50 years of track and field for all

All-Comers series invites anyone and everyone to compete
By Ian Davis-Leonard | Jul 10, 2018
Photo by: Ian Davis-Leonard Nancy Watchie of Seattle competes in the high jump at the All-Comers Track and Field Series at Shoreline Stadium.

For 12 consecutive Wednesdays each summer, Shoreline Stadium plays host to a track and field event like few others.

Athletes of all ages, skill levels and competition levels gather at 6 p.m. to compete in the All-Comers Track and Field Series presented by Club Northwest and Series Director Bill Roe.

In its 50th year, the All-Comers series offers running, jogging and race walking events, as well as field events like shot put, javelin, discuss, pole vault, high jump and long jump to kids and adults alike.

“Track and field is one of the big sports in high school and even in college, so there is a lot of people out there who have been a part of the sport before and might’ve quit, because they didn’t have an outlet,” Roe said. “We can give them the outlet.”

The event has hosted athletes as young as an 18-month-old running the 50-meter dash to a 99-year-old competing in the discus throw.

“It’s very family oriented, very fun oriented, it’s not really serious,” said Michael Havrda, a former All-Series competitor who now brings his daughter Lily and wife Shannon to the event. “It’s fun to come out and race and still have a little bit of competitiveness.”

Roe began conducting the All-Comers series 50 years ago, when as a freshman in college at the University of Washington, Roe was volun-told by his UW track coaches that he would oversee the program.

In 1973, Roe paired the event with Club Northwest, a local running group, in hopes offering a unique opportunity to the community.

Now, the event has become a staple of summer for many Pacific Northwest athletes.

The Havrda’s enjoy bringing their 3-year-old daughter Lily to the track meet where she can compete and have fun.

“It’s fun for her to get to go on the track and actually run and jump,” Michael Havrda said.

Connie Ballard, a nine-year attendee of the All-Comer series, has found community and support throws shotput and discus at the weekly event.

“It’s a very good group of people,” Ballard said. “Bill runs a really good program.”

Each week of the All-Comers Series needs around 40 volunteers to host, yet Roe and Club Northwest often do it with 30 volunteers.

The series usually has help from high school track and cross country teams who send their athletes to volunteer at the event, but even with their help, Roe and his team are often still short staffed.

“It’s a struggle every year to get the number of people we need to do the events,” Roe said.

Yet even with the lack of volunteers, the event has thrived.

In 2008, the Series jumped from 3,000 attendees per summer to 4,500 and the following year they again increased to around 6,000 entrants.

“We don’t have a full handle on the rational of why it happened, but we aren’t looking a gift horse in the mouth,” Roe said.

The event went from hosting around 100 athletes per week to averaging 250 to 300. As a result, the series has gone from a community service that was losing money to a way of fundraising for the Club Northwest team.

“Every week we find new people are coming out, they’re finding out about it from friends and neighbors,” Roe said.

Even after 50 years, the All-Comers Series accepts new contestants weekly. Roe encourages anyone to come out to Shoreline Stadium and give track and field a try, no matter their skill level.

“I would give anybody the suggestion to at least come and try it,” Roe said. “You don’t have to be particularly great at anything, you don’t have to be a superstar”

The Summer All-Comers Track and Field Series continues each Wednesday 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. throughout the summer, with the final meet being on August 15.

More information on competing or attending the series can be found at https://www.clubnorthwest.org/all-comers.

 

 

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