AHS senior Alex Franklin posts a sign in downtown Ashland promoting the return of All Comers Track Meets on two Monday evenings in July at Ashland Middle School. [Andy Atkinson / Daily Tidings]

Taking it to the track

Alex Franklin was only about 5 years old the first time he lined up shoulder-to-shoulder with other runners and felt his heart race as he waited for the sound of the gun. It was the Ashland All-Comers Track Meet, circa 2006, and Franklin was set to run the 200-meter dash — quite a stretch for a little guy still working on his ABCs, but Franklin was excited.

He was excited because at the All-Comers, his speed would be put to the test in front of parents, peers and official-looking adults and teenagers with measuring tape, megaphones and ribbons. And he was excited because among his opponents that day was his friend, Ian Rinefort.

And though Franklin, now a 16-year-old senior-to-be at Ashland High School, doesn’t remember every detail about what happened that July night at the AHS track, he most certainly remembers what happened next.

“I beat him,” Franklin said, “and that was kind of a big thing for me because he was fast.”

Eleven years later, Franklin and Rinefort would make up half the Ashland High School boys 4x400-meter relay team which placed third at the OSAA Class 5A State Track & Field Meet, May 20 at Hayward Field in Eugene — Franklin ran the third leg and Rinefort the anchor. It was an epic day for the longtime friends, but for Franklin the long road to the Hayward podium began more than a decade prior at Robert W. Julian Track & Field, which is why he’s decided to revive the All-Comers Track Meet for his senior project.

“Basically, the only thing I’m worried about is a lack of people showing up,” said Franklin. “Everything else I basically have got planned, as long as people actually commit to their word and help out. Sometimes that doesn’t always happen.”

The meet, last held in 2010 before a lack of volunteer support forced it to be discontinued, is free of charge and returned Monday and will be held again July 24 at the Ashland Middle School track, starting at 6 p.m. The All-Comers, as its name suggests, is designed to accommodate all ages with an emphasis on youngsters, and will include running events from the 50-meter dash up to the 1,500 and four field events — the javelin toss (using foam javelins), the shot put (softballs), the long jump and the high jump.

All the events will be judged for places and measured by a cadre of volunteers Franklin has managed to round up — those who would like to pitch in can call Franklin at 541-324-7962 — and ribbons will be awarded to first- through sixth-place finishers (others will receive participatory ribbons). Though Franklin has taken the lead in reviving All-Comers, the meet director is none other than Robert W. Julian, aka Bob Julian Sr., the man who started the All-Comers some 30 years ago and for which Ashland High’s now closed-down track is named after.

The event’s purpose, consequently, is twofold: to foster a love of track and field while bringing the community together; and to raise awareness for the AHS Track Restoration Fund, whose goal is to raise $500,000 by the end of summer to replace the AHS track surface and foundation. The track has been closed since a risk management company determined it was unsuitable for use May 17. The fund has brought in $315,000 at last count. Those who wish to contribute can visit and click on the “Restore Ashland Track” icon.

— Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.

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