The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
There will be at least one familiar face at College of San Mateo when the school hosts the 2014 U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships June 20-22.
Gary Dilley has been a face of the Peninsula track and field scene for the better part of three decades. As a former competitor, coach, administrator and general “track helper,” Dilley is willing to do whatever it takes to have an event run smoothly.
“I’m just waiting for (CSM track coach Joe Mangan) to tell me what to do,” said Dilley, who served as the school’s athletic director from 1988 to 2006, and who also coached the track program for several years in the 1990s.
Dilley has been a fixture in the long jump pits for a long time and he expects to have a similar position next weekend.
“I think I’ll be in charge of the pits,” Dilley said. “I rake the sand really well.”
By the time the meet concludes, the athletes will hope to have similar face recognition. There are two sessions scheduled for first two days of the competition and just one, 9 a.m. to noon, on Sunday, June 22. The first day, Friday, June 20, will go from 8 a.m. to noon and then again from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday’s first session will run from 10 a.m. to noon, with the second from 3 p.m.-6 p.m. The early sessions will be primarily used as preliminary races, while the afternoon sessions will have the various finals.
The national championships are the biggest event in a non-Olympic year and the best in nation will be at CSM’s state-of-the-art facilities. Highlighting the competition is Tatyana McFadden, who may be the biggest name in the sport and is making her U.S. Nationals debut at CSM. She is a 10-time Paralympic medalist since 2004, including three gold. She became the first woman to earn six titles at one event — the International Paralympic Committee Athletics World Championships. She is the first female athlete to win four major world marathon titles in the same year, winning the women’s wheelchair division in the 2013 London, Boston, Chicago and New York City marathons.
Two years ago, she took up Nordic (cross-country) skiing and captured the national title at the U.S. Adaptive Nordic Skiing National Championships and has five top-10 finishes in the first three world cups of her Nordic career.
Ivonne Mosquera-Schmidt is a T11 class (visually impaired) Stanford University graduate by way of Philadelphia and one of the top paratriathlon athletes in the world. She also competes on the track running any and all distances from 800 meters to 5,000 meters.
Steven Toyoji is originally from Redmond, Washington, but now lives and trains in San Francisco and the Bay Area. As one of the top wheelchair racers in the country, he was a 2008 Paralympian in Beijing and took silver in the 2013 IPC Athletics World Championships in the 400-meter sprint.
David Brown, a visually impaired sprinter from Chula Vista, is the “fastest para-athlete in the world” having set world records in the 100 and 200 this season in the T11 class.
Jarryd Wallace, a junior at University of Georgia, is a two-time world champion in the T44 (lower limb impairment) class, and who will be hosting a 11-year-old Bay Area boy whose leg was recently amputated. Wallace will give him the VIP treatment for the weekend.
As a longtime proponent of the sport of track and field, Dilley knows the benefits of smoothly-run events and the people who run the meets at CSM tend to be some of the best. It’s that ability to properly host a track event that has seen CSM host the Peninsula Athletic League and twice the state meet California Community College Championships.
The facilities are also well known among the throwing community to be one of the best venues to for the javelin, shot put, discus and hammer throws.
“It was our anticipation this facility would be used for big events,” said Dilley, who helped oversee the renovations of the CSM facilities from 2005 to 2007 that saw a synthetic-turf field and a track surface that most competitors — including para-athletes — prefer.
“The ‘Mondo’ track, they’re smoother. It’s a faster surface for (the para-athletes), so they prefer to have that,” Dilley said.
When organizers were looking for a venue, it turned out College of San Mateo was the perfect place. Not only does the school have world-class facilities, the local track and field federation is a top-notch, well-run organization.
“[The United States Olympic Committee] came to us, looking for a Mondo track and they wanted to host on the West Coast,” said Fred Baer, CSM sports information director, and who is heavily involved in the local, state, national and international track scenes.
George Rehmet, meet director and para-athletics chairperson for the Pacific Association of the United States Association of Track and Field, said many of the officials who will work the Paralympic national championships have worked on several, large events at CSM in the past.
“Most of the officials are local and most have worked [track events] at CSM,” Rehmet said. “We are bringing some officials from Southern California who work with para-athletes. There are some quirks to having para-athletes competing (of which officials need to be aware).”
While the U.S. Paralympics Track and Field National Championships will definitely help the profile of CSM and the surrounding communities, Dilley understands what it means to the athletes to have a first-rate experience at the national championships.
Dilley told a story during which CSM, in the 1990s, twice hosted the Little People of America National Games and the reaction he got from people following the event.
“People told me afterward, that just to help out at an event, to serve the needs for the little people, was a life-changing event,” Dilley said. “In our abled-bodied lives, we oftentimes look past the needs of those with physical disabilities. When you’re helping put on an event … it gives you a huge sense of admiration for the endeavors of Paralympians.”
Rehmet said those Pacific Association members and other volunteers for the event are just as excited as the athletes.
“For most us, we’re volunteers,” Rehmet said. “We do it for the love of the sport and we’re thrilled to host the national championships.”
Rehmet said he is still looking for more volunteers to help run the event. Those interested in helping can contact Rehmet at firstname.lastname@example.org.