High school track legend retires

Howard Dolphin coached 20 state champions

Hall of Fame Spokane Valley high school track and field coach Howard Dolphin is officially calling it quits.

To commemorate the nearly 60 years of devotion and success, his family is hosting an open house for friends and former student athletes next weekend at his home at Sandy Beach on Liberty Lake.

“After 59 years of coaching he deserves a splash,” said his wife, Mary Floy.

Dolphin coached track and cross country at East Valley beginning in 1952 when it was still Otis Orchards High School. Before he retired in 1984 the team had eight top-four trophy-winning teams, including the 1979 AA state champions and three State A runners-up, and had similar success in cross country.

For the past 24 years he has coached shot put, discus and javelin throwers at West Valley, where his son-in-law Jim McLachlan formerly was head coach.

“It’s time for some young guy to take it over,” Dolphin said. “I’ve had my day in the sun. I have a lot of good memories. It’s time to play a bit while I still can.”

Dolphin’s first individual state champion came in the shot put – two-time state champion Bill Kelling, in 1964 and again in ’65. His final state medalist as throwing coach for West Valley was Tyler Poldervart, second in the 2A shot last weekend in Tacoma.

All told, he had some 20 individual track champions, half of them in the throws.

In 2002, Dolphin’s 50th year of coaching, he said in a Spokesman-Review story, “I can’t go on forever. I’ll play it a year at a time. What’s important is helping kids. Besides there’s a therapeutic benefit just being out there walking around.”

He then announced his intent to retire from coaching in 2005 after WV, coached by McLachlan, won the State 3A team title.

Six years later he decided the time to retire is finally right.

“I think it was his age,” said McLachlan. “He does fine at practice, but the long days wear you down.”

“We’ll get to see track meets we’d like to see (in Spokane),” said Dolphin, “and I like Eugene (Ore.) where they have meets all spring. I had a great career and wouldn’t have wanted to do anything else.”

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