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Jim Whiting says farewell at final All-Comer’s Meet

Kiwanis All-Comer’s Track Meet founder and organizer Jim Whiting announces the start of the first event of the summer’s final meet Monday, Aug. 25 at Bainbridge High School. The event was also Whiting’s last as meet organizer, as he stepped down from the position to  pursue other personal projects.  - Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review
Kiwanis All-Comer’s Track Meet founder and organizer Jim Whiting announces the start of the first event of the summer’s final meet Monday, Aug. 25 at Bainbridge High School. The event was also Whiting’s last as meet organizer, as he stepped down from the position to pursue other personal projects.
— image credit: Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review

The beginning of the week was full of endings for running enthusiasts on Bainbridge Island, as the year’s final Kiwanis All-Comer’s Track Meet at Bainbridge High School marked not only a sure sign of the quickly approaching end of summer, but also the end of event founder Jim Whiting’s tenure as meet organizer.

Whiting, who began the event 20 years ago shortly after he and his family relocated to Bainbridge, had announced earlier this year that he would step down as the coordinator after this summer to pursue personal projects, travel and spend more time with his family.

“To be honest, I’ve been so busy this summer with my writing and editing and other projects that I really didn’t have much time to think about the end of my tenure,” Whiting said earlier this week. “The event seems to be maintaining its popularity. The typical turnout is about 150 to 175 participants, and at least the same number of parents, relatives, friends [and] babes in arms.”

Whiting has assured island runners, however, that even in his absence the All-Comer’s Meet’s future is assured.

“The BHS cross country team will assume responsibility for production of the meets, with Paul Benton as the new meet director,” Whiting explained.

“I can’t say enough about Paul. For years, he has organized the finish line and made sure it ran as smoothly as possible. Kiwanis will continue sponsorship, and provide finish line help. They introduced a nice new feature this season, certificates to the top three finishers in every event.”

Though his original idea had been geared toward a more mature audience, Whiting said that he was very proud of what has ultimately become of his vision.

“It started in ’95, shortly after we moved to Bainbridge,” Whiting recalled earlier this season. “Based on my own experience with running in college and then as a post-collegiate runner, I thought I was going to have three constituencies: high school runners getting ready for the cross country season, college runners trying to stay in shape during the summer and adults who would be interested in their mile time.”

There’s a reason, he laughed, that he’s never won the lottery.

“I’ve never been more wrong,” he said. “It turned out to be kind of a family thing. Parents bring their kids, they kind of make an evening out of it. A lot of them have a picnic supper.”

Now, the event founder and life-long running advocate, said he and his family will have more time for other pursuits, which he is looking forward to.

“It will give us more flexibility in visiting our grandchildren in Corvallis, so we can pick times when I-5 is less likely to be congested,” he said. “And it seems that every summer there’s always been something on Monday nights I can’t attend — ball games, meetings, and so forth.”

Discussing what he has learned and gained in his two decades of tenure with the program, Whiting explained that the most important and lasting thing for him was making sure the kids had fun and learned how enjoyable and beneficial running can be.

“Knowing that I’ve left behind one of the best and most enduring summer activities for island kids, and that it will remain in good hands for the foreseeable future,” he said. “Seeing how much fun the kids and their parents have and introducing them to the joy of running, which has been a transforming experience in my own life.”

Even as he steps away from the community meets, Whiting doesn’t plan to go too far from the track. That’s because in addition to organizing and leading the All-Comers races, Whiting is the coach of the Blazers middle school cross country team, which he founded seven years ago.

“Seven years ago Vivian Shiach — then the branch manager of Frontier Bank — whose kids had been involved in All-Comers, approached me about starting a middle school cross country program,” Whiting said.

“She was persuasive, and the result was the Blazers XC Club.”

“It began with about 30 kids. Last year the turnout was about 80, and this year will probably be about the same. It is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever done. Moving along about 70 individual races at each All-Comers meet meant there was hardly any time to interact with the kids. Blazers provides [me] the opportunity to work with my kids much more closely, helping them to become as good as they can as runners and to develop increasing self-confidence. And it wouldn’t have happened without the All-Comers meets.”

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