Snyder Outran Competition
Even though he jests to never having been a star on the basketball court or even on the baseball diamond, Robert “Bobby” Snyder II certainly lapped the competition when it came to long distance running.
The son of Robert and the late Mary Edna Snyder of Mc- Connellsburg, Snyder said growing up on Maple Street and the limited options on television left little for a kid to do besides run and play outside. All of that running and playing would pay off, though, as over a decade he would set numerous high school and NCAA records and personal bests.
Along with Major Leaguer the late Clyde Barnhart; Ironman the late John Gracey; Paralympics medalist Rosalie (Hixson) Wiherin; minor league baseball player Carl Paylor; and NASCAR driver Tom Peck, Snyder will be honored next month during a special, first-ever induction ceremony of the Fulton County All-Sports Hall of Fame.
Thinking back to his years at McConnellsburg Elementary and High School, Snyder said he never thought of himself as a star athlete like his sister, Kathy, a renowned whiz at basketball. What he did excel at, however, was speed, even if it was initially fueled by “always being picked last.”
Snyder still recalls when in sixth grade he was presented with his first opportunity to show off his talent. Two heats were selected for a timed onemile run, with the first heat participants being comprised solely of what was thought of as the class’s best athletes. Knowing he “could do this,” he was “insulted” at being selected to run in the second heat.
“I was flying mad,” he said, adding it served as a motivational tool. He “took off with a passion ... put his head down and went,” finishing the race in 5:59.0. No one else was even close, resulting in a rematch a week later with an even better time of 5:52.0 The difference in week two was that Snyder was picked to run against the best athletes.
It would be coach McLaughlin who would suggest that Snyder try out for the school’s track and field team when he reached high school. Under the tutelage and guidance of high school coach Mathern Mellott, Snyder honed his skills and set numerous records between 1971 and 1974.
As a sophomore, he would finish in sixth place in the state PIAA two-mile run. His junior year would also bring about numerous accomplishments, such as a fourth-place finish in the PISee AA cross-country event and championship title in the PIAA one-mile event.
Topping his high school achievements was bringing home the state championship title in the one-mile yet again but setting a new state record with his time of 4:17.6. His next stop would be a trip to Atlanta, Ga., where he placed sixth overall on a national level.
Graduating from McConnellsburg in 1974, Snyder would be courted by Penn State University as well as the University of Maryland. With no money and no education fund to fall back on, he would select and attend Penn State, which offered to pay his full tuition and half room and board in exchange for his talents in the classroom and on the track. Over the years, some of the best training for his time as a Nittany Lion would play out on local roadways.
Every summer following high school graduation, Snyder would run to and from Cowans Gap where he worked the “dream job” of a lifeguard. He added he was a “pioneer” of sorts for area runners as it was a “strange sight” to see anyone running along the area roads. At times he was chased by dogs, cursed at and even had gunshots ring out in his vicinity.
Coming to the Nittany Lion team that boasted dozens of state champions, Snyder was under lots of pressure to perform and secure one of the team’s few available slots. Distance running as a freshman, he noted that you had to “hold on, survive and keep up” if you didn’t want to get lost.
Keep up was just what he did between 1974 and 1979 with crosscountry coach Harry Groves.
In 1977, he was proclaimed Penn State University’s top runner. The following year he would be bestowed with All-American Indoor Track honors by the NCAA for his 8:40 finish time in the two-mile run. Snyder would also finish ninth out of 350 crosscountry runners in the NCAA National Cross-Country meet and be the Lions’ fifth All-American.
His love and passion for running would take him to competitive meets across the nation in California, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Michigan, Tennessee and Wisconsin. He is believed to be the only athlete from Fulton County to compete at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Of course, his aspirations weren’t just limited to competing at a college level. Snyder told the “News” that following college, “the will, motivation and inspiration to run was still there.” He noted at that time, most runner’s dreams, including his own, were to some day compete in the Olympics.
News reports indicate Snyder qualified to participate in the Olympic trials held in Eugene, Ore., even though the United States had already banned participation in the 1980 event that was to be in Moscow, Russia. He was unable to attend the trials due to an injury.
In order to be selected for the Olympic team, an athlete is required to place in the top three in their event. Snyder reported a friend of his placed third at the trials in the 10,000-meter run and secured a position on the Olympic Team. President Jimmy Carter gave the man a cowboy hat and treated him to lunch at the White House.
Looking back, he admits he “rode the running bus” longer than he should have. Eventually sidelined by injuries, he ponders if he had had access to today’s advanced running shoe technology whether he would have gone even further in achieving his dreams. Back in the day when Adidas, Tiger, Puma and Nike were the only shoe options for runners, he was logging 100 miles a week.
Today, he shares his knowledge and passion for long distance running with local track stars from McConnellsburg and Forbes Road. As a volunteer coach of 12 years, Snyder, 58, has overseen a stellar group of athletes.
The All-Sports Hall of Fame banquet honoring Snyder and fellow area athletes will get under way at 6 p.m. on Friday, April 4, at the Alumni and Friends building on East Maple Street in Mc- Connellsburg. The special event will include a specially catered meal as well as words from keynote speaker Todd Newton, a 2013 Emmy award-winning speaker. Over the years, Newton has hosted a variety of television game shows, such as “Hollywood Showdown” and “Whammy!” on the Game Show Network. He currently hosts The Price is Right Live! at Bally’s Hotel in Las Vegas, a stage version of the famous television game show.
Individuals wishing to attend the first Fulton County All-Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony honoring Snyder and other local outstanding athletes could purchase advanced tickets through March 24. Tickets are $20 and are being sold at all three county high school offices as well as at the Robert Snyder Agency, Eader’s Butcher Shop and the Mc- Connellsburg main branches of F&M Trust and Susquehanna Bank.