Gunslinger for hire: Wright is packing heat

Attention parents of all RISD students. I feel it is my duty to inform you that the man that oversees all that your children do—is packing heat.

Okay, it’s a starter’s pistol and it’s full of blanks, but that’s besides the point. You could still put an eye out with that thing.

Like most men who reach the position of superintendent, RISD’s own Dr. Howell Wright has dabbled in sports (until he wised up and got out) on his way up the educational ladder and Dr. Wright’s speciality is as the official race starter at track meets.

The job is an important one and a good one can find himself in high demand. He can also demand a fee of $200, which Dr. Wright does not.

Wright found himself as the center of attention Friday at the 52nd running of the Rockdale Relays, which this year experienced a resurgence with 14 schools, up from six in 2009.

RISD Superintendent Dr. Howell Wright is also an experienced track meet starter and is shown here peforming that duty at the Rockdale Relays Friday. Reporter/Bill Martin RISD Superintendent Dr. Howell Wright is also an experienced track meet starter and is shown here peforming that duty at the Rockdale Relays Friday. Reporter/Bill Martin More teams, more races, more fun.

Lest you think Dr. Wright is a thinclad novice, before he took his current desk job, he was a track coach for 18 years.

Wright trod the track at places like Douglas, Huffman, New Waverley, Trinity, Burkeville and Canutillo.

He’s a starter because he enjoys being around the atmosphere.

“I really, really enjoy it,” Wright said. “I like being out there with all the athletes.”

The starter’s job literally puts him right in the middle of things and Wright doesn’t mind handing out some advice to those who seek help.

“I try to teach while I’m out there,” he said. “They ask me questions and I try to give them some pointers that will help them do the best they can.”

Wright was a track athlete himself in high school. Showing some speed, he ran the 100-yard dash, the 440-yard dash and also participated in the long jump.

“I wasn’t a very good athlete, but I ran against some great people,” he said.

There are different kinds of starters: some who have an itchy trigger finger and then those who leave you in the blocks for what seems like an eternity.

Wright sees himself as a starter who adjusts to whatever race is being run.

“It just depends on the race,” said Wright. “If it’s a long stagger race, I’ll hold them a little longer so everyone has a chance to hear the commands.

“But I also like to vary it, so they don’t get used to it, that’s where your scratches come in.”

Wright pointed out that during Friday’s Relays is the most he has ever had to restart races. Starter’s pistols were shooting off like fireworks, well into the evening.

However, that comes with the territory and the large number of athletes wandering around Tiger Stadium Friday, reminded some of the good old days when meets were overflowing with teams.

And having their superintendent present must have sat well with the Tigers, having captured their own meet for the first time in eight years.


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2010-03-11 digital edition



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