Last updated: June 14. 2014 7:39PM - 672 Views
JENNIFER MORRIS Contributing Columnist



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Raymond Sroufe is my father.


If you’re a current or former high school track athlete in the Lima region, you may not know his name, but I’m sure you will recognize the face under the hat.


Dad has been an OHSAA and USATF track official for 30 years. He worked his last track meet (in Ohio) on May 31. He and my mother are moving to Florida to be closer to me. That move is going to be one of mixed emotions. Family has always been most important to him, but so has the Elida community. Dad graduated from Elida High School in 1950 and loves the Elida community deeply.


In that sense, may dad is like so many other dads being honored across the nation on Father’s Day: He is a very humble man who has been a servant and a giver for so many years.


The church he belongs to collects items for a mission in Kentucky. Up until a couple years ago, he was the main delivery man. He’s repaired his truck more times than I can count as he hauled the trailer to and from Kentucky. He’s served as church treasurer, sang in many choirs and quartets, and even assisted in the construction of the building.


During his 30-year involvement with track, he has traveled from Maine to Puerto Rico, and even to the mecca of track, the University of Oregon, just to be an official for this great sport. Track officials spend more money just to work a track meet than what they are paid.


Why?


“It’s just for the love of the sport,” Dad will tell you.


Dad has worked many high school and middle school track meets in the Lima area. He’s also officiated at The Ohio State University, as well as many other Big 10 indoor and outdoor meets. He was also honored to be the finish line official at Ohio Northern University for their indoor and outdoor meets. He especially loved working the Jesse Owens track meet in Columbus and as usual would know most of the participants.


When Dad officiated track meets, he not only recognized the student athletes, but he remembered their parents and their statistics when they were in track. Many times, he would be approached at college meets from student athletes who knew him from their high school meets. And he always remembers their individual events and their performances.


I consider my father one of the track officiating greats. With a minimum of 15 events at a track meet, there are many rules and regulations. My father would “overlook” some missteps from a student athlete, then after the event, he would pull the student athlete aside and explain the misstep, hopeful that it wouldn’t happen again. He was especially kind and lenient with middle school students, most of which had little exposure to the sport prior to this.


Dad began helping out at track meets and learning the ropes while I was still in school in the ‘80s. At that time he was working full time at the Lima BP refinery and also drove bus for Elida schools. He would drive for the great Elida football teams, baseball teams and the EHS band. My father was also a part of the “Chain Gang” for the football team working the sidelines at every home game. In 1994, he underwent a quadruple heart bypass, and sat out for only one game.


That’s what I call a pretty strong and dedicated man.


After he retired from the Lima refinery around 1993, he began officiating track meets on a full-time basis. My family always knew Dad wasn’t available for anything on most weekends from January through May.


The last track meet my father worked was held at Spencerville High School for a district meet. He was explaining to the Crestview track coach that he would be moving to Florida in less than two months. The coach then told my father he could not move to Florida because the coach had always instructed his student athletes to check in with the “guy in the hat” prior to their races.


“Who was going to fulfill that role?” he asked my father as the meet began.


Hours later, at the completion of the track meet, my father hunted down the Crestview coach. When he found the coach, Dad took off his hat and handed it to the coach, saying, “You’ll be the guy in the hat now.”


So many of us are lucky to have been blessed with fathers like Raymond Sroufe. To my dad and the rest of the dads like him, have a Happy Father’s Day.

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