The love of racing boosts Brazier


GLEN ELLYN – Mike Brazier started his running career when the cows left home, and he hasn’t stopped running since.

Brazier, who turns 82 in January, was the first EHS cross-country racer to win all-state honors when he placed eighth in the 1957 state competition. The Tigers took the lead. second and remain the only team in program history to win a state trophy.

These were the first in a long line of running accomplishments for Brazier, who is the women’s cross country coach at Proviso West High School and was also the longtime women’s track coach.

“I didn’t like running until I got to EHS, but I’ve always been combative and I’ve always loved track and field,” said Brazier, from Moro. “I was a big fan of the St. Louis Cardinals even when I was 6 or 7, but I’m also an old farm boy and we had dairy cattle.

“I couldn’t start running in first year because we had to milk the cows in the morning and after school, but we sold the dairy cattle after my first year. Then I could do athletics.

Where are they now?
Each Wednesday, the Edwardsville Intelligencer will publish a “Where are they now?” history of former student-athletes of Edwardsville or Metro-East Lutheran high school. If there is a former student-athlete you would like to know, please email Scott Marion at [email protected]

Once Brazier was introduced to the running world, it didn’t take long for him to make an impact.

Having talented teammates didn’t hurt either.

“When I was in second year (coach) Joe Lucco started the cross country program for his basketball players,” said Brazier. “I ran a small track in first grade, but that was really my entry into athletics in high school. It was a small team, but it was a great team because we had (future stars of the University of Illinois and Harlem Globetrotters) Mannie Jackson and Govoner Vaughn and the other basketball players.

“In our region, we were a successful team. The only team that was better was Alton and they were really good. We went to declare that year and we went to declare every year that I was running in high school. The state meeting was in Champaign and I hadn’t been too far from home in my lifetime, so it was a big deal for me.

By Brazier’s junior season in 1956 he had become the team’s top runner. He placed 17th in the state competition, which would have earned him all-state honors under current rules, but at the time only the top 10 runners got medals.

As a senior in 1957, Brazier exceeded both his own individual expectations and his expectations for the team.

A good finish in the national competition proved to be the key for Brazier and for his teammates.

“We had just climbed a big hill with about 600 meters to the left and I remember passing a lot of people,” said Brazier. “I had been ahead of my teammates for most of the race, but when I looked back they weren’t too far behind me.

“I didn’t know I got eighth until they announced the results, but the biggest surprise was when they announced the trophies. They only handed out three trophies, like they are doing today, so we were happy to have one. “

Brazier’s email address, as listed on the IHSA website for Proviso West, is [email protected]

As with so many other things in his life, there is a reason for the race for skill.

“Alton’s best runner was running barefoot and all the shoes we had on weren’t the way they are now,” said Brazier, who lives in Glen Ellyn. “They were stiff and uncomfortable, so I started running barefoot any course I could.”

Brazier, who ran cross country at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, was a three sports athlete at EHS, also participating in track and field as well as wrestling.

“We had decent teams on the track, and I was close to qualifying for the state in the mile,” said Brazier. “I was also on the original wrestling team and enjoyed wrestling a lot. I was invited by the SIU coach to try out for the wrestling team at SIU, but didn’t have to be there long before I realized I was too far behind.

After graduating from Edwardsville, Brazier continued his racing career at SIUC.

During Brazier’s junior season in 1961, the Salukis won the NCAA Division II Cross Country Championship at Wheaton College, setting a low scoring record that would last nearly 25 years.

Brazier, who was the fifth rider on his team, placed 28th individually.

It was the last season in Division II for the Salukis, who switched to DI in 1962.

“My junior and senior years were a real test for me because we had a strong coach and started recruiting international riders,” said Brazier. “They were better than me and I had to fight to be part of the team.”

Brazier graduated from SIUC in 1962 and his first job out of college was at Pontiac High School, where he spent two years and began the cross country program.

He then returned to SIUC for his Masters and got a job at Proviso West in 1965, where he taught science for 30 years and taught 17 more years of physical education.

He coached the boys in track and field for two years as a pole vault and throwing coach.

“In 1968 the boys’ track and field won the state championship, but I got married and didn’t coach for 27 years.”

Brazier eventually returned to training and was the women’s track head coach at Proviso West from 1995 to 2012. He is in his third year as a women’s cross country head coach after several years as a female cross country coach. ‘assistant.

Her tenure as a girls coach included six state event champions, three state trophies (the only female state trophies in the program’s history) and 24 athletes from all states.

“You get good athletes and you learn from them, but you have to help them where they need help,” Brazier said. “I have attended many training clinics and had the long jump champion three years in a row.

“We also had a two-time state champion 4×100 relay. This is an event where you can’t go wrong and win.

In 2012, Brazier was inducted into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association (ITCCCA) Hall of Fame.

“It’s something that happens if you have good athletes and good teams, and it really happened because of athletics,” said Brazier. “We had a good race and if you do that the Coaches Association rewards you.

“With our first teams, we always fought with Evanston, Morgan Park and East St. Louis. One year (1999) we tied East St. Louis for second place.

Brazier’s wife, Jeanne, died in 1999. She was a former counselor at Proviso West and was also a piano teacher. He has two daughters, Michelle and Heather, and two grandchildren.

Michelle was an all-state runner in the 300-meter hurdles and 800-meter sophomore at Wheaton Christian Academy in 1988, but eventually gave up athletics to focus on the violin. She is an English teacher and Heather is a hairdresser.

Brazier, meanwhile, is still a competitive runner. He won the first Great River Road Run at Alton in 1961 and competed in the race 61 years in a row, including this year.

“It was only a seven mile run in the first year, but after that they all did 10 miles, although last year it was virtual due to COVID,” Brazier said. “I keep going there because I still have an agricultural property in Moro and my brother lives there.

“The last two times I ran I did 5K. Ten miles is a bit too long these days.

The connection to Edwardsville remains strong for Brazier, who talks to current EHS cross-country coach George Patrylak every year at the state meet.

“I know a lot of people in Edwardsville and we still meet every few years for the 1958 class reunion,” Brazier said. “My sister Anne, who is 94, lives in Edwardsville and I always visit and call her.”

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