Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Memories of the UW/WSU dual track & field meet (part 1)...

To get all of you psyched for Saturday's dual track & field meet at Husky Stadium between the University of Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars, here is the first of a series of memories that participants from both schools sent paulmerca.blogspot.com in response to a post on Facebook, which asked both Huskies and Cougars to drop a short note on the most significant memory(ies) of competing in this meet, whether it was good/bad/funny/unusual, etc.

One of the first to respond was hammer thrower Dwight Midles, who competed for the Cougars in the mid-1970s, during the era of the Huskies' "Fab Four" of shot putter Russ Vincent, discus thrower Borys Chambul, javelin thrower Rod Ewaliko, and hammer thrower Scott Neilson.
Midles, who is one of the top high school hammer coaches in Washington, currently has a son, Zack (left/photo courtesy University of Washington sports information), who competes for the University of Washington.

This piece is written from two different perspectives--a competitor's perspective, and one of a father whose son competes for the rival school.

Many thanks go out to Dwight Midles for sharing his take on this rivalry between Washington and Washington State:

I was a member of the WSU track team from 1975 to 1977. My event was the hammer throw and my first meet against the Huskies was in 1975. There is one very clear memory I have of that first meet against the Huskies. At the 1975 meet all the throwers walked into the weights and measures room, to have their implements certified the morning of the meet.

Russ Vincent (former great U of W shot putter who was wearing a goatee beard at the time), Borys Chambul (former great U of W discus thrower), and Rod Ewaliko (former great U of W javelin thrower) were in the room wearing their Husky colors. Marl Murrey, John Ewing, myself, and WSU throws Coach Rick Sloan (now head coach) were there for the Cougars. There were some other people in the room but since it has been so many years, I do not recall all their names.

A Cougar fan came into the room and yelled, "Hey coach, the mayor of Pullman will be here for the meet and wants to know where he has to go to get the tickets. Husky Russ Vincent loudly yelled, “Gee I didn’t know the town of Pullman even had a mayor, I thought all they had was a bunch of cows and billy goats in Pullman”.

A few Huskies laughed at the joke, but Russ laughed the loudest. All us Cougs were a bit taken aback by this, shall we say nasty comment, and then John Ewing (a small but very witty Cougar hammer thrower) said loudly, “Gee the animal tech department at the University of Washington is doing wonders, they are making billy goats talk”. All of us Cougars then had a good laugh, as John was clearly referring to Russ Vincent’s goatee that made him look something like a billy goat.

For me that was the first real introduction to the heated rivalry between these two track and field teams. The Huskies went on to win the 1975 meet by a score of 95 to 68 in a bit of an upset. I helped the Cougars by placing 3rd in that 1975 meet in the hammer, but we still lost and that hurt. We had sweet revenge the following year when the Cougars beat the Huskies badly over in Pullman by a score of 117 to 45 in the 1976 meet, and then beat the Huskies again in the 1977 meet by a score of 88 to 75 in Seattle. I had the misfortune of taking second in both the 1976 and 1977 meets in the hammer, to Husky great Scott Neilson. In fact I do not believe I, or anybody else in college every beat Scott in the hammer during his entire 4 years at the University of Washington.

As the years passed I always looked back with a great deal of satisfaction having had a part in beating the Huskies in two of three meets that I competed against them in. The Cougars went on a long win streak after that 1975 loss to the Husky Track and Field team, and beat the Huskies something like 22 years in a row as I recall. I did not care for the Huskies and I was very honest about it. I got married to a fellow Cougar (Lisa Nordman who I met while a student at WSU) and had 4 wonderful children. I raised them all to hate Huskies, and said bad things about the U. of W. every chance I got. I wanted to make sure I brought my children up in the right kind of environment. After all I expected all of my 4 children to attend WSU as they would have been the 4th generation in our family to be a Cougar.

I began to teach two of my sons how to throw the hammer when they were in middle school out in pastures around the Olympia area. I also had a part in introducing the hammer to high school age kids in the State of Washington. My sons were having some great success, particularly as they began to enter High School. My oldest son Adam set the number two all time mark in US High School history when he threw the 12 lb hammer 242 feet 1 inch in 2002. That mark still stands as the Washington State High School All time boys hammer throw record. Adam had scholarship offers from all over the US, but I honestly thought he would be a Cougar and continue to help WSU pound the Dawgs. After all, Adam would have been a 4th generation Cougar, so I did not think he would go anywhere but WSU. WSU never offered Adam a scholarship, and he opted to attend USC.

Adam’s decision to go to USC was a surprise and disappointment to me, but he said he wanted to be a Trojan and go where he was wanted. Adam went on to earn All American honors at USC in the hammer in 2005, 2006, and 2007, managed to win a Pacific-10 hammer title along the way, and maintain his long term friendship with the U of W’s outstanding number two hammer thrower of all time on the U of W list, Martin Bingisser. Martin and Adam had been good friends and competitors since they both started throwing the hammer in high school.

After Adam opted to attend USC, I still thought I had another chance with my youngest son Zack, becoming a Cougar. Zack was also having great success at the High School level with the hammer. He had also received a great many scholarship offers from various school across the US, including the University of Washington. At the time I did not think much of the U. of W. offer, as I knew in my heart Zack would never be Husky. He could never turn his back on his father and compete for the hated Huskies.

A son has a way of doing what they want, however, and I was soon to find out just how powerful that desire can be. After numerous visits to various colleges Zack told me he wanted to go to the U of W in the fall of 2004 while a senior in high school. He liked the Campus and Coach (Greg) Metcalf and he felt he could get a great education there while also working with Martin Bingisser. Most importantly he said, "Dad they really make me feel like they want me."

The throws coach who recruited Zack, Bud Rassmussen, left Washington in 2005 for another job, but Zack got along well with the new throws coach at the U of W (Reedus Thurmond) and continued to improve.

So that is how I found myself a fan of the Husky Purple and Gold Track and Field team, something I never thought would happen. At Zack’s first track meet against the Cougars in 2007, he placed second in the hammer with a lifetime best throw. The Huskies won the 2007 meet and Zack made a point to rub that in real hard to me.

One year later I was in Pullman for the 2008 meet where Zack won the hammer with a lifetime best, captured 3rd in the shot put with a lifetime best, and then won the discus with a lifetime best. Unfortunately for Zack, the Huskies lost the 2008 meet, but I told Zack he had scored more points in this one meet for his team, then I did in my entire career as a Cougars against the Huskies.

After the meet Zack and I were standing by the fence in the southeast corner of the Cougar Track and my old coach, Rick Sloan came walking toward us. Zack saw him walking directly toward us and said “He is on his way I suppose Dad, to gloat about his great win”. Rick pointed his finger at Zack with a motion to come toward him. Zack asked me, “Dad I think he wants to talk to me”. I said yea Zack, looks like he wants to talk to you and Zack slowly walked toward him.

Rick said “Zack I know you are down because the Huskies lost this meet but I have never seen a kid throw three lifetime best marks in three different throwing events, on the same day, against their biggest rival like you did today, so you should be very proud of your effort and I know your Dad is too. Zack said he was speechless, and just looked at Coach Sloan and said “Thanks coach”.

Zack walked back to me and told me what Rick had said and how shocked he was. I looked at Zack and said “You should never be surprised about great things that real Cougar men do Zack”. Zack had a few choice words for me at that point, as he was still getting over the Husky loss.

I am looking forward to attending the 2009 meet and hopefully watching Zack throw another lifetime best or two against my old team. I am also going to wear purple and gold and cheer for my son.

PS--I have a daughter in high school, who throws the hammer, and is nationally ranked and she might yet become a Cougar.

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