Milwaukie's Wayne Sabin continues lifelong track and field love affair
Milwaukie's Wayne Sabin got bitten by the track and field bug at a young age.
"I was born a track and field nut," Sabin said. "I guess it started with the ribbon that I got when I won a 50-yard dash at the Kiwanis picnic when I was in the third grade.
"I was always a runner, I always loved to run, and I just fell in love with track and field. And I still love the sport."
Today, at age 84, and despite suffering a stroke that temporarily forced him to the sidelines two years ago, Sabin continues to feed his passion for track and field as a thrower with the Portland Masters Track Club.
Sabin scored two silver medals, two bronze medals, and placed fourth in another event during Saturday's 2017 USATF Northwest Region Masters Track & Field Championships at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.
Sabin was second in the hammer throw with a mark of 64 feet, 10 3/4 inches, and second in the 15-pound weight throw at 28-7 3/4.
He also took third in the javelin with a season-best 49-10 3/4, and was third in the discus (49-2) and fourth in the shot put (23-7 3/4).
"I'm not doing as well as I used to, but just being able to compete is life-giving," Sabin said. "It's something that I look forward to, because I don't know how much longer I'm going to be able to do it. But as long as I can do it, it's really rewarding just to be alive and be there.
"It's so nice at my age to be able to participate at such places as Hayward Field in Eugene. Gosh, that's an honor to be able to throw down there, even though my marks pale in comparison to what usually happens in Eugene."
Sabin is a 1952 graduate of Springfield High School, where he played football and ran track, and at one time held the school record of 51.2 seconds in the 440-yard dash.
"It was a pretty good time back then, running on a cinder track," said Sabin, who was classmates with Bill Dellinger, the three-time Olympic middle-distance runner and legendary men's track coach at the University of Oregon.
Sabin went to college for two years at Portland State and lettered in both football and track for the Vikings. He then transferred to Oregon where he graduated in 1956 with a degree in health and physical education.
After college, he took a job as a hgh school teacher, first in Cascade Locks where he worked for three years from 1959-61. He then went to Germany where he worked for 30 years, teaching physical education, science and math, and coaching track and field.
In 2003, Sabin was back in Oregon and living in Milwaukie when he got a phone call from Larry Norris, a former athlete who he had coached at Hiedelberg High School in Germany.
Norris was living in Springfield and was preparing to compete in a masters track and field meet in Silverton.
"He said, 'Hey, coach, I'm going to run in the intermediate hurdles and the half mile. Come down and see me,'" Sabin said. "So, I did. It was the first time I'd seen a masters competition, and I saw these old guys throwing the shot and discus, and I said, 'Well, I can do that.'"
Running, he said, was out of the question.
"I couldn't run," Sabin said. "If I'd had to run to get away from a fire, I probably would have gotten burned. I couldn't run, I couldn't jump … I couldn't do anything but throw. So, I feel in love with the throws."
Sabin started throwing everything -- shot put, discus, javelin, hammer throw, weight throw, and super weight throw -- and developed into one of the region's top throwers in his age group.
In 2014, at age 80, he set the American masters 25-pound super weight throw indoor record in the 80-84 age group with a mark of 29 feet, 6 3/4 inches during the USATF Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships in Boston, Massachusetts.
The record still stands.
"Setting records is the icing on the cake," Sabin said. "It's really nice to be able to hold a record or set a record, but that doesn't happen too often."
Sabin's masters career took an unexpected turn on the night of Jan. 4, 2015.
He had spent the evening with friends in Portland and said he got home at about 10 p.m.
"I felt kind of funny and kind of sick," Sabin said. "I felt I was going to pass out and before I could make it back to my bedroom, I fell. My wife Shirley was asleep and I couldn't talk because I'd lost my voice and I wasn't able to move, at all. I was just frozen. It was that bad."
He spent the next 10 hours on the floor.
"I was conscious the entire time," he said. "I didn't know if God was going to come pick me up or if He was going to send an angle. I knew it was going to be one or the other.
"It wasn't until 8 a.m. that Shirley came in and said, 'Oh, my gosh, honey, you've had a stroke.'"
Paramedics with the Clackamas Fire District #1/Station 4 on Lake Road answered the 911 call and transported Sabin to Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas.
He spent three days in the hospital, then went to Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Northwest Portland for two weeks, and then back to Kaiser to start three months of physical therapy.
Sometime near the end of those three months, Sabin got the urge to grab a discus and toss it around -- just to see if he could still do it.
"I didn't want to let go," he said. "I could have very easily said, 'Well, I'm finished. Let's just forget about it.' But I took it as a challenge.
"You know what Jimmy Valvano said: 'Don't give up, don't ever give up.'"
Sabin usually works out for about an hour on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at East Side Athletic Club in Milwaukie, and then practices his throws on Tuesday and Thursday at Alder Creek Middle School.
Instead of 14 meets a year, he has cut back to six or seven.
Most of his throws don't go as far as they used to, but many of his top marks this season in the shot put, hammer throw and weight throw still exceed the USATF masters All-American standards for his age group.
What is it that keeps him going?
"It's the fellowship," Sabin said. "It's not so much about the medals, but more what the medals represent -- the fellowship that I have with other masters track athletes.
"I really prize the camaraderie that I have with my track and field friends."
Sabin has two more meets penciled in on his 2017 calendar -- the Sept. 3 Mid-America Region Masters/Open Track & Field Championships in Pueblo, Colorado, and the Oct. 13-15 Nevada Senior Games in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"You know, I'm having so much fun with it, I think I'm going to take advantage of any time I can get the experience," he said. "I'm going to keep working out and staying in shape. It means that much to me."