Fellow Coaches, Athletes and Friends Remember La Salle's Charles Torpey
July 7, 2011
By Mike Jensen, Inquirer Staff Writer - Courtesy of Philly.com
The phone would ring and before Penn coach Charlie Powell could even say, "Penn track and field," this voice would ring out, "Yo, Powell. Where's my check?"
Powell always recognized that voice, this guy saying that if he didn't get travel expenses this year, he was not bringing his team to the Penn Relays. "We're going to Drake!"
Then, the Penn coach would hear a familiar laugh, "this great high-pitched impish giggle." And the guy would hang up.
For 17 seasons, Charles Torpey was La Salle's track and field and cross-country coach. Torp, as he was known to his many friends, always had a gag or a crank call to make. For Penn's coach, the joke was that La Salle wouldn't travel to West Philly if the Explorers didn't get expenses.
"He was a real character," Powell said Tuesday. "An artist needs a canvas. An actor needs a stage. A teacher needs a classroom. I think Torp needed track and field to pull out the best traits that were in him. He's a real people person. Being a mentor and being a teacher of life is really what turned him on. It sounds trite, almost simplistic. But he really did love being a mentor."
Torpey was doing exactly that when he died of a heart attack Friday at age 58. One of his great runners, La Salle graduate Sean Quigley, had just finished a workout Friday at Valley Green and was off on a cool-down run. Torpey had been there with a stop watch when he collapsed.
His resumé tells you Torpey, married with three children, may have been La Salle's most successful coach over those 17 years. Between his men's and women's teams, Torpey won 13 Atlantic Ten cross-country championships. Between the fall or spring, men's or women's, he was A-10 coach of the year 16 times. He previously had a successful run coaching the University of Maryland.
He made just as lasting an impact with the runners who never medaled.
"He would coach anybody," said one of his current Explorers, Vince Perozze. "He would give my dad workouts."
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