Some 15 years after the last track meet on the island, last Wednesday brought five teams and the many adults supporting them together on the new track and field. It was a nice day, if a bit windy, and athletes, coaches and community members stretched from the grandstand to the new woods-bordering berm overlooking the throwing area. And while the new facility is attractive, with abundant deep greens and gold that almost glimmer in the sun, the facility did not make the day remarkable. It was the people gathered who did so.
Announcing the event was Russ Brazill, who was Vashon High School’s track coach for 33 years. He used to take his math classes to the field on days when there was a meet and have his students help him drain the track of standing water. He’d try to turn the tedious work into a hands-on mathematical exercise. But mostly, he and the students simply tried to get a cinder track that drained poorly ready for relay races, dashes, hurdles and other events.
It was fitting all these years later, that he was high up in the announcer booth, with his sonorous voice calling athletes to the different events.
And what a lot of events there were. It is easy to forget what a hive of activity a track meet is, with some people lunging over hurdles, while others are attempting jumping and throwing feats, summoning their strength and skills to fly through the air — or send another object through it. Sadly, there was too much wind, and pole vaulting — that’s right, pole vaulting on Vashon Island — was canceled. We think the Vashon Park District should offer a class in the sport for adults — in need of a lift after a hard day’s work.
Athletic Director Andy Sears was there too, among many district officials who attended. He made special mention of the more than 20 community volunteers there to make the event happen. He also gave a call out to the timing crew, who had worked for weeks to make the event go smoothly. The great thing about track, he said, is that with all the different running and throwing events, there is something for everyone. Sears also commented on the best part of the day: the sportsmanship evident from start to finish. The coaches and team members cheer on each athlete to do their best, he said, regardless of where they finish and whose team they are on.
That was true over and over again, including in one memorable moment at the end of the boys’ mile run. The former state champion ran it with such ease and grace, he was impossible not to watch and envy. But in last place was a teen clearly laboring. The shouts of support for him to end strong rang out clearly as he neared the finish line. It is a lasting image — and a reminder that the money the community spent to fund the facility is only in a small way about the turf and track itself. More so, it is about the people who use it, those who come in first and last, and those who cheer loudly on the sides, lending support to a team member or a stranger, especially when the going gets tough.