Friday, November 13, 2009

Track Gang

Still like the lede on this one.

Published: April 29, 2005, in the Keizertimes

Every Wednesday that McNary High School hosts a track and field meet, science teacher Kristine Walton dons a green cowboy hat and becomes the most sought-after person on Flesher Field.

Walton is the track and field clerk. She keeps tabs on the most recent results from every event, and athletes check with her if they want to know which lane they are running in and where they stand in the results.

“I like being involved with students outside the classroom. I try to use some humor to calm them down a little,” said Walton.

Walton is part of McNary’s Track Gang, a group of two dozen permanent and rotating staff volunteers who keep the school’s track and field meets running smoothly – from tracking results to timing races and measuring jumps and throws.

“Tasks are assigned before the meets. However, once a volunteer is trained in an area, he/she usually continues to work in that area,” said Diane McKillop, an English teacher who times many of the races.

She said the 100-meter race is often the most difficult one to time because the competitors finish in such rapid succession.

The Track Gang even has the equivalent of an OG – original gangster – in Bob Bulen, a social studies teacher. Bulen has been measuring the long jump and triple jump for the girls for more than 20 years.

“I like doing the same event consistently because once I got the routine and rules down, I felt like a more effective event coordinator,” Bulen said.

Most of the Track Gang cites the time with students outside the classroom as their primary motivation for volunteering, but what keeps them coming back is the cookies.

Parents of McNary track and field athletes either bake or buy cookies for the volunteers as a token of thanks for their time. Because the staffers are performing roles parent volunteers might otherwise fill, the parents have the opportunity to watch their kids, who may be competing in a different part of the field.

In addition, the Track Gang gets an opportunity socialize with their fellow teachers.

“During the school day we don’t often make time to just talk and we get sort of compartmentalized by departments and our location in our building. So for me, I really like the social aspect of being with staff,” said Jackie Bowen, a science teacher.

The only hazard of the job is posed by the weather. Track and field meets are rarely cancelled for rain. For inspiration, the track gang looks to the athletes they are supporting on the field.

“The kids would think you were a pretty big wimp if a little rain scared you off. Seriously, I’ve always just figured if the kids can get out there and participate in the rain in their track uniforms, I can certainly get out there in my rain gear and continue to support them,” said Bulen

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