Wednesday, August 1, 2012

RIP Paul Banta, long-time meet director and friend of track and field in the Pacific Northwest...

While going through some emails, I was shocked to find a release from USA Track & Field announcing that Paul Banta (left/photo courtesy of his Facebook page), known in many track & field circles as the meet director of the adidas Oregon Track Classic, and the co-founder of the Oregon International regional track & field team, passed away last Friday (July 27th).

Banta created the adidas Oregon Track Classic and built it from a strong regional meet to a nationally televised stop on the IAAF Grand Prix Circuit before the meet eventually lost its sponsor in 2005. Additionally, he directed the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, DC, for three years, during which the race doubled in size.

Banta was also the President of OSE Productions, Inc., a sports promotion and events management enterprise. He managed membership and annual conferences for Triathlon America and Running USA. He produced the weekly Endurance Sports Business Newsletter for industry professionals.

Banta was born on February 4, 1955, and attended Davidson College where he worked in the sports information office and developed his passion for track and field. He then moved to Oregon in 1980 to pursue a graduate degree from the University of Oregon. He is survived by his wife Judy Andres, three sons Christopher, Tommy and Peter, his mother Rosemary and siblings Peter, Sarah and Manon Banta.

Some of my best memories of working with Paul involved his adidas Oregon Track Classic, first at Lewis & Clark College, then at Mt. Hood Community College.

Banta was always accommodating to my Club Ballard athletes, as several of them competed in his meets. After the majority of my elite team members retired from the sport in the late 1990s, I got involved helping Paul with meet operations, researching and writing short bios for his meet announcer (a skill that would come in handy when I became the public address announcer for the University of Washington track & field team in 2003).

One of the most innovative things that he did when he was the meet director of the adidas Oregon Track Classic was holding the men's shot put as a stand-alone event one hour before the meet started. It was really cool to sit next to the ring at Lewis & Clark College with a thousand of your closest friends as guys like Adam Nelson would charge into the circle.

Paul, along with Mike Scott, were my roommates at the 1992 US Olympic Track & Field Trials in New Orleans. I have to admit that Paul was impressed by the fact that I somehow scored a room at one of the official meet hotels near Poydras at a rate cheaper than the group rate charged to credentialed folks attending the meet (I saw an ad in USA Today for a "Summertime Special" promotion & didn't bother telling the hotel we were really there for the meet).

I will miss the fact that Paul did a lot for the track & field and running community in the Pacific Northwest.  He was a friend to many athletes, officials, administrators, and media involved in the sport.

A memorial will be held at Lake Oswego United Methodist Church, 1855 Southshore Blvd., Lake Oswego Ore., Wednesday at 2 p.m. (Pacific Time). In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Paul's name to the Melanoma Research Foundation or the Lake Oswego School District Foundation.

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