Keeping Score: Apple pie a la race

Published: 11/20/2020 7:00:54 PM

Good morning!
It took some doing in this age of COVID-19, but Northfield-Mount Hermon School was able to stage the 130th running of the Bemis-Forslund Pie Race. The tradition began six years before John McDermott won the inaugural Boston Marathon, in 1891 when founder Dwight Moody made six-mile runs part of the school experience, together with climbing mountains and washing dishes.

Eventually the race became voluntary, the course was shortened to 4.53 miles, and the school gave an apple pie to anyone who finished in under 33 minutes. The only year it was canceled was in 1936 when scarlet fever made a run through the northeast, according to NMH archivist Peter Weis.

By then it was named the Bemis Pie Race after alumnus Henry Bemis, who paid for the winners’ medals and rounded up the apples and baking supplies. After the school went coed in 1972, it was re-named the Bemis-Forslund Pie Race in honor of Gladys Forslund, the popular wife of longtime athletic director Axel Forslund.

The race has been covered by Sports Illustrated, the Baltimore Sun, Boston Globe and other periodicals. In 1963, it became the first race ever run by a skinny junior from Middletown, N.Y., who was tired of getting beat up playing football. He started in the back of the pack and finished seventh, behind only the cross country team and one other runner. Frank Shorter had found his calling, and a decade later would win the Olympic marathon in Munich.

Another notable winner is course record holder Mohamed Hussein of Somaliland, who’s back teaching at NMH after an outstanding running career at Amherst College.

Everybody who’s affiliated with NMH qualifies to enter the race, which was shortened to 3.1 miles last year. “This year’s race was held on campus over the course of several days in the first week of November,” said NMH’s communications officer Nicole Letourneau. “Racers signed up for a time slot and ran with a mask and start times were staggered. All runners submitted their own times.”

Alumni stayed home, measured out a course of their own and emailed their times to the NMH records office.

Most turnouts average in the several hundreds, but this year’s event drew 107 runners — 35 on campus and 72 from home. The respective student winners were junior Joseph Bullock of Brookline in 17:09, and Greenfield’s Lulu Calame and New Mexico native Aaleigha Ashley, who both finished in 24:09. Greenfield’s Jacob Walker was the fastest local finisher in 20:45.

In the off-campus race, Hadija Mahmoud finished in 20-minutes flat halfway around the world in Nairobi, Kenya. She was part of an international crew that included runners from Scotland, China and Taiwan.

“There were runners from 20 U.S. states,” added Letourneau. “Unfortunately we couldn’t ship them their two-pound apple pies.”

Time limits were waived this year and everyone got a 10-inch apple pie baked by Rich Messer and his staff at NMH Dining Services. Some shared, others hoarded. Shorter told Sports Illustrated that he took his back to his room. “I ate it till I got sick and saved the rest for the next day.”

The UMass Minutemen were 32½ -point dogs at Florida Atlantic University in ritzy Boca Raton Friday night. Next week they play at Liberty University in not-so-ritzy Lynchburg, Va.

It’s a virtual certainty that the Minutemen will be 0-4 this shortened season, but coach Walt Bell and his staff can watch film, evaluate talent and get ready for next year. They have lots of work to do considering the brutal 2021 schedule posted on

UMass opens at Pitt on Sept. 4 then plays BC the following week at Gillette Stadium. They have a manageable home schedule with games against former Yankee Conference foes UConn, URI and Maine, and two tilts against their former MAC opponents Eastern Michigan and Toledo. The latter two teams played each other on Wednesday night, and the game devolved into a street fight won by Toledo, 45-28.

It’s the road schedule that will likely sink UMass to another four-win season at best. They play at Coastal Carolina, Florida State, Liberty, Army and New Mexico State.

UMass was ranked 221st of 257 teams in Divisions I and I-AA by Jeff Sagarin of USA Today; list them last of the 127 teams competing in the FBS, below teams like winless UL-Monroe (0-8).

An optimist would say there’s nowhere to go but up.


Dan Okrent created Rotisserie League Baseball to help him and his friends get through winter, but when he saw it mushroom into a multi-million dollar fantasy sports industry he compared himself to Robert Oppenheimer, who invented the atom bomb.

Now comes Theo Epstein, who left baseball this week after building the Red Sox and Cubs into championship teams. Epstein said the analytics he used to win the World Series have made the game less fun to watch, like hockey’s neutral zone trap and basketball’s four corner offense.

Let’s fix it by banning the shift and requiring two infielders on both sides of the bag. Or perhaps strategize the shift by allowing a manager to use it only three times a game.

After all, David Ortiz said the shift cost him 500 hits, and fans didn’t pay to see Big Papi get thrown out at first base.


SQUIBBERS: One good thing about no spectators at PGA events has been the absence of jacka***** yelling “Get in the hole!” … Still can’t figure why Chaim Bloom didn’t pick up the option on Martin Perez’s contract. A good lefty like Perez is worth $6 million, and the Red Sox can afford it.… The Great English Baking Show informs us that Epoisses cheese is so smelly it’s banned on public transport in France. … FOX commentator Daryl Johnston after Carolina’s Bravvion Joy blocked an extra point attempt: “Nice timing as he elevates up.” Elevate. You mean jump? And who elevates down? … Undefeated Liberty is a 3½ -point underdog today at N.C. State (5-3). The Flames, Notre Dame and BYU are the only 8-0 teams in college football. … The only 2020 draft pick to start every game for the Patriots this season has been guard Michael Onwenu, the 189th pick out of Michigan. … The Houston Texans have riled the media by firing longtime PR boss Amy Palcic. Peter King called her “top 5 in my 36 years” and the Boston Sports Journal’s Greg Bedard calls her “the best I ever dealt with in the NFL.” … The circle goes round and round: South Carolina fired Will Muschamp this week after the Gamecocks gave up 708 yards of total offense in a blowout loss to Ole Miss. Interim coach Mike Bobo took over. Bobo was fired by Colorado State last season and was replaced by Steve Addazio, who was fired by Boston College and was replaced by Jeff Hafley. … James Harden is reportedly close to forging a dream team with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and that must make Brooklyn Nets assistant coach and erstwhile Bernardston resident Adam Harrington a happy man. … The Arizona Cardinals are allowing 4,200 fans into State Farm Stadium. “It’s good to hear some boos,” said Cards’ play-by-play voice Dave Pasch. … Pats fans are starting to get a look at why Buffalo fans told Stephon Gilmore not to let the door hit him in the a** on the way out. … Shelburne’s Becki and Lenny Stratton are photographed in full Santa regalia in this month’s Yankee Magazine. Mr. and Mrs. Claus have worked the Santa circuit for 16 years. … West County resident Dick Ladd passed away two weeks ago. Ladd was a harness racing fan and was at a lot of Mohawk football games. What I didn’t know was that he was a candlepin bowler who had appeared on Candlepin Bowling, Channel 5’s popular Saturday show that was hosted by Don Gillis. … Bengals wide receivers coach Bob Bicknell, the son of former BC coach Jack Bicknell, tested positive for COVID-19 last week and missed Sunday’s 36-10 loss to the undefeated Steelers. … While Eagles coach Doug Pedersen waited on hold to do his weekly show for 94WIP this week, he heard the sportscaster say that 76 percent of the fans blamed him for losing to the Giants. When host Angelo Cataldi popped on the air and asked how he was doing, Pedersen roared, “I’m pissed off! I’m pissed off at myself, I’m pissed off at the way we played!” … Keeping Vermont Weird: The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Willie Nelson and Dwight Eisenhower both received four write-in votes for President.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at


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