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Second Vollmer Invitational Paid Tribute
By: Kevin Milsted

Ask those who knew Jim Vollmer through track circles what kind of man he was. You are not likely to hear about what a soft and gentle man he was, although he was said to be those things in his family life. Rather, Vollmer's track & field acquaintances are more likely to tell you that he was intense: intensely passionate, deeply caring, and a little loud. His personality was one that made an impression.

"He kept everybody laughing at practice," said Watkins Mill head coach Bryant Adams.

"He was very welcoming when I first got here. He was all about track...I mean just an all-around track junkie."

Vollmer passed away suddenly due to a heart attack in 2014, and two years later his memory was still very fresh on the minds of many people. In 2016, Coach Adams named the new Watkins Mill spring track invitational and its signature 1600-meter races in Vollmer's honor.

"It was unfortunate to lose Jim the way we did, and we miss him," said Bryant.

Vollmer was the commissioner of officials in Montgomery County for 32 years and head starter at the MPSSAA state championship meet. He recruited a majority of the men and women officiating track & field in Montgomery County today. Warren House, one of the officials on hand for this year's Vollmer Invitational, spoke of Vollmer as a mentor.

House recalled, "Jim approached me at one point probably about 15...16 years ago and said, 'Warren, you know enough about track. I'd like you to be a starter. Are you interested?' I said, 'Yes.' We had training sessions and Jim was my mentor so I followed him around."

House described Vollmer as a "unique individual" that was "very, very intense" and "very knowledgeable at track."

Prior to this year's Vollmer Invitational, which saw nearly a doubling in team participation, House and fellow meet starter Doug Edwards collaborated to carry on a tradition that Vollmer started long ago.

"One of the things he did...was in the distance races: 1600, 3200, he would provide to the winner of the championship meet the shell that was actually used to start the race. The kids absolutely loved that and in fact they still talk about receiving that shell. We've carried that tradition on."

That tradition was typical reserved for the state championship meet, but House and Edwards decided that it was fitting to apply that tradition at the meet named for Vollmer. In a subtle gesture probably missed by most spectators, House presented the shells to the 1600-meter winners: Chris Thoms of Quince Orchard High School and Samantha Facius of Mount de Sales High School.

If you are like me, you are suddenly spending more time at Watkins Mill in the past six months than in the past five years combined. Participation increased in Watkins Mill's second Wolverine cross country invitational last fall and at this spring's Jim Vollmer Invitational. Watkins Mill hosted Seneca Valley's Screaming Eagles Invitational two weeks ago when Seneca Valley needed an alternative venue. Most notably, Watkins Mill will host the Montgomery County Outdoor Track Championships in just a few weeks. None of these things are accidental.

"I come from a family of track junkies," said Bryant. "I don't know if you ever heard of Ed Bowie, but we put on meets all year around. When I first took over the position here, I looked at the facilities, and I said, 'Hey, we can host big meets here. We need to host big meets here.' A lot of coaches around the county said that when this school was built, it was built specifically for that so I just wanted to take advantage of that. Every year, we continue to build. Last year we had 16 teams. This year we have 30. Cross country we continue to build. Next year, we're getting 4A and 3A West [cross country regional meets] here which I'm excited about. Yeah, I'm excited. I just want to keep building every year."


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