May 21, 2009 in Sports

True love and track and field

Competitive spirit a bond for Hisaws
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Photo courtesy of Curt Hisaw photo

Joan Hisaw, EV Lilac princess.Photo courtesy of Curt Hisaw
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

When Joan Reinbold was East Valley’s first Lilac Princess 35 springs ago, she had a unique topic for the public speaking competition.

“I remember speaking up for girls athletics, and health and fitness,” she said. “I remember my dad always said be who you are and be true to your convictions.”

Reinbold had already made some progress in that area.

What few opportunities there were for female athletes were pretty simple and Knights track coach Howard Dolphin wasn’t about to let girls distract his team. That included Reinbold’s classmate and pole vault star Curt Hisaw, whom she met in band as a freshman in 1960, the year EVHS opened.

“If you were out for track, he had to be sure you were serious. He wanted to be sure you were there for the sport,” Reinbold said. “He said, ‘You have to run first and I’ll time you.’ So I did, 12 (seconds) flat in the 100-yard dash. He said, ‘OK, you can stay.’ ”

The other love of her life took a little longer to nurture, but in 1968 she married Hisaw.

Love and a love for track and field have been the constant in their 40-plus years together, but with the end of the state track meet comes the end of their long association with the sport.

Although both Hisaws retired from teaching a few years ago, they have continued as assistant coaches at Cheney.

“Look what Todd (Hering) and I are facing, replacing Joan and Curt in the same year,” Blackhawks girls coach Tom Stralser said. “That’s probably 50, 60 years of track and field knowledge there. Of course Joan’s only 30 years old. That makes Curt old as dirt.”

The Hisaws’ plan is to see how many national parks they can visit, how many fish they can catch and play grandparents with fewer interruptions from a starting gun.

• • •

Growing up on a farm in the foothills just north of EVHS, the fourth of four girls was a tomboy, always outside with her dad, competing at something.

That’s when athletics for girls comprised mostly “play days,” although Joan said teacher Betty Wiswall was on the cutting edge in finding places for girls to compete, which is all she wanted.

Meanwhile, Curt was a state-placing pole vaulter for Dolphin, an event he discovered aptitude for at an early age.

“We both started pole vaulting out in my back field,” best friend Steve Llewellyn said, reflecting back to their early teens. “We had old steel pipes for poles we would borrow when they were building East Valley. We had a world record for the field.”

“It seemed like a very natural thing for me to do,” Hisaw said.

To say the contraption made up by the young teenagers was dangerous goes without saying.

“I’m sure it was just hilarious to watch,” Llewellyn, who coached cross country at University for a number of years, said. “We did get hurt. If we hit the standards, we got splinters and landing in sawdust was the pits. After we bent the poles, we would put them back at the construction site.”

After graduating in 1964, Hisaw took his talent to the Washington State track team. Joan went to Eastern on an academic scholarship and got as involved with sports as possible. Curt quickly boosted his 12-foot, 6-inch high school best beyond 14 feet; Joan played volleyball, basketball and ran track.

Getting her to talk about herself is difficult. Though records are incomplete for that era it appears she started four years in volleyball, three in basketball because she student taught at U-Hi as a senior, and went undefeated at 220 yards.

Curt dropped out of WSU after a year and went to junior college for a quarter before going to work in Seattle.

A year on the coast helped him realize what he was missing and it wasn’t just pole vaulting.

“We had decided we were going to find out if our friendship was real,” Joan said of going their separate ways in college. “He called me on a Valentine’s Day and wanted to know if there was still hope. I told him he had to come back to school and make good choices.”

Obviously, he made a great one. Hisaw finished second in the NAIA indoor pole vault in 1969 and then won the outdoor title. The next year he won both, setting NAIA records in each. His school record of 16-33/4 stood for 18 years.

But the best thing that happened during his Eastern years was getting married.

“No one matches up to Joan,” he said. “I am truly blessed.”

Both were recognized as a Top 10 senior when they graduated, in 1968 for Joan and 1970 for Curt.

“She was salutatorian,” Curt said. “I was Top 10 because I pole vaulted.”

• • •

Joan taught four years at Cheney before taking off 12 years to raise two boys, Eric and Thane. For a pittance, she coached every sport there was.

Curt also started as a PE teacher and track coach at Cheney, where he had some memorable battles with former EV teammate Jim McLaughlin, the track coach at West Valley.

Politics, or at least the frustrations with them, pushed Curt into real estate business in the late ’70s, but after three years he returned to teaching and coaching in the East Valley district until his retirement.

Joan returned to the classroom in 1980 and spent 17 years at Cheney Middle School before moving back to high school for the final four years.

Not surprisingly, the Hisaws offer quite a contrast in coaching.

“Curt is a little old school, which makes sense since he is old, at least older than me” said McLaughlin, who was two years behind the Hisaws. “He’s a technical coach in all events. Joan is a great coach because she truly cares about the kids. The kids sense this and work hard for her.”

Stralser, who is soon to be short a distance coach (Joan) and javelin/hurdles coach (Curt), said, “Curt has an eye for picking up stuff. He’s coached them all and he’s dang good. He could coach every event. He’s probably forgotten more than I’ve learned. He’s right there with the (Hall of Fame coach) Herm Cavinesses of the world.

“Joan is the pied piper of track and field. She’s unbelievable. When she was teaching here she was, if not the most popular teacher in the school for all kids, she was one of the top two or three. She didn’t have to coach the kids, she had them eating out of her hand.”

The Hisaw legacy continues with oldest son Eric, 37, a double-state champion hurdler in 1990 and school record holder for the Blackhawks.

“I think what they both conveyed was mental toughness and how hard you have to work,” said Eric, the Walla Walla girls track coach. “That was reinforced by my other coaches, Tom Oswald (football) and Denny Humphrey (basketball). Visualize, set goals, I probably still don’t do enough of that.”

It’s not hard to imagine the Hisaw dinner table.

“We bounce things off each other quite a bit,” Curt said. “We sit home every night and talk about kids and workouts. She is the hardest-working person I know.”

The Hisaws are now going to concentrate on their soon-to-be six grandkids – son Thane, 35, is a dentist in Spokane – and loading their kayaks on the camper to search for adventure. But don’t expect them to just give up the competition.

“We love to fish,” Joan said. “But on opening day, I tried to knock Curt’s fish out of the net so I could land the first fish.”


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