'Tomahawk' works its magic

Monday, April 14, 2008

You just had to be there.

We're speaking of the annual Cherokee Tomahawk Relays hosted by Cherokee Washington High's track and field teams Friday night and Saturday.

All told, there were 38 boys and girls track and field teams from throughout Northwest Iowa in Cherokee. Factor in that each team numbered between 10 and 35 athletes, plus coaches and fans, and you have a sizeable contingent of visitors viewing Our Town on a wonderful spring weekend chock full of sunshine, warming temperatures, and refreshing breezes.

We heard many people comment on the beautiful all-weather track at George Hicks Field, the view of the Little Sioux River valley from the bleachers, and the knock-out food provided by the concession stand, including tasty, expertly-grilled brats with all the trimmings, and pizza.

Quite a few visitors were greatly impressed with the new Bacon Aquatics Center and renovations to the surrounding Gillette Park, all adjacent to the WHS Campus.

Track meets of this size require mountains of planning and scheduling, and demand a dedicated group of volunteers.

Paul Fuhrman, retired WHS athletic director, coach, and teacher, again worked his magic as Meet Director, working closely with WHS A.D. Neil Phipps, who also doubles as the WHS girls track co-coach.

Renowned track starters Evan Knapp of Cherokee, and Cornie Wassink of Orange City once again conducted the two meets with incredible efficiency and authority.

Cherokee School District Principals Larry Hunecke and Larry Weede served in the hectic Clerk of Course positions, with capable assists from Kirk Rolland and Charity Anderson. And Weede and Superintendent John Chalstrom handled the announcing duties, keeping the throng apprised of who did what and when. Jim Shima manned the all-important computer to record the hundreds of athletes, their times and distances.

We could go on and on with the outstanding job the volunteers do, but there are just too many to name, from recorders, to timers, to finish judges, to ticket sellers, to event marshals, to runners, and hurdle jockeys.

We recall many vivid scenes from this magical track and field weekend, such as school board member Kirk Sampson frantically raking smooth the long-jump pit sand while trying to sneak peeks at his son Nolan high jumping 40 yards away - devotion to duty, pure and simple.

We applaud the 2008 Tomahawk Relays Honorary Referee, Rod Brown, one of those devoted volunteers for 38 consecutive years.

For many of us, the Tomahawk Relays are as much a harbinger of Spring as are the robins, budding flowers, and greening grass.

Take a bow, WHS and volunteers. You did it again. You made Our Town shine under one very bright light.