Sports

It’s 100 meets (and still running) for Whiting

Lifelong running enthusiast Jim Whiting is putting on the 12th season of the all-comers track meet, starting with the 100th one Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Bainbridge High School track. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Lifelong running enthusiast Jim Whiting is putting on the 12th season of the all-comers track meet, starting with the 100th one Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Bainbridge High School track.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

Popular all-comers track meet starts Monday at Bainbridge High.

When Jim Whiting started the all-comers track meet on a Monday back in July of 1995, he said he had “no idea if anyone would show up” at Bainbridge High School to run.

“But we got about 25 people or so,” he said. “Then it increased to about 50 (per meet). Now, we get about 125 to 200 people (per meet).”

That increased participation has made the all-comers meets a popular activity for 12 consecutive summers.

Now with the latest incarnation of the meets starting with the 100th one on Monday at 6:30 p.m., Whiting said he’s still surprised at who shows up.

“It’s been mostly kids,” he said. “There have been high school runners and college runners and adult runners (some in their 60s and 70s), but we get a lot of kids and families.

“To a certain extent, it’s pretty much been a kid thing,” Whiting continued. “We welcome adult runners, but its designed for kids of all ages.”

Over the past few years, he’s had the youngest group in a race be six year olds and under, but it’s now dropped to three years and under.

While he didn’t foresee the turnout when he started the meets after moving to Bainbridge Island in 1994, he said he still enjoys getting all the equipment out and marking down everyone’s time.

“It’s fun for me to get out,” he said. “By and large a lot of people come out and run as hard as they can and have fun.”

For the first 10 years, Whiting ran the meet with the help of the Bainbridge Island Park and Recreation District, having them underwrite the meet and provide him with the necessary equipment and support to make everything happen.

“Their support was especially important in the beginning when no one had heard of me and their imprimatur lent a great deal of legitimacy to the enterprise,” he said.

But when the Park District wanted to change how the meets were run, Whiting decided to amicably end the relationship.

That first year, he had two anonymous donors give enough money so he could buy equipment and liability insurance to keep things going.

Now, he has been doing the meets long enough that he can establish himself as a non-profit organization (the Bainbridge All-Comers Track Meet Association) and have a sponsor in Bainbridge Self-Storage for the second straight year to help keep the meets free, keep the liability insurance going and provide a custodian to unlock the bathrooms, along with whatever else is needed.

“I’m very grateful to have the custodians around,” he said.

For the 100th meet, he’ll keep it kid friendly by having the winners design their own medals with crayons, markers and the like.

“It’s more fun to have them make up their own (awards),” he said.

Whiting also thought of having cake and ice cream, but wasn’t too crazy about giving it to kids, so he’ll make healthy snacks available.

Whiting said people can still park behind the stadium and in the lot west of the stadium, but the only road is the one behind the Bainbridge Island Aquatic Center due to construction of the new 200 building at the school.

He also said that a news crew from KING will be there to do a story on the event.

The events are the same it’s always been: the 50 meter dash, the 100, the 200, the 400, the 800, the 1600, the 4x100 relay and the jogging mile, where the winner is determined by how close they were to their predicted time.

While the former editor of Northwest Runner magazine and the former sports editor of the Bainbridge Review has a few memories – the runner who was a consecutive winner of the 4th of July race trying to break the four minute mark in the mile, the one and only time he participated in a meet when he filled in for someone on a relay team nine years ago – he said he likes not only watching the same kids come out to participate year after year but watching someone try their hand at running for the first time.

“Kids get psyched for running,” he said. “They do it for a few years, then go into other sports, but there’s probably at least 30 people that haven’t done it before.

“Some people have an older kid that has done it for a few years and now have a younger kid that’s old enough to do it,” Whiting continued. “We’re still getting a lot of people to the island that hear about it and want to get involved.”

Whiting said he’s thought about his own involvement as well.

“At some point down the road my involvement will end,” he said. “But I don’t foresee anytime in the near future when that will happen.”

The meets will be held every Monday at 6:30 p.m. through August 27th.

Results will be posted in the Review as well as Whiting’s website, www.jimwhiting.com.

For more info, contact Whiting at 780-5564, 295-0337 or athletikos1@aol.com.

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