Part of Ashland University head track and field coach Jud Logan's e-mail signature reads, "Champions are made when no one is watching. Championships are won when everyone is watching."
Not only is this quote appropriate for intercollegiate athletics, but also for the win Logan is currently fighting for – against leukemia.
Recently, Logan, who has been at Ashland for a quarter century and was a four-time United States Olympian, sat down for a conversation about B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, his men's team winning an NCAA Division II indoor national championship while in a hospital room in March…and wanting to be present for the opportunity to win a D-II outdoor team national championship at the end of May in Texas.
DS: At what point did you know you needed to get checked out?
JL: "I'd had a persistent cough for about seven weeks. I'd never missed a day in 25 years from being sick. I just don't get colds. Occasionally will get a little bit of a cough, but I don't get the flu. I don't get the stuff that keeps you from work. The kids on the team are like, 'coach, you need to get this checked out.' Then I started noticing some bruising on my body, and my daughter was like, 'You need to go get that checked out.' I put if off for about 10 days, and I got a really big bruise that I couldn't explain.
"I went and saw Dr. (Christopher) Boyd. Dr. Boyd had me get a blood test, called me two hours later and said, 'Get to Samaritan Hospital immediately, your platelets are dangerously low.' They were at 18,000. Normal is 150,000-400,000. So, I had that done, and they are like, 'You are not going anywhere, you need to be treated at a bigger hospital than this.'
"My wife (Jill) drove me up to UH in Cleveland. The next day, my platelets were down to 13,000, and they thought that I had this platelet disorder that was very treatable. Next thing you know, they did more blood work, and they did what they call a flow cytometry. Three hours later, the same doctor came back in, and I could tell by the look on his face that he did not have good news. And he said, 'you have B-Cell Leukemia.' I said, 'OK, how do we treat it?' And that's where we started.
"B-Cell ALL is a childhood disease. From what they told me, over the age of 40, there's only 300 males in the United States that have this, and I'm one of them. I've been through phase one of chemo, which was four weeks, I was supposed to be in the hospital for all four weeks of that chemo. After 14 days, they said, 'You're going home. You need to home, you need to be coaching, you need to be around your family, your kids.' The fact that I was home raised my spirits incredibly. And since the time that I've been home, at last count, (the platelets) now are over 300,000. I'm well on my way there.
"This is a process. This is a journey. It is not a sprint. Their whole thing is, even though they believe they caught it early, they want to make sure that they do the full protocol, which could last anywhere from 8-15 months. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to conference, I'm not going to NCAAs, it doesn't mean I'm not coaching my kids every day."
DS: It can't surprise you, the response you've gotten, knowing as many people as you do.
JL: "The greatest thing has been the amount of cards I've gotten, small gifts. Tiffany Roberts, (former AU national champion) Kurt's wife, has been making Jill and I dinner once a week after chemo. So we come home on a Monday, and there's this beautiful dinner waiting for us when we get home, whatever time it is. She's got us dinner, from an appetizer to a dinner to a dessert, so that has been really cool. And all the text messages and social media inboxes, I've done my best to get back to everyone.
"I've got my Kent State family, I've got my (North Canton) Hoover High School family, I've got my family and grandkids and nieces and nephews, then I have my Ashland family, which takes in the 90 people on our track and field team to the administration to the staff to across campus, then you have the international throwing community. I guess I didn't plan on being overwhelmed as much with the messages, but I certainly know that I've been blessed to have met so many good people in my life, that I knew some of them would be reaching out, I just didn't think that many."
DS: The irony of ironies is you are going through this, and you can't be with the team as its winning the national championship, which I know was on your bucket list.
JL: "It was. It feels partially fulfilled. I've always said, 'what would be the greatest part of winning a national championship?' I said, 'watching the kids' look on their faces when the confetti cannon goes off, and they get those national championship hats.' I wish I could have been a part of that. I FaceTimed the team immediately when they were allowed down on the infield, and there were tears, and I felt such jubilation.
"But my wife and I, 9:30 at night, pacing back and forth in my hospital room in the Cleveland Clinic with an iPad, are watching the live stream. And I started having tears in my eyes after the heat after us ran (in the 4x400-meter relay). And then, no one beat us, and I'm like, 'we're almost home.' And then the next heat ran, and I said to my wife, 'we can't be worse than fifth.' And that's enough.
"So Trevor Bassitt is sitting on the sidelines, down a man. Paul Murray steps in and did enough to get to Brayden Chaney, and Brayden finishing the race with a lean and (winning in) 0.01. But the thing that I will remind people is…let me take you back to Thursday. Round 6. Nick Zak is sitting in sixth place with one round to go, throws and gets third, lifetime best in Round 6. If Nick Zak doesn't do that, that 4x4 doesn't matter. Or, they would have had to win. Nick Zak put us in position to do that by his Round 6 performance.
"The fact that we came out of that weight throw with 19 points…when you're down a Trevor Bassitt, those weight throwers needed to step up and do that."
DS: We lost head women's soccer coach Danny Krispinsky in January after a long battle with cancer. Have you thought about him as this is taking place?
JL: "I thought about him immediately. Not so much from a personal standpoint of how it affected me, but about how it was going to affect everyone else – the girls on the soccer team, the administration, Danny's family. His loss was deeply felt in this community. So, yes, 100 percent, he was in my thoughts immediately.
"I knew that support that followed him would now shift those prayers and thoughts to me. I thought about his family, and then them hearing that news. I thought more importantly about how this might affect other people who were affected by Danny, than how it affected myself."
DS: You talked about your athletes' work at indoor nationals. Talk about associate head coach Ernie Clark's work at nationals.
JL: "I don't want to say it was premonition, I just knew a year ago when I went into see Al (Director of Athletics Al King), and I said, 'I want to make Ernie associate head coach'...he's been such a valuable asset to this team, and I didn't necessarily know this was going to happen. I just knew that if anything ever happened that my position was compromised, or, secondly, the mantra of 'earned and deserved.' When you've made the inroads that he's made with the recruiting and the increases in the performance, this was something he deserved.
"So when I got sick and went into the hospital, I realized this could be a while. I had absolutely no concerns that our kids would be taken care of, that he would have a great leadership and a vision, and that he would keep the kids calm at nationals. And when talked to my throwers, they said that was the biggest thing he did was just keep everyone calm and be positive.
"There was never a 'Gipper' speech, and that's the only thing that I told Ernie. I told him, 'do not turn this into let's do this for coach Logan.' I said that will blow up. With five days to go to nationals when I found out, I wasn't going to call the team and go, 'OK guys, I told you I'd update you. I have leukemia.' So I kept that from them for five or six days, and they appreciated that I did that.
"Ernie just did a fabulous job. He's somebody that I hope is here long enough to eventually take over the program from me, and then hire one of my former throwers, which could be the greatest contested throws coach position job interviews. That time's not here now, so we're just taking that one week at a time, one meet at a time, one season at a time."
DS: This week is the 10th Ashland Alumni Open. Is this one more special than the other nine?
JL: "I don't think so. The first year we had the alumni meet, where we had the biggest percentage of alumni who came back…the alumni meet is just special. We've not had great luck weather-wise. The alumni meet is always special, because our kids sleep in their own bed, they don't have to travel, they eat Convo, they come straight over to the meet, so we're definitely looking forward to that."