By Rick Conrad For the Pharos-Tribune
---- — MONON — At the conclusion of the North White cross country invitational on Saturday, NWHS athletic director Mark Woodcock presented a Royal Center man a plaque for his years of service as an IHSAA cross country and track official.
It was 55 years ago that Harold Gray made the decision to become an official and has been going strong ever since.
Several months ago though Gray gave thought to hanging it up at the end of this season.
“I originally was a track and baseball official but after a little while I decided to do without baseball because there wasn’t as much bending to it like you do when you’re behind the plate. So I decided to go this route instead. I just enjoy the kids. I enjoy the competition. And the kids are just amazing,” said Gray.
There have been many changes since his inaugural season back in 1959-60, admitted Gray.
“The uniforms have obviously changed quite a bit since then. They’re a lot more flashier now than before but the biggest thing is the kids are so much bigger, stronger and faster than what they were all those years ago,” he said.
Gray also said a big change was when distance went from the English to the metric standard.
One of the things that Gray takes pride in during his tenure as an official is being called to work the 1987, 1988, 1989 and 2011 state finals.
“I remember that in 2011 we had six new records set in 103-degree heat. Those kids put on a performance that day,” said Gray.
Gray also says that even though he’s been doing this for several years his schedule remains full.
“This one is over now but I have the Caston and Logansport invitationals coming up and I have three or four individual meets coming up, even though they don’t have too many dual meets anymore. I do have to limit my activities because I am getting a little older.”
He admitted that he wouldn’t have been able to be at this as long as he has if it weren’t for his wife.
“She’s been the town librarian in Royal Center for over 40 years now and she has been very supportive of me all these years.
In concluding, Gray stated that the thing that has kept him coming back all these years is the kids.
“I don’t care if it’s the first kid in or the last, these kids are just amazing, they’re super. And I’m not talking their athletic ability during a meet. They’re all just well-mannered, fantastic kids. He or she doesn’t have to be the best athlete, I just enjoy so much being around them and watching them all compete. And as long as I enjoy them and I’m capable, I’ll continue officiating.”