In these sorry economic times, here’s an endeavor that’s not just thriving, but exploding in growth.
Even more amazing? It’s a track meet.
Just two years ago, coach Larry Beatty at Community Colleges of Spokane brainstormed another home meet, a modest scoring affair pitting his Sasquatch and Clark College against Oregon JC rivals Lane and Mt. Hood – and dubbed it WAOR. He got Albertson’s to put on a barbecue and Cyrus O’Leary’s to give each event winner a pie, and there were other goodies for the top placers. Last spring, a couple of four-year schools asked in.
On Saturday, the third installment unfolds at Spokane Falls – with 16 teams taking part.
Now it’s not just WAOR, but Washington against the world, or at least the rest of the Northwest. Joining the Sasquatch on the home side are athletes from Washington State, Eastern Washington, Gonzaga, Whitworth, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific and Central Washington. They’ll score against Idaho, Montana and six other smaller schools from three neighboring states.
“And we had Boise State and Portland, but they backed out,” Beatty said. “It’s getting crazy.”
There could be any number of reasons for the meet’s popularity. For the bigger schools, travel budgets are certainly seeing a squeeze, cutting into the number of distant invitationals it’s reasonable to attend. But Beatty also thinks his meet’s been getting good word of mouth.
“It’s a fun meet and the athletes really enjoy themselves,” he said. “The format is different and the barbecue makes for a great atmosphere. And it’s funny – those pies are a huge hit. I’ll be at a meet in Oregon and a kid will come up and ask, ‘You guys putting on that meet with the pies?’ They get a nice bag and a pie for first place and most just wanted the pie.”
Big stick, speaking softly
Who’s that at the top of the NCAA performance list in the women’s javelin? It’s WSU junior Marissa Tschida, who upped her school record to 186 feet, 1 inch at the Texas Relays last week.
“I don’t know if it means anything,” Tschida said. “It’s April, guys. Championship season doesn’t start until May. It doesn’t even register to me.”
Some of that has to do with the arc of her 2009 season. Tschida peaked with a 181-8 rocket in the Washington dual; then her marks slipped to the 159-foot range at both the Pac-10 and regionals, and a 166-5 effort got her sixth at nationals.
“I threw that big one at the dual and I wanted it every meet,” she said, “but I was holding myself to a level that I wasn’t ready to be performing at consistently. I still needed to fix things and, really, bit off a little more than I could chew.”
Her reason to believe it can be sustained now: her series at Texas. The six throws averaged 176 feet.
“The first one came out of nowhere, like most good throws I’ve had,” she said. “But that I can reach a certain distance consistently, I feel secure and confident in that.”
A classic reunion
Best part of the Sam Adams Classic last weekend at Whitworth? That the meet’s namesake was in attendance – and that two of his prize pupils were, too.
Jock McLaughlin and Fred Shaffer are evidence enough that Adams ran a pretty fair program back in the day. More than 45 years after they attended Whitworth they still hold school records – McLaughlin at 58-3 in the shot put, Shaffer at 185-3 in the discus.
Shaffer’s throw in 1961 broke the NAIA record by 18 feet – “but what only Sam and I know is that we had to dig the discus out of the ground after the throw,” he said. “The wind turned it over and just drove it straight into the turf. The world record then was only 196. You wonder how far it might have gone.”
Adams coached McLaughlin to a fifth-place NAIA finish in the shot, but the coach’s advice on another front made a bigger difference.
“He ‘semi-discouraged’ me from being a (NFL) free agent,” McLaughlin laughed. “I got a very polite letter from Gil Brandt of the (Dallas) Cowboys. This was back when they had the Doomsday Defense. I’d have been a down-the-chart guard for a couple of weeks and they’d have taken me out of there on a stretcher.”
A number of athletes entered in the Spokane Falls meet will make a full weekend of it by competing Friday in the annual Pelluer Invitational at EWU. … The NCAA bests list has a distinctly local flavor in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, topped by Shadle Park grad Rich Nelson of BYU at 8 minutes, 46.91 seconds. WSU’s Sam Ahlbeck (8:49.88) is second and Lake City’s John Coyle of Weber State is fifth (8:51.50). … After two years at Northern Arizona, former Mead 800 standout Nikki Codd has transferred to Washington.