Batavia resident Mike Powers gained induction into the Illinois Track & Cross Country Officials (ITCCOA) Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Bloomington last month. ITCCOA brass tried to make the move a surprise, but Powers proved to be ahead of the curve. A track official since 1984 – a year in which he moved on from Morris to St. Charles High – Powers began his teaching and coaching career in Pecatonica in 1977, and has been at West Aurora since 2006. He plans to retire as a math teacher at the end of the school year but remain as a Blackhawks assistant coach in charge of the offensive line and special teams. He’ll always be game to talk track, as he did with Kane County Chronicle sports reporter Kevin Druley in the latest edition of the Weekend Chit-chat. Here’s an edited transcript:
When did you learn of your induction?
They tried to surprise me with this, and I guess I kind of knew back at the state cross country meet. They tried to surprise me with all this, and it just didn’t work out. The Hall of Fame committee got together and I guess the middle of November, I actually found out. ... I’m very excited to be part of this Hall of Fame. We’re a fairly young association, and I’m very humbled to be part of that elite group.
Were you expected to feign surprise, then?
In the past, we’ve never tried to surprise anybody, but I wasn’t expecting this at all. I’m just two years out of being president of the association, and it usually takes a bit longer than that to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. … About 10 members of my family were going to be there, but with the poor weather conditions, just my brother showed up. He’s from Le Roy.
To what extent does your career blur together?
Yeah, it’s all gone so fast, it’s seemed like. I’ve done a lot at the high school level, some at the college level. I’d like to do more at the college level. We’ll see where it goes. Right now, I’m kind of focused on the mentoring program that goes on with our officials. We’re trying to work our IHSA officials with USATF officials, that’s kind of where I’m hanging the hat right now. There’s a clinic we started five years ago that’s coming up at St. Charles East on Jan. 25 that’s trying to target first-, second- and third-year officials. ... We’re trying to find ways to keep our officials, to get them track meets. We’re trying to ask ADs, will you hire a second official? .. It’s not like football where you have five officials or basketball where you have three officials. We’re happy to get one and glad to get two.
Do you feel like you’ve seen about every corner of Illinois track?
Came from a small high school [downstate Oakland] and it kind of evolved. Everything kind of happens for a reason. I guess you could say I’ve found something I’m very excited about, very passionate about. You go back 10 years ago, 15 years ago when I got involved in the association, I’ve gotten more involved. ... It’s the best thing I’ve ever done is join that association and become a leader.
What spurred you to track officiating?
I didn’t see myself as a track official years ago. I kind of enjoyed being a track coach. It kind of worked out that one day at at track meet at St. Charles, I was a timer. I was a little bored as a coach and I found as an official, there’s always something to do. This was back in 1984. I go, ‘This is a no-brainer.’ I had a couple opportunities to get back into track coaching. I was already coaching football and basketball and had a family and went with the track officiating, then.
How many hats do you wear at given meets?
Most of our officials think they’re going to be just a starter. … You have to know everything about everything, that’s what we’re trying to get across to our new officials. … When I’m not on the track starting at the state track meet, I’m in the pole vault pit [for the boys].
You did the Buck Drach shuffle, going from St. Charles East to West Aurora. Coincidence?
Buck asked me to go with him, to coach football there. This is my eighth year there and Buck’s retired from teaching and coaching. I’ll be retired from teaching but not from coaching. I’m pretty excited to be getting back in the Upstate Eight at West Aurora.