Frank Rohm has been coaching track and field at the high school and college level for 35 years, and he’s never met athletes like those on Orcas.
“There are incredible kids here. They are some of my all-time favorites,” said Rohm, who has helped lead Orcas High School’s first track team. “They are resilient and positive. We go to track meets off the island and they are like, ‘yeah, this is what it is.’ They deal with it so well. They have a great work ethic and a really nice culture of caring about each other.”
Orcas Island High School welcomed its very first track and field program to the spring sports season. In 2015, Phyllis Henigson and her late husband Bob donated $1.2 million to the school district to build and maintain a track. The project was completed in the summer of 2020 but the echo of students’ footsteps pounding the polyurethane didn’t occur until this spring.
“Once we came out of COVID and the school board voted on it (creating a track team) in January, it’s been a rush to pull things together,” Rohm said. “We’re moving towards the end of the season and it’s gone really well.”
Track and field is an individual sport that includes foot races, jumping, throwing and pole vaulting. It is considered one of the oldest athletic competitions.
Team members are Kairam Bailey, Bethany Carter, Ava Dahl, Forest Frausto, Meriel Griffith, Soli Halabisky, Wylie Haug, Andrew Garcia, Guillermo Sagara Iglesias, Logan Jones, Justin Krisch-Derr, Ryan Krisch-Derr, Diego Lago, Remy Lago, Robin Limbach, Malia Martinolich, Olive McKenzie, August Moore, Ethan Moss, Finn Ontjes, Max Peterson, Finn Rubottom, Will Stephens, Henry Walker, Porter Willis and Theo Vaccarella.
Carter, who is a discus thrower, and triple jumper Diego Lago are both ranked third in the state. A number of Vikings on the team are ranked number one in the district. Those who make it into the top six at the qualifying meet on May 18 will head to state playoffs.
For the past five years, Mike Kulper has helmed a cross-country team for the school. He came on board as the head coach of the track program but has had limited involvement due to health issues.
“We do have members of the cross country who are on the team but there is also a cross-section of students who have no background in it all,” Rohm said. “A lot of the kids who were in cross country are actually not long-distance runners — they are sprinters or discus throwers. The sport itself of track and field allows kids of all different athletic skills and body types to find their place.”
Rohm and his wife, who are former teachers, have been visiting Orcas for the past two decades. They moved here from Idaho after the pandemic and purchased Clever Cow Creamery. In addition to Rohm, the athletes have been coached by islander Jon Hane, the youth pastor for Orcas Community Church.
Teachers Kelly Carpenter and Jennifer Johnston have launched a middle school track program, building a strong base for future teams.
‘Track and field is different from any other sport here because it takes a lot of people to run a good track program,” Rohm explained. “If there are people on this island who have a background in track and want to learn more and help us coach these kids, we need all the help we can get. Even if you don’t have a background and just want to help, reach out. For a long-term program to flourish it takes tremendous effort.”