SALEM - Wayne Walter-the Reilly Stadium guy-is the official starter for the 2011 Star Trax Night 5K Race at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 9.
Online race registration is available until Aug. 3 at www.salemx-tramile.org. Runners may also register the evening of the event at Reilly Stadium beginning at 7 p.m., but T-shirts will then be distributed on a first-come basis.
The Star Trax course winds through the neighborhoods around Centennial Park, starting and ending in the stadium on Ohio Avenue. A total of 72 trophies will be awarded to the top male and female runners overall, and the top three runners in 12 age categories.
As the maintenance man for the stadium Walter is the first to arrive before every event at the stadium and the last one to leave. On football game days, for instance, he opens the gates at 3 p.m. and turns the last lock after 11 p.m. He's thorough and conscientious in preparing for and cleaning up after events, and dealing with equipment breakdowns during games. "Anything that goes wrong, I'm supposed to fix," Walter said.
But it is the way he deals with students, which goes beyond his job description, that the X-tra Mile Club recognized by selecting him to start the race that typically draws more than 500 runners.
Walter knows nearly every student on every Salem High School team that plays at the stadium and every band member by name. He also connects with them.
Whether it is from his own high school and college athletic career, his experience as the parent of two boys who went on to play college football, or his years as an assistant girls basketball coach for Salem and United schools, Walter somehow seems to know when a teenager needs a quick nod of hello, when they need a wisecrack, and when they need a pep talk.
"Do the best you can for as long as you can," is the philosophyWalter has adopted after several significant health issues, and what he tries to convey to teens when they need encouragement.
"We're so please to have Wayne as this year's Star Trax Starter. He has made such a significant contribution to not just Salemsports, but also the Quaker marching band. I can't think of a more deserving person. Wayne is a good friend and we're very excited to honor him." said Ted Yuhaniak, Star Trax race director.
Walter spent his early years in Wheeling before moving to the area that is now in the West Branch School District. After graduating from Goshen Union High School he attended Ohio University where he played baseball and basketball from 1958 to 1962.
He finished his bachelor's degree in history at Mount Union College. Although prepared to teach, Walter's first job out of college was as plant superintendent at Sterling Trailer. He was the plant superintendent at Paxson Machine and then Electric Furnace Company before becoming a consultant. In 1998, after years as a fan in Salem's bleachers, he took the job as the stadium maintenance man.
Walter's favorite athletes to watch were his sons, Jeffrey and Bruce. Jeffrey, a 1980 SHS graduate, played football for two years at Kent State University where earned his bachelor's degree. He lives in Cuyahoga Falls with his wife, Stacy, and children, Michael and Hannah.
Bruce, a 1982 SHS graduate, played football for one year at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, and three years at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. He graduated from Emporia State. He lives in Canada with his wife Cora and their son Kia. Walter was married for 42 years to Eileen Holtsinger Walter, a 1960 SHS graduate, before her death in 2003.
Star Trax is a fundraiser for the X-tra Mile Club, the booster organization for the Salem High School track and cross country teams. For additional information see www.salemx-tramile.orgor contact Lori and Ted Yuhaniak, race directors, at 330-332-0550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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