Amid the rain in Westport last Saturday, history was quietly made in the Ray Ryan Memorial All-County Track and Field meet.
When the late Daily World sports writer Ray Ryan and the late Hoquiam track coach Bill Jamison revived the all-county meet a few decades ago, the plan was for the six Grays Harbor schools with tracks and appropriate spectator facilities to rotate hosting the event.
Through 2016, Aberdeen and Ocosta — for differing reasons — had yet to stage the competition.
A substandard track surface and perceived indifference on the part of some key personnel had kept Aberdeen out of the rotation.
With the track repaired, Aberdeen athletic director Aaron Roiko enthusiastically agreed to host the event in 2017 and 2018.
Aberdeen officials endured a rough shakedown cruise two years ago, particularly in the form of scoring discrepancies that prevented team champions from being crowned until more than 24 hours after the final event. The glitches were largely conquered last year, but the meet was plagued by some of the worst weather in meet history.
Ocosta, meanwhile, had hosted its own invitational meet for several years, with Wildcat coaches understandably reluctant to double up. More recently, the reconstruction of the stadium grandstand delayed the Westport school’s entry into the rotation.
Following the completion of the grandstand, Wildcat coach Aaron Anderson volunteered for the assignment this year.
The level of cooperation among area schools in staging the event is pretty remarkable, considering that track meets (because of the large volunteer work force required) are notoriously difficult to host. Veteran Hoquiam coach Tim Pelan once said that track is perhaps the only sport in which you don’t want a home game.
The staffing requirements at the all-county meet have been mitigated to some extent by many visiting schools providing personnel to run some of the field events.
Regardless of the venue, the all-county meet has been successful in large part because track is one of the few sports in which small-school athletes can compete — at least in some events — with larger rivals.
In several previous meets, each participating school has been represented among the champions.
That didn’t happen this year. But Class 2B North Beach and Ocosta won 11 events between them and 1B Taholah and Wishkah combined for five runner-up finishes.
The all-county meet is one of the two events (the Grays Harbor Pro-Am golf tournament, with its absence of leaderboards, is the other) I’ve regularly covered in which I frequently misidentified the winner until the final scores were tabulated.
Had I made it to Ocosta this year, history would have repeated itself in the boys team competition.
Many spectators undoubtedly assumed that Hoquiam’s boys, with six event wins (three by hurdler-sprinter Antonio Garcia) and three seconds, captured top honors.
But Aberdeen successfully mined its depth, particularly in the distances, to outscore the Grizzlies by 25 1/2 points.
Led by junior Jordan McKinney, the Bobcats swept five of the top six places in the boys 1,600 meters. The Cats placed eight runners in the top 10 in the 800, with freshman Julian Campos winning the two-lap race. Those two races, incidentally, represented Aberdeen’s only boys event wins.
Pre-meet favorite Elma, with its impressive cadre of hurdlers, jumpers and relay teams, was a more clear-cut girls champion — the third straight team title for the Eagles. Jillian Bieker was a four-time winner in both hurdles, the long jump and one of the relays.
Because it is an individual activity folded into a team concept, track is one of the few sports that lends itself to an all-county event.
An all-county basketball tournament might be fun in some years, but would also contain more than a few mismatches.
Former Aberdeen athletic director Ken Ashlock staged an all-county wrestling tournament at Sam Benn Gym for a few years. Although heralded at the outset as a showcase for Harbor wrestling, the meet was soon undermined by a couple of coaches (neither of whom are in their previous jobs), who contended that their top performers needed stiffer competition elsewhere and sent essentially second-string squads to the county meet.
I still believe the all-county concept for wrestling could work, particularly early in the season, but only if all area coaches are on the same page.
It’s not surprising that track coaches — perhaps the tightest-knit of all coaching fraternities — have been able to see the bigger picture.
The next cycle of all-county track venues begins next year. Montesano, according to Bulldog girls coach Doug Schupbach, has agreed to host the 2020 meet.