Mr. Track and Field
Teeters has been helping out at prep meets since 1974
With his straw hat, khaki shorts and wrap-around shades, Dennis Teeters looks like he should be on the golf course.
But on this Saturday, like most springtime Saturdays, he can be found at Stocker Stadium spending time with kids.
Actually, since 1974 Teeters has been helping run track and field meets.
“I think it’s just a great opportunity to watch kids compete,” Teeters said, giving the simplest and most concise reason why he’s been coming back for the past 40 years.
In 1973, Teeters came to District 51 to teach and coach junior high in Fruita. He then went to Grand Junction High School to teach for six years, and he also was an assistant basketball and football coach. After a two-year stint at Fruita Monument, he became the District 51 athletic director in 1984. He held that position until 2000, when he retired at a young 53.
“It was just time to retire,” Teeters said in his usual understated way.
But he’s never run from his duties running high school track meets at Stocker Stadium. On Thursday, he was hard at work at Stocker getting it ready for the annual League Championship meet.
It’s not work or a job for Teeters, it’s something he enjoys completely.
Back in 1974, Mickey Dunn, the longtime Grand Junction track and field coach, asked Teeters to help run the meet. The two became great friends, with a love of track and field uniting the two in their friendship.
But Teeters wasn’t much of a track guy in high school. He played basketball and football, and he played one year of basketball at Western State College in Gunnison. Before Gunnison he went to a junior college in Illinois where he dabbled a little in the high jump and triple jump in track. The Illinois native eventually graduated from Illinois State.
Now 66, Teeters has been as much a fixture at high school track meets as a relay baton. And he always points to the kids for what keeps him coming back.
“I think it’s just a great opportunity to watch kids compete. It’s a very demanding sport and the kids work hard to be good track athletes,” he said.
Teeters is part traffic cop, part juggler and full-time Dennis-of-all trades at the meets.
He said he will fill in as the official race starter on occasion for Fruita Monument Athletic Director Denny Squibb, and Doug Jones, but mostly he gets things organized.
“Controlled chaos” is how Teeters describes organizing a track meet. But he said it’s pretty easy because of the number of guys who, like him, have been working the meets for decades.
He calls people like Grand Junction Athletic Director Ned Pollert, Squibb, Jones, Phil Wertman and many others “all-stars.”
“All of those people are just all-stars and committed to track and field and to the kids,” he said.
Pollert in turn says Teeters is the all-star.
“It all starts with his passion for track and field,” Pollert said. “It really shows in the quality of the meets we have. We host some of the best meets in the state, with 500 to 800 kids who come to those meets, and it’s such a great experience for those kids.”
Good pre-meet preparation is vital to making sure things run smoothly.
“The most hectic time is 30 minutes before the first race, making sure everyone is where they need to be, and everybody has everything they need,” Pollert said.
Once the meet gets going, all of those other longtime volunteers run the show.
Pollert, who has worked for District 51 for 35 years, said Teeters makes working track meets easy and fun.
Teeters said the most important thing is to help out the young athletes.
“We need to double check on the kids, especially early in the season, because those kids are so nervous,” he said.
It’s always heartbreaking when there’s a disqualification, dropped baton or false start, he said.
The appeal of track and field to Teeters is it’s a sport for everyone, with a variety of events for a variety of body styles.
Of course, he’s seen lots of changes in his 40 years at the track with advances in technology being the most obvious one.
“We used to have three guys with stopwatches at the finish line to get the top three finishers,” he said.
Then there’s the track, which has gone from cinders to a high-tech surface.
And every year he sees the improvement of many athletes.
“It’s interesting to watch them as freshmen and sophomores, and then when they are juniors and seniors (they have improved),” he said. “Like that Chuck Bisbee kid (Fruita Monument senior distance runner), it seems like he’s been running out here forever.”
What doesn’t change, though, is the way the kids make the sport special.
“They still want to buckle up, play hard and play to win,” he said.