As a youngster, much like the fictional Forrest Gump, if Chuck Gullo was going someplace, he was running.
Painful calcium buildup on bones in his feet resulted in surgery to fuse his right ankle three years ago. That ended his running days, but at 73, Gullo is still involved in the sport, coaching youngsters and trying to give them encouragement and training.
Gullo, who spent 16 years as Marshall County High School track and field head coach before retiring in 1997, is back in orange and blue uniform, working with young Marshals.
Running, Gullo says, has been his life.
A Catholic school upbringing in suburban Buffalo, New York, brought Gullo into contact with the Rev. George Cotter in the 1950s.
The priest “helped me when I was in the fourth grade, got me involved in athletics,” Gullo said. “My dad worked all the time, my mom couldn’t drive, so it was the priest that really stimulated me and guided me. I started running in the fourth grade.”
Cotter spotted a natural running ability that carried Gullo to stardom in multiple sports at Kenmore East High School in Tonawanda, New York. He played football, basketball and baseball and ran track.
“I had hurt my knee in my junior year and I decided – well, my track coach decided – that I would focus on track my senior year,” Gullo said.
He ended up at Western Kentucky University on a partial scholarship, running sprints and relay events for the Hilltoppers. He completed a bachelor’s degree in 1967 and a master’s in 1968.
He taught and coached at the high school and middle school level for two years at Ossining, New York, where the infamous Sing Sing Prison is located, and then returned to Kentucky. He coached at Daviess County for seven years, Fort Thomas Highlands for seven years and then came to Marshall County in 1984.
His teams won two boys state championships at Daviess County and two boys and three girls state titles at Highlands.
After retirement in 1997, Gullo kept busy with a side business, Rainbow Painting. He came back and worked three years as a volunteer assistant at Marshall County. Then he served 10 years as track coach at St. Mary in Paducah.
Surgery on his ankle kept him on the sidelines for a while, but after three years out of coaching, he resumed working with Marshall County athletes last season.
“I was pleased that they had the confidence in me,” Gullo said.
Cory Westerfield, girls track coach at MCHS, not only had confidence in what Gullo could do, but also a great appreciation for all that Gullo has done. On April 25, the Twilight Relays – an event established by Gullo – was named in honor of the coach.
It was a tribute that overwhelmed him.
“I thought, ‘Did I die, and not know it?’” Gullo said.
In an email, Gullo wrote: “I cannot begin to express my surprise and gratitude for the honor of having the Twilight Relays named after me. To me this is one of the highest honors I could have ever received.”
But the everyday reward is his ongoing work with young athletes.
“I’m looking forward to working with these kids as long as I can,” Gullo said.