- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 6, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Many of the athletes have come and gone over the past two decades but one staple in masters track and field has been its voice, Pete Taylor.

The announcer is a virtual encyclopedia of facts and figures on nearly every one of the approximately 1,400 athletes aged 30 and older. At least that’s what the Fairfax resident would like people to think.

“To be honest, people think I know everybody at the meet but the truth is that I only know some of the top people,” Taylor said. “I cover myself.”

Taylor, 61, has been calling races since the 1980s, when he offered his hand and his voice at the Philadelphia Distance Run. By 1987, he became lead race announcer for the 7,000-member Broad Street 10-miler, and already was calling club events as president of the Philadelphia Masters.

Since 1996, he has missed one indoor nationals (last year Boise, Idaho.) And that, he says, was because of massive hemorrhaging three to four days before the meet.

That longevity and commitment has become appreciated by athletes and spectators alike and has helped make Taylor, who says he got started in the profession by accident, the voice of the sport.

“Am I a genius?” he said. “No. But I generally keep track of things. I’m clever. I have a full-time job, I read history [particularly about the Civil War]. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on masters track.

“The key was when I realized I was asked to do these meets and I’d better learn about these people in the meets.”

The former runner is now a publications editor for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with an expertise in chronic diseases such as Type II diabetes. He appears to have a photographic memory at that job, too.

“People at CDC say my memory is impeccable,” he said.

He certainly recalls his announcing history with ease.

He was given the microphone at the 1993 Eastern Regional Masters meet at Cornell University, a role that led to a trip to Buffalo to announce the 1995 World Championships.

“The officials there said we wanted an American announcer so we don’t have to pay to fly somebody in from Europe,” he said between calling the steeplechase races here last Friday. “I actually announced a Worlds before I announced a Nationals.”

Taylor doesn’t receive much for his role, but he does it out of his love for the sport.

“At Boston [indoor nationals last March], I was reimbursed for travel and for my hotel,” he explained. “And then I received $200 for the three days to pay for my meals and [incidentals]. Of course that doesn’t go very far.”

So over all these years, what was Taylor’s best play-by-play?

Without hesitation, he says the 1996 Greensboro (N.C.) indoors, with Bic Stevens and Ron Johnson in the M50 400 meters.

“I did a ping pong because neither guy would let the other go by,” he said. “I was saying ‘Stevens, Johnson, Stevens, Johnson, Stevens’ and with 40 meters to go, Roger Pierce was hiding behind them. And at the last moment, I said ‘And here comes Roger Pierce and I think he won it.’ It was a quick dramatic change and Pierce had won by 0.01 seconds, hitting the deck at the finish. I had chills going down my spine.”

According to his many fans in the sport, he is not the only one who gets the chills.

Masters nationals — The record temperatures have wreaked havoc with the schedule since the meet began on Thursday. Kudos to North Carolina State Emergency Management for shutting down the meet between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday because of the excessive heat index. According to meet director Gordon Edwards, that directive affected all outdoor sports activities in the state, including high school football practice. That certainly was not the case the week before during the Junior Olympics in Baltimore, where teenage kids were running the 3,000 meters in the mid-afternoon swelter.

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