OTTAWA — On your mark. Get set. Go.
When Barclay Frost of Munster began is full-fledged adventure in track and field more than 60 years ago, no one ever told him to stop. So he didn’t, whether he was a high achieving athlete, a considerate coach or a steadfast official.
While his athletic days as a jumper (high, long, triple and pole vault) and sprinter faded a half century ago and his coaching is now an occasional sideline, the former elementary school teacher continues to thrive as an official, one of the studious people who know the rule book inside out.
At 72, Frost will be back in action next month in Sherbrooke, Que., for his seventh Canada Summer Games, which are held every four years for the country’s developmental athletes in 20 sports. A level-5 judge and referee (the highest ranking in the world) in horizontal and vertical jumps and a member of the Athletics Ontario jury of appeal, Frost will serve as the jumps referee at the Games.
That’s another significant achievement for the storyteller and non-stop adult recreational hockey player, curler and golfer. And there could be more to add to his 46-year career as an official.
While he has officiated at almost every top-level international meet in Canada over the past five decades, including the 1976 Summer Olympics and the 1983 World University Games, he has been shortlisted for the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto and could be at field level for the 2017 world youth championships in either Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal.
If he receives and accepts the world youth assignment in four years, that would be the ultimate way to celebrate his 50th year as an official. And what a time it has been for the enthusiastic Frost, whose memory overflows with intriguing stories from the jump pits.
“I enjoy it. I still get a kick out of watching little kids at meets and the high school kids are refreshing. I like the camaraderie and spirit among the officials,” said Frost, who has been the field referee for more than 30 years at Ottawa high school meets. “It’s in my blood.”
And his family’s as well. His wife Janet is a level-3 official (provincial) in horizontal and vertical jumps. His children Kendra, Kevin and Kirk also have worked at meets.
Frost’s interest in officiating was sparked as an athlete at Lisgar Collegiate Institute. During a high school meet, Frost was denied the senior long jump record because his distance was wiped away before it could be marked by a meet official. He vowed a mistake like that wouldn’t happen again.
But before entering that phase of track and field, there was a time when Frost thought he could be an Olympian. As a youth, he loved to jump over anything. At Lisgar, he was a five-sport athlete and the school’s top athlete in his senior year.
He also went to two Canadian championships, winning a bronze medal in long jump in 1963 in Saskatoon. But a slow-healing leg injury led to his retirement.
He did, however, experience the Olympics as an official. In 1974, he was invited to officiate at the Montreal Summer Games and joined noted Ottawa official Bill Vine and Ed Douglas to gain experience at meets during the next two years. At the Games, he served as the official marker for the men’s triple jump, and assisted with the men’s and women’s high jump as well as the men’s marathon.
Frost was equally thrilled to officiate at the 1988 world junior track and field championships in Sudbury.
“I always get excited measuring a world record,” said Frost, who helped world marks in the men’s pole vault and women’s high jump. “It’s thrilling to see, measure and sign all the papers. It’s also always a thrill to work with the best in the world.”
Frost could speak for days about his experiences in track and field. But the story about his solitary pole vault practice at the defunct R.D. Campbell Stadium as a 20-year-old is a classic.
“I was coaching myself in pole vault with standards that didn’t move and jumping into sawdust,” he recalled. “A guy in a suit watched me. He took the pole and said ‘Do this with your hands.’”
The attentive Frost tried the new technique, but couldn’t clear the bar at 11 feet, six inches. The mystery man made the next attempt. He raised the bar another two feet. Removing his suit jacket and tie and without a warm-up, he cleared that height.
A shocked Frost asked the obvious question: “Who are you?”
The well-dressed man introduced himself as Rev. Bob Richards, the only athlete to win back-to-back or multiple Summer Olympic gold medals in pole vault. Richards was the Olympic champion in 1952 and 1956 and took bronze in 1948.
“I thanked him so much,” Frost said. “Wow, what a night. He didn’t even boast about who he was.”
A few days later, Frost was named the top athlete at an Ottawa track meet. Richards presented him with the trophy for a lesson learned and a job well done.