41st Dick Dei Track Classic Set for Saturday

WHEELING — The Dick Dei Track Classic has come a long way in its 41 year history. The annual event at Wheeling Park High School has seen its high points and there have been years when the meet was in a bit of recession.

However, once April comes, one thing is for sure– track fans from all over Ohio and West Virginia will see premier competition. The 41st annual event is set to start at 9:30 a.m. Saturday with the field events. Running events will start at 10 a.m. with boys 110 high hurdle preliminaries.

Sean Dei, son of Dick, helps organize the meet and has seen a lot of changes with the meet in recent years, including adding girls to the meet in 2013. The Dick Dei Classic is definitely back on the incline as schools have been put on a waiting list to compete. Also, Sean Dei said they’ve received some inquiries from schools in Virginia and Maryland.

“Word has spread, even though we kind of regressed, we spent a few years regressing from the recession,” Sean Dei said. “Now we’re building back up. People are starting to see that the Dick Dei is not going anywhere and a lot of this success is driven because of our corporate champions, the commitment of the administration, but also the men and women who volunteer and that give a lot of their time and effort in their labor to help this thing. It says a lot.”

The competition level looks to be championship caliber as a handful teams that won the state championship in 2017 will take the field. For the girls, Wheeling Central, which won the West Virginia Class A state championship last year, will run along with Class AAA champion, Morgantown. On the boys’ side, Dayton Dunbar will make the journey to Wheeling after winning the Division II title in Ohio last year, along with Hedgesville, who won Class AAA in West Virginia.

Beallsville, Bellaire, Brooke, Canon-McMillan, Claymont, Cleveland Heights, Dayton Pointz, Dayton Meadowdale, John Marshall, Martins Ferry, Musselman, South Harrison, Spring Mills, Weir and Wheeling Park will also be represented.

“Really we can’t complain,” Dei said. “Weíre probably going to have a combined 34 teams from not only here in the Ohio Valley, but also throughout Ohio and the Eastern Panhandle. There’s definitely going to be a lot of competition here. We talk more and more to some of these coaches, we can provide some dialogue with a lot of competition coming through.î

The individual competition will be at state championship level as well.

Dei mentioned that if the weather cooperates, an audience could see four or five athletes go sub-11 seconds in the boys’ 100.

“That’s one of the things. As (Wheeling Park boys and girls track coach) Bryan (Arbes) took over the program, he and I talked and the first thing I always said is ëYou’ll never ever be my father. Donít try to be my father,íî Dei said. ìBut what you can do is continue to do what he did, along with Coach (Bernie) Dolan, Chris Daugherty, is do what they all did. Go and find the competition. I think this meet helps programs get ready for May. Track season, youíre not trying to win in April. Youíre trying to win in May and for the Ohio schools, youíre trying to win in June. And they will tell you, that they come out of here better.î

Arbes, who is in his second year as girls’ coach, and first year as boys’ coach knows how meaningful this meet is.

“The Dick Dei Track Classic is a common term in the Ohio Valley every spring and is the keynote to our regular season while honoring one of the best track coaches to ever coach in the Ohio Valley,” Arbes said.

One new aspect of the event this year is each winner of every event will get a T-shirt. The winner will get a cardstock and will get a shirt printed for them. Just like in years past, the top six in each event will receive plaques as well. Also, each student-athlete will receive a cinch bag.

There will be about an hour long intermission, where the Honorary Referee Ceremony will be held. This year, Bernie Dolan will be recognized.

After Dick Dei’s last track season in 1989, he entered into administration in the fall. Dolan took over the reigns as head coach. In 1990 and 1991, he helped guide the boys’ track team to two straight state runner-ups and in 1995, he led the Wheeling Park girls to the state championship.

In the Fall of 2002, Dolan entered administration and was athletics director and assistant principal for six years. He then become principal at Wheeling Park for four years and was assistant superintendent of Ohio County Schools for three years.

In July 2015, Dolan was named as the Executive Director of the WVSSAC.

“Coach Dolan, if he was sitting here right now, he’s always been close to our family,” Dei said. “He was on my father’s first team in ’77, his state championship team in ’78, his state runner-up team in ’79. He was an assistant of my father, succeeded my father and they were in administration together and ultimately, my father retired, Coach Dolan continued his progression. He’s always been really close to the family and just a good man. He gives a lot and gave a lot. When he and I talked about when we were going to honor him, he truly was honored because when he took the program over, one of the things my father always told people is, ‘You can’t be me. Be yourself. Put your own footprints on the program.’ He definitely put his footprints on it.”

Sponsors for this years meet are Pepsi, who have been with the meet since its inception and Dominion Energy. The bag sponsors are Sheetz, Louis Financial and W.Va.-Ohio Motor Sales Wheeling Mack.

Also, through the generosity of WesBanco, Jividen Law Offices and West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, they will feed the coaches and all the volunteers to help run the meet.