No Iowa cornfield, no Shoeless Joe.
But one look at Bart Templeman’s 10-acre toy and the connection is inescapable: he’s got a real “Field of Dreams” thing going on out on the Rathdrum Prairie.
“You got it,” said Jarred Rome, the two-time Olympian to whom Templeman bequeathed the esteemed Iron Wood Thrower Development Camp last year. “That’s exactly what it is.”
Except that Templeman isn’t chasing ghosts.
His grail has always been the extra inch, the extra foot in the young shot putters and discus throwers he tutors from Sandpoint to Spokane to Coeur d’Alene on a regular basis, to say nothing of the 4,300 youngsters who’ve flocked to his camp.
There has always been something of a gypsy element to this endeavor. The camp, over the years, has outgrown homes at North Idaho College and Whitworth and is now at Eastern Washington, where the 25th edition will take place next month. He’s fed his volunteer jones on the side wherever he could find a cement ring, an unlocked gate and an athletic director with his heart in the right place.
Until a couple of years ago, that is, when he found the right plot in the Garwood area for his own private sandbox.
There he poured an outdoor ring for the shot, constructed a sturdy cage for the discus and hammer, sodded a green expanse and even erected an indoor facility with five practice rings and nets to catch all the flying objects. Soon enough there’s likely to be a javelin runway in the works.
And now that he’s built it, look who’s coming.
Thanks to Rome’s connections in the sport, USA Track and Field has assigned one of its four yearly Olympic developmental throws competitions to Templeman Acres. Two American Olympians and a handful of other top 10 Goliaths will meet up at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Highway 53 and Ramsey Road to contest the shot, discus and hammer in preparation for the USA championships in two weeks.
The Olympians are Lance Brooks, the nation’s top-ranked discus thrower of the past two years, and Kibwe Johnson, whose best of 263 feet, 6 inches makes him the No. 3 U.S. hammer thrower of all time.
The loaded shot field includes five throwers with bests beyond 69 feet, topped by Cory Martin’s 72-6 1/2. Four discus throwers have cracked 200 feet, and there would have been more had Whitworth alum Carter Comito not torn a forearm muscle a couple of weeks ago. Former Idaho thrower Russ Winger falls into both categories: he’s gone 69-10 1/4 in the shot and 216-8 in the discus.
USATF foots the travel bill for anyone ranked in the top four; the others can cover their tab by shooting for the prize money Iron Wood is putting up, starting with $1,200 for first place.
That certainly helped draw a few of the heavyweights. Templeman’s name didn’t hurt, either.
Eight NCAA champions and six Olympians have come out of his camps. Seven world record holders have served on the staff. When he’s not fine-tuning the footwork of some teenager from Sagle, he volunteers at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
“Every thrower knows who he is,” Rome said.
If what was a calling seems to have inched into something else with his little playground, at least it’s a charming obsession.
He hauled in 48 yards of crushed brick for the shot put area. He actually put up not one, but three structures (“I’m garage poor, but I’ve got lots of buildings”). When he left his job selling lumber, he bought a semi load of treated lumber and heavy timbers, and for the discus/hammer cage he wrapped them in fire hose his son-in-law acquired from the Seattle Fire Department. Additional safety decorations were fetched from a local Les Schwab.
“Then a guy donated a seining net that had been used in the Bering Sea in Alaska,” he said. “It’s really heavy, but I doubled it on the corner – I don’t want anybody getting hurt.”
Count Rome among the flabbergasted.
“He’d be telling me about this and I pictured some cement slab in the backyard,” he said. “When I saw it, I said, ‘Are you kidding?’ People just don’t do this just so high school kids can get proper coaching and develop.”
Now he’s directed $10,000 of Iron Wood’s receipts be set aside each year for this meet, a rare gesture to post-collegiate throwers like Brooks, who poured cement to pay the bills between winning the 2012 Olympic Trials and the London Games.
“They’re forgotten people in this sport,” Templeman said.
But he doesn’t forget.
“I was on two Olympic and three World Championship teams,” said Rome, who first attended Iron Wood as a high school sophomore. “If not for Bart and his camp, I’d never have made it.”
And now there’s a place for more dreams.