by Graeme Shirley
For anyone familiar with the San Diego Association of USATF, it must be a great surprise to see any name but Ken Bernard's on the President's Message. After 30 years heading track and field in San Diego, Ken announced his resignation on October 15, effective November 5.
Ken was San Diego AAU Track and Field Chairman from the early 1970s, and then the first San Diego Association President when The Athletics Congress (TAC) was established in 1979. In fact, it was Ken who stood before the first convention and objected that the name they were adopting was "tacky."
He continued as Association President when TAC became USA Track & Field, and led the San Diego delegation to each of the first 24 National Meetings of what is now USATF.
Ken assigned the task of finding his replacement to the Officers of the Association, and, over my initial reluctance, they named me the interim President to fill the remainder of his term. I have been asked why I would take the position. My reply was that if this was any other Association, I probably wouldn't have. But if I review our sports committees, it's not difficult to see what's special in San Diego.
First, in Men's and Women's Track and Field, I named Rahn Sheffield, head coach at San Diego State, and Wes Williams, assistant to Steve Scott at Cal State San Marcos, as chairmen. Rahn, 2001 and 2003 Mountain West Conference Coach of the Year, was the coach of LaTanya Sheffield, former American Record holder in the 400 meter hurdles, and is the current coach of Miesha McKelvy, ranked fourth in the world at the 100 meter hurdles for 2003. Wes was ranked second in the world in the 400 meter hurdles in 1969 and coached 25 All-Americans and three NCAA champions at UCSD (then Division III), and has continued his success at CSUSM.
With Rahn and Wes at the helm, look for exciting Association Track & Field Championships in San Diego in June. The model will be the meet Dixon Farmer conducted in 1984 (also an Olympics year) at San Diego State, with an all-star lineup, including Ruth Wysocki's 2:01 800 meters. Besides Miesha McKelvy, San Diego has at least three other 2003 world-ranked athletes in residence, including Tyree Washington, Number 1 at 400 meters, Jamie Nieto, Number 5 in the high jump, and Kenta Bell, Number 7 in the triple jump. This number should increase as athletes join Brooks Johnson at the Olympic Training Center.
Paul Greer, former four minute miler, heads Long Distance Running, and his energetic leadership has built the fall Dirt Dogs Cross Country Series and a spring Road Race Series. For 2003, the cross country finalé was named the West Regional Championships. The last race could not have been any more exciting, as Mark Dani and Tamara Lave won the Association and Regional Championships. Dani was returning to the same site as his 1985 third-place Kinney finish. The men's seven-race series championship was decided by less than one second, as Nazario Romero edged Mike Smith at the line. Ursula Kremer's runner-up spot won the women's series.
Curt Clausen has, over the last three years, built a Race Walking program which has gone from almost nowhere to the point where San Diego is the 2003 Race Walk Association of the Year for USATF. This year the Association hosted the Pan-American Cup 20K Race Walk, and next year will host the 50K Race Walk Olympic Trials. This is in addition to several 30K and 50K National Championships during Curt's tenure. These high-profile events overshadowed Tim Seaman's 5000 meter race walk American Record (19:28.66) set at the Association championships.
Arnie Robinson, 1976 Gold Medalist in the long jump and Track and Field Hall of Fame member, is entering his tenth year chairing the youth program. During that time, youth membership has doubled, a series of club-sponsored meets has been created, and San Diego has been rewarded by hosting several successful Regional Championships. Arnie has built this program while he has been head coach at Mesa College. Among the products of his collegiate program is Felix Sanchez, ranked Number 1 track and field athlete in the world for 2003.
George Mathews, National Chairman of Masters Track & Field, serves as Association Track & Field Chairman. He has initiated a monthly series of weight throw events at UCSD, and moved the 2003 West Regional Masters Track & Field Championships to San Diego, which went off successfully in spite of short notice. San Diego was represented by 32 masters athletes in Eugene, many of whom won national championships.
Jim Skelly has been president of the track and field officials for about ten years, and during that time has doubled the number of officials, recently passing 100 certified.
Those are the committee chairmen. The officers include Arnie Robinson as Vice President, Lolitia Bache as Treasurer, and Joni Shirley as Secretary. Lolitia has at various times over more than 20 years been Association Youth and Women's Chairman, and a national officer of the women's standing sport committee. Joni has been race director of national championship masters races, a board member for more than 10 years, and is a many-time national champion in masters track and field and road racing.
So that's what I see when I look around the board room (and ultimately what overcame my reluctance): a remarkable team of current and former athletes who work tirelessly to build programs that put something back into the sport. Their results are even more impressive when one takes into account the size of our Association. We are about one-sixth the population of Southern California and one-quarter that of Pacific.
It all comes back to Ken Bernard. These Chairmen and these programs were all developed under his leadership. Ultimately, it's for him that I took this position, to assure that what he built will continue to grow, and that we will continue to host more events, provide more competitive opportunities, and produce more athletes.