Volunteers keep things running at track meets
By ASHLEE DE WIT
Mt. Pleasant News
It takes a village to run a track meet.
This season, Mt. Pleasant Community School District had seven track meets on the schedule. Four are high school meets: the Co-Ed Relays, the Denny White Relays for boys, the Panther Relays for girls and the Class 3A District 4 state qualifier. The other three are middle school meets: one for boys, one for girls and the co-ed conference meet.
Each of those meets requires a number of volunteers — about 50 per meet, Mt. Pleasant Activities Director Bob Jensen estimates.
“And I’m probably forgetting some,” he said.
It’s Jensen’s job to find these volunteers —a job that has been surprisingly easy for him.
“I’ve been really lucky here,” Jensen said. “People like to work track meets.”
The AD has quite a core of dedicated workers — including Corbin Remick, who takes vacation time from work to come early and help set up.
“Corbin’s like my right-hand man out there,” Jensen said. “He’s the nuts and bolts of the track meet.”
Remick has been helping at meets since he was in high school, when he was manager of the track team under Denny White, for whom one of the track meets is named. Over time, Remick has taken on a key role in ensuring that the meet runs smoothly.
“I’ve done it for years,” he said. “I enjoy it.”
Remick leaves work around noon when there’s a track meet, and he stays at Mapleleaf Athletic Complex until everything is put away. He weighs implements, moves hurdles and moves starting blocks.
“(Jensen) lets me do my own thing out there,” Remick said. “He knows that by the time he gets (to Mapleleaf), it will be all set up and we’ll be ready to have a track meet.”
“He’s invaluable,” Jensen said. “Without Corbin, it’d be a long, long night.”
Another dedicated volunteer is Gene Hagist, who used to live in Mt. Pleasant and now travels from Altoona to work at the meets.
Hagist lost track of how long he’s been volunteering, but it’s been since the 1980s or earlier. For the last nine years, volunteering meant making the two-hour drive from Altoona.
“I’ve been (working at track meets) for years,” Hagist said. “They needed help, and I said I could go back and forth.”
Hagist heads up the timing crew, along with other regular volunteers like Randy Seberg and Matt Shull.
Seberg has been working high school meets for more than 20 years. He started when his oldest daughter, Aimee, was in middle school.
“I was just trying to help out,” he said. “I enjoy helping out; I enjoy having a track meet that’s run well, which helps the kids enjoy being in track, and I enjoy the camaraderie with the guys — some of us have been doing meets together for years.”
There are 10-12 people, Jensen estimates, who he can call to work on the timing crew at high school meets.
“I try not to ask the same people every time, but some want to work every meet,” he said.
There are also about 20 volunteers needed for field events, and regular volunteers Gary Crawford and Glenn Graf run the computers that record finish times and team scores up in the press box. Others serve as umpires at the exchange zones.
One of those umpires is White, who went straight from his tenure as a track coach to being a volunteer.
“I coached for 40 years,” White said. “It would have been a large void to fill come spring time.”
He enjoys working at Mt. Pleasant meets because some of the Mt. Pleasant coaches are his former athletes — head boys’ track coach Scot Lamm and assistant coaches Mitch Anderson and Jeff Fedler all ran for Mt. Pleasant under White.
But he doesn’t volunteer only at Mt. Pleasant. Throughout the spring, White works at a lot of meets — including collegiate meets at Iowa and UNI, Drake, the Iowa state championships and the NCAA championship — with a lot of different people.
“You have to have volunteers to run (a meet),” he said. “You can’t run a meet without help.”
He’s quick to note that the volunteers at Mt. Pleasant are some of the best.
“I hear from a lot of starters around the state how well the crews do at Mt. Pleasant,” White said. “The other men that help umpire comment about how good the meet management is.”
Of course, those umpires are part of the success of Mt. Pleasant meets. Timm Lamb, a retired Ft. Madison AD and girls’ track and cross-country coach, Ron Maxson, a retired West Liberty coach, Bill Neal, the retired AD and girls’ track coach at Williamsburg, and Bill Ebert, a track official from Washington, almost always join White as the volunteer umpires and zone judges at meets in Mt. Pleasant.
“We’re a bunch of retired coaches with the same interest,” White said.
Along with retired coaches, dedicated parents also make up a good number of the volunteers — parents like Shull, who works most of the high school meets.
“He’s at every meet, unless Taryne (Shull, his daughter) is running somewhere else,” Jensen said.
Like Seberg, Shull started volunteering at meets when his oldest daughter, Taylor, started running in middle school.
“It’s enjoyable,” Shull said. “When you start, you feel like you need to be involved, but then you realize — as you’re around the kids, seeing them compete, seeing the ups and downs — it really is enjoyable. You see the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, so to speak. I don’t plan on stopping (my work as a volunteer), even when I don’t have kids running.”
When it comes to middle school meets, almost all the volunteers are parents — some of whom will likely follow in the footsteps of Seberg and Shull and be working meets for years to come.
“In middle school meets, we use a lot of parents — we have to break them in for later!” Jensen laughed.