Mike Powers was simultaneously surprised and clued in to his induction into the Illinois Track and Cross Country Officials Association of Illinois Hall of Fame.
He was clued in because some of his contemporaries knew Powers had made it back in mid-October, two months before the Dec. 15 ceremony in Bloomington. Someone couldn't keep a secret.
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"The cat got out of the bag," said Mike Powers, a Batavia resident and former 22-year teacher and coach at St. Charles and St. Charles East, where his wife, Terrie, teaches special education English. For the past eight years at West Aurora, this spring Mike will conclude a 37-year career as a math teacher though he'll fortunately stay on as the varsity football team's offensive line coach.
What surprised him is at the relatively youthful age of 58 he joins a crowd of 20 ITCCOA Hall of Famers who represent track and cross country officials that, as membership and recognition committee chairman Bill Bulat gently put it, are generally "on the gray-haired side."
Powers joins a group of Hall of Famers featuring familiar and respected track names like Carlin Nalley, Ron Helberg, Roy Gummerson, John Polka, Phil Salzer and Owen Fuller.
Though Powers has been participating in track and field either as an athlete, coach or official since 1967, all of those men are his seniors.
"There's some big names there and for me to be with those people I'm very honored," said Powers, who earned 15 varsity letters and was salutatorian at little (2013 enrollment 78) Oakland High School in downstate Coles County.
In fact, in addition to a professional yet homespun, regular-guy demeanor on the track and a dossier of credentials working meets for the IHSA, USATF and NCAA, Powers has focused on getting younger people involved in officiating. Recent ITCCOA "rookies of the year" Powers helped break in include the now-established Miles Tischhauser, Jesse Rocha and Tim Wolf -- Rocha an Aurora Central Catholic graduate and ex-assistant coach, Wolf the St. Charles East head girls track coach.
"What he really did for the organization was he started a track clinic (this year Jan. 25 at St. Charles East) basically for new officials in those areas," Bulat said. "That's why he was selected into the Hall of Fame."
That sounds limiting for a man who already has served as section leader, secretary, vice president and president of an organization that debuted only in 1996, but it's critical, and hand in hand with the mentoring program Powers also heads. Big reasons prep track officials are often of advanced age is there is little lower-level proving ground as there is for other sports, and athletic directors prefer to hire people they know. By bringing a less-experienced official with him, Powers can provide on-the-job training.
Funny, but for a guy who works up to 60 meets a year -- he was the head official at last year's National Christian College Athletic Association Outdoor Nationals, and the marshall at the 2013 NCAA Division III Indoor Nationals at North Central College -- he initially wasn't interested in being an official.
"It just kind of happened," he said. "I wanted to be a track coach."
But after first volunteering for former St. Charles track coach Tom Roderick, specializing in pole vault, he worked his first meet as a timer in 1984.
"I absolutely hated it. It was boring," he said.
Powers asked the official starter at that meet how much money he got for the gig. He liked that figure better and adjusted accordingly.
He no longer does it for the money, which isn't a lot to begin with. He does it for the betterment of the sport and for the next generation of track officials.
"I want to get these people ready so when I retire I leave it in good shape," Powers said.
Vacation just got shorter
The Illinois High School Association announced on Wednesday that 11 proposals were approved by IHSA member schools in online voting last month. Among them is the proposal that allows football practice to start two days earlier, an answer to the acclimatization policy the IHSA started last season. That means the 2014 season will start Aug. 11 rather than Aug. 13.
This just in
Off the desk of boys swim coach Kevin Auger at Evanston, site of the state finals, the latest boys swim rankings includes Illinois Math and Science Academy at No. 10 and Marmion at No. 17 with St. Charles East among the "best of the rest." Augur currently rates Libertyville as the top team.
This Saturday at Oak Park-River Forest is the annual Illinois Track and Cross Country Coaches Association clinic, and with it the ITCCCA awards luncheon.
We reported previously that the wonderful Jim Martin will be among seven new inductees into the association hall of fame. He'll go in wearing his Wheaton North cap as a longtime assistant and former head track coach for the Falcons, but his track photo is on the wall right across from the boys locker room at Kaneland High School. A former Knights sprinter who coaches the same for the Wheaton North boys, Martin was Kaneland's first track athlete to earn an all-state finish, sixth place in the 220-yard dash in 1965.
Also feted will be the coaches of the year. They include Aurora Christian girls track coach Anna McQuade. At Aurora Christian, she was a three-time all-state middle distance runner in track, and once in cross country before graduating in 2008. Until she married Craig McQuade on June 29 of this past year, she also was known as Anna Morgan. She is honored as Class 1A girls track coach of the year, having led the Eagles to third place at the 2013 state meet.
A neat award ITCCCA presents is the Dave Pasquini Award for assistant coaches. It's fitting that in a year Kaneland's first all-state athlete is inducted into the track hall, Knights assistant Dave Bieritz is among those receiving Pasquini awards.
Kaneland boys track coach Eric Baron nominated Bieritz, a hurdles specialist now in his ninth season with the program. Bieritz also has led the Knights' conditioning program, Baron stated in his nomination.
Under Bieritz's direction Logan Markuson was a three-time all-stater in the hurdles and the Class 2A 300-meter champion in 2009; Taylor Andrews earned two all-state medals in the 110 hurdles, winning the title in 2011. Both hurdlers set Kaneland's school records in those events at the state meet. This year, Bieritz has Brock Robertson and Dylan Nauert in the fold, Nauert a 2012 all-stater in the 300s.
"Without a doubt a great deal of our team's success in the past few years has been in part because of Coach Bieritz's huge contribution to our program," Baron wrote in his nomination for the Pasquini Award.
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