sport, the lessons she learned and still uses each day, and the relationships built along the way.
She thanked Dick Degan, her coach at Marina High in Huntington Beach, who saw a freshman run during a P.E. class and sent her on a four-year journey that led Gillen to being named the Most Valuable Runner in the league.
“He was just a big inspiration to me. I still remember the things he told me,” Gillen said in an interview Sunday, her eyes welling up with the memory.
She called him an “encourager,” a coach who not only taught her how to perform and compete, but also taught her how to apply the lessons of hard work, dedication and relentlessness to life away from the track.
“You learn about winning and losing,” Gillen said about athletics in general. “And that's important because you are not going to win all the time. But it is not in my nature to give up.”
It was those lessons Gillen took to Orange Coast College, and later Stanislaus State where Kim Duyst was waiting to refine and build on all of Gillen's skills.
“She pushed me to accomplish everything I accomplished. She could be tough at times, but that's what it took,” Gillen said.
She recalls one day in particular.
It was a Saturday in the late spring of 1993, the fourth day of a grueling Northern California Athletic Conference championships schedule that had Gillen competing in the heptathlon on Wednesday and Thursday, the preliminaries for the 100, 200 and 100 hurdles on Friday, and the finals in those events - plus the two relays - that day.
“About half way through Saturday, I had a melt down,” Gillen said. “I told her (Duyst) I didn't think I could make it.”
Duyst did not scream or yell. She didn't call her a quitter or lay a guilt trip on her. Instead, she simply asked Gillen what kind of times she could turn in if she did compete, then told her young athlete those times would be better than anyone else the team had to put in her place.
The coach then told her she would do better than she ever thought she would.
“She had a lot of confidence in me, and I needed someone to believe I could do it,” Gillen said.
At the end of the meet, Gillen was the conference heptathlon champion and named all-conference in each of the other five events.
It was Duyst who called Gillen about the news of her induction.
“It was exciting, but I was pretty shocked,” Gillen said.
The night before the induction luncheon, she attended a dinner party with many of her old teammates and friends, some from her high school days.
After giving her speech the next day, Gillen went back to her table, wiping away her tears.
Darcy asked, “Mom, why are you crying?”
Gillen answered, “It's OK, it's a happy cry.