Dowell to officiate at Olympic Trials

Lane Dowell will be the head official for the hammer throw competition at the USA Olympic TeamTrack and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Lane Dowell will be the head official for the hammer throw competition at the USA Olympic TeamTrack and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals


Staff writer

Lane Dowell’s list of accomplishments might be longer than the distance he can throw the hammer. Ask him, though, and he’d choose not to talk about himself.

But add one more accolade to the list; Dowell was recently elected head official for the hammer throw competition at the USA Olympic Team Track and Field Trials in Eugene, Ore. for the third consecutive time.

The trials, scheduled for June 28-July 6 at the University of Oregon’s famed Hayward Stadium, will determine who represents the United States at the World Olympics. Approximately 15 men and 12 women are expected to be selected for the hammer throw.

Dowell predicted the level of competition to be extremely high, with a trip to the Olympics on the line. Nike will pay the top six finishers as well.

Eugene is a track and field hotbed and the Olympic trials are expected to draw upwards of 15,000 spectators.

“The University of Oregon is one of the prime track venues in the country,” Dowell said.

Dowell, who also was the 2000 Official of the Year and 2005 winner of the Horace Crow award, was elected head official by the National Selection Committee. As part of his duties, Dowell will organize, manage and work alongside his crew which includes officials from New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Hawaii and Kentucky.

Head official is undoubtedly a high honor as nearly 500 nominees were considered.

“It is rewarding, because, to stay at this level (of officiating), it takes a lot of work,” Dowell said. “It has been a lot of fun.”

Though happy to be such a large part of the sport, Dowell wants to see track and field, especially the hammer throw, reach the next level. And he thinks it starts with officiating.

“Better officiating equals better competition,” he said. “The hammer throw will be a second-tier sport until the officiating changes.”

Currently, the vast majority of hammer throw officials are volunteers and lack the experience necessary to officiate at a high level. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) pays nine officials at the three annual state meets, but all other hammer throw events are officiated by volunteers.

“Bless their hearts (the volunteers), but the caliber of officiating drastically needs to change,” Dowell said.

The most participated in high school sport, Dowell believes track and field should have paid, qualified, trained officials like those of baseball, basketball and football.

“It doesn’t make sense that the sport with the most student participation doesn’t have the same officiating guidelines as other sports,” he said. “And there is no clammer to change it.”

Dowell uses the “if it’s not broken don’t fix it” adage to describe the general attitude toward the current state of hammer throw officiating.

“But that’s a real inequity,” he said.

Dowell teaches throwing-certification courses in Seattle and hopes more qualified officials will become available for the sport.

In the meantime, however, Dowell says he’s blessed to be where he is with the sport. And as a long-time official, he is quick to point out that the sport is all about the athletes.

“We love the kids, we love helping the sport,” he said.

When the Olympic trials begin in June, Dowell and his crew will fly under the radar and will ensure its athletes a well-called, competitive event. “We want to make competition safe, be accurate on the rules and provide a rhythmic competition,” he said. “The best officials are those forgotten after the game.”

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