Over the past 60-plus years, John Crawford has experienced sports as an athlete, coach, referee, meet director and a fan.
The longtime Pasco High School teacher and coach will have his efforts recognized Wednesday, when he is inducted into the WIAA Hall of Fame as a contributor. The ceremony will take place at the Renton Pavilion Event Center.
“Sports have been a big part of my life,” Crawford said. “Setting goals and achieving them are super important, especially to me. My goal is to have the best events possible. To do that, you have to devote time. If you are going to do something, do it right and hope it comes out OK.”
This is not the first honor for Crawford.
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He was named to the Washington State Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998, and he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2008 Washington State Track and Field Coaches Convention. The track at Edgar Brown Memorial Stadium in Pasco was named after him in 2008.
“John is one of those people who gets things done,” WIAA Executive Director Mike Colbrese said. “He takes a situation and makes it better. He’s made an impact on a lot of lives — kids and coaches.”
That includes Colbrese’s daughter Jennifer.
“She went with me to state cross country for years,” Colbrese said. “She’s now a mother of two. What she learned from John and his love was life-changing for her. He’s a good man with a good heart.”
Last month at the 55th annual Pasco Invite, Crawford announced to the crowd that the meet would be his last as director, a position he took over in 1974.
“The meet tore me up physically and emotionally,” Crawford said of the April 16 event. “It’s hard to give something up you have done for years. I’ve got health issues I have to deal with. I have Parkinson’s. It affects my legs, and I can’t do some of the things I have done in the past.”
But that doesn’t mean Crawford will ride off into the sunset.
“It will be seasonal,” Crawford said. “When it gets to a season, I will see what I can do. If I can’t, I will let them know. I still plan to do football stats in the fall and do some cross country meets. I will be organizing the data for state cross country.”
The early days
Crawford, 74, grew up in Craigmont, Idaho, and attended Whitworth College, where he played basketball for two years.
“Then I got married,” Crawford said. “I wasn’t that good anyway. I had to work and go to school. I did graduate in four years.”
Pasco High School became his first and only stop after college in 1964. He taught math and later added computers to his curriculum.
“Back in the late ’70s, I was doing some part-time teaching for CBC (Columbia Basin College), and I got involved with a couple of guys with the introduction to original Apple computers with tape. Then the 5 1/4 floppy. I got my own computer, and I taught myself. When I got ahold of that original Apple, I saw it could help me do what I was doing in running track meets. I got involved with the original spreadsheets, and I built billions of templates to help with basketball, track and everything else.
“It has been an evolution. I was a math teacher, but I was teaching math half time and computers the other half. And I taught other teachers so they could use them. I retired from teaching in 1994. The next eight years, I continued to work with teachers at the school on computers.”
Crawford developed his own programs for compiling statistics. His programs have had significant impacts not only on cross country and track and field, but also on football, basketball and wrestling.
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“Funny story,” he said. “The first wrestling tournament I did, I was stuck in the girls shower for a workspace.”
Those tools helped him land the state cross country meet in Pasco in 1988 and keep the region up-to-date on area sports.
“Back in 1985, state cross country was in Spokane, and there was a big snowstorm,” Crawford said. “We said we needed to have it in the Tri-Cities, where the weather is nice. The next two years, it was in Port Townsend, and there weren’t any results until Sunday.”
So Crawford made a pitch to the WIAA board and extolled the greatness of using the computer for results. They wanted to know the turnaround time for results.
“I told them 15 to 20 minutes,” Crawford said. “We ran the first state meet in Pasco in 1988, and I hit my expectations seven of eight times. We have created our own little monster.”
Labor of love
Crawford got his first taste of the Pasco Invite in 1965. After taking time off from the event in 1980-81, he returned to work the rest. April marked his 50th year working the meet.
“I started out as a discus catcher,” Crawford said. “The Pasco Invite is awesome. There were four records set this year, and that was awesome. You go back and look at performances, and you have Kelly Blair (Prosser), who went on to the Olympics. Megan Franza is one of the other inductees (Wednesday). She went to Cascade (Leavenworth) High School. I was a small-school athlete, and I keep spots open for some small-school kids. We had the Chelan kid (Jose Padilla) throw 61 feet in the shot put this year.”
With it being his last year running the show at the Pasco Invite, he dedicated the meet to his daughter, Sharon Anderson; son, Steve Crawford; and longtime Pasco wrestling coach and Invite volunteer Gary Hackney.
“It was special to be able to dedicate the Invite to my kids,” Crawford said. “Sharon said she couldn’t remember when they started helping, but they were running papers for me when they were little. Now Sharon has done a lot of computer work and behind the scenes with the packets. It’s been nice to share this with them.”
Crawford and longtime friend Denny Reynolds, who have been working track meets and other events together since 1998, will continue with meets this spring.
“He continues to amaze me,” Crawford said of Reynolds. “He’s a couple of years older than me. He has been my sidekick for cross country, track and football. We’ve gone from the Polaroid system at the finish line to what we have now. It has been fun.”
With all that he has seen and done, Crawford struggles to pick a favorite sport.
“It’s kind of hard to answer that,” Crawford said. “It’s seasonal. When it’s in season, I enjoy doing what I am doing. The rush of state cross country is something you can’t compare to anything. The colors, the runners coming in. It is a real rush.
“I really am a basketball guy. That’s what I excelled in the most. I was really bummed when they took the regional basketball away from us. I still go to a lot of high school games.”
Knowing he has played a part in making the experience a little better for all involved.