Because I know the depth of what it means to so many wonderful people, I was stunned to learn last week that I was named the Honorary Referee of the 2012 Cherokee Tomahawk Relays.
Two weeks ago, at the Northwest Iowa Coaches & Officials Association High School Senior All-Star Wrestling Meet in Cherokee, I asked Cherokee Athletic Director Neil Phipps if he would please get me the teams entered and the coveted Honorary Referee's name for the 2012 Tomahawk Relays promo story.
"It's time to bust the story and get people thinking about the Tomahawk," I remember saying.
Neil was a bit evasive at the time and easy-going me chalked it off as "Neil's plate is full at this time, see him later."
Well, at the time I had no clue that Neil was stalling me and had been in contact with the Chronicle Times' Troy Valentine and Mike Leckband, and that I was going to be named the 2012 Honorary Referee in a surprise announcement as is always the case with this coveted honor.
As it turned out, these sneaky Chronicle Times people waited until I had put the finishing touches on that next day's newspaper and left my office, and then they "tore up" the Page 1 I had edited and OKd, and inserted the story and photo of me being selected as this year's Honorary Referee. I didn't know a thing about it until I showed up the next day, saw all their smirking faces, and opened the newspaper!
Well done, comrades, I must say.
The very thought that Paul Struck and track and field go together is hilarious. For too many years I've joked with veteran track and field starters Jack Foresman, Evan Knapp, Cornie Wassink, and Curt Anderson that the sport lacks a real race - an eight-lane sideways race for media where we simply run perpendicular across the track! I think it would be over rather quickly and the fans could actually see the faces of the runners approaching the bleachers and not their striding profiles as they churn by.
Any more, if I walk fast to get in out of the rain, I pull a hammy, strain a knee, and dislocate a hip. My knees buckle and my belt won't. I quote the late, great Satchel Paige - "Avoid running at all times. Just the thought of your insides shaking all over can't be good for you."
Back when I started in this business, the Tomahawk Relays was the premier track and field event in Iowa - right up there next to the late, great Russ Kraai's Holstein Relays.
There were few if any prep girls track programs back then and the boys Tomahawk Relays were run all day on a Saturday with 36 or more teams comprising the original one-class field, that eventually evolved into a three-class field.
Tomahawk Saturday turned out to be one of the very best days ever on my calendar as I would arrive at the track mid-morning, shoot photos of incredible athletes and their incredible performances for several hours, eat free hotdogs and taverns in the press box, shoot the breeze with the many timers and event officials, and then dash out to the golf course to cap off a perfect spring day spent with 18 holes of golf and a few cold brewskies before the sun set.
Or was that a few holes of golf and 18 cold brewskies...I really can't remember.
As I say, back in the day.
Having photographed and interviewed dozens of former Cherokee Tomahawk Relays Honorary Referees, to a person they've each said that there's something very special about receiving this honor and to fully appreciate this, all you have to do is look at the names of those who came before you.
I just did that and OMG, they're right.
Runners to your mark!