Keeping track records at Washington Middle School is a long-standing tradition (Slideshow 4)
By Jason Stuart
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
Seconds. Inches. Feet. These are the measuring sticks of success in track and field. They mark the times and distances in track record books the world over, from the Olympics to the NCAA to high school, but seldom, if ever, does anyone bother to permanently record such things at the middle school level.
Except at Glendive’s Washington Middle School.
Since at least the late 1960s — the earliest dated record still standing was set in 1969 — WMS has kept a record book with the best achievements at the track and field events it holds annually at Perham Field. It is, as far as anyone around here knows, the only middle school in the region to do so.
“I don’t know of anybody else that does it, because anyplace you go, that discussion never comes up,” said WMS track coach Lee Miller.
Miller didn’t start the WMS record book, but when he took over as track coach, he kept the tradition going and even took all the old handwritten notes and digitized them. There are actually two sets of records, one comprehensive list of all the best times and distances set at WMS track meets over the years and another with the best WMS student records. The records are further broken down by grade and by gender.
Miller said part of the reason for keeping up with the records is “kind of nostalgia.” He prints up a program for the annual WMS Invitational track meet which includes the records inside the front cover.
“And people come by and say, “I remember that kid,’” Miller said.
The records also give WMS students who compete in track a goal to pursue. Inside WMS is a large board where all the track records are permanently displayed.
“I think it also gives the kids something to strive for ... to shoot for,” Miller said. “When the kids go down the first day of track, they look at that record board and say, ‘I’m going to break that one.’ And if they do, great for them, and if they don’t, at least they had something to strive for.”
And for those who do manage to break a record, Miller has rewards he doles out to them. If a WMS student breaks or ties a school record in an event, Miller gets them a gift certificate for a free frozen treat from Re-Treat. If they also manage to break or tie one of the all-time WMS track meet records, he also prints up a certificate for them.
That recognition also doesn’t stop with WMS students. Miller would love to see the all-time WMS track meet records filled completely in by Glendive kids, but there are plenty of other schools represented on the books.
“It’d be cool, but at the same time, we don’t have the market cornered. There’s some really impressive athletes out there,” he said.
This season, two girls from Colstrip broke WMS meet records. One of them was for the eighth grade girls’ discus distance, which had stood since 1984.
“When you’ve broke a record that’s that old, you’ve done something,” Miller said.
Miller did what he always does for such students — he printed out a certificate for them marking their achievement and sent them to the Colstrip track coach along with a list of the records for their grades.
“The coach from Colstrip thought it was a really neat thing that we’ve kept records all these years,” he said. “The coach was really appreciative and thought it was a cool thing to do.”
No WMS students broke meet records this year, but three did break or tie school records.
Like the discus record the girl from Colstrip broke this year, some of those records have stood for a very long time. Miller, like his current students, would like to see some of those fall. For instance, the eighth grade boys’ long jump record was set way back in 1976 by a Wolf Point student at an impressive 19 feet 2.5 inches. However, he noted that when a record has stood for so long, “you put it in perspective.”
“I’ve had some kids get close to (the long jump record), but when they’ve been up there a long time you really appreciate how good that effort is,” Miller said.
Reach Jason Stuart at email@example.com.