MILTON-FREEWATER - An influx of athletes from across the Inland Northwest will more than double the high school population here Friday.
The annual Mac-Hi Carnival of Speed will have about 700 athletes from 24 schools running in a total of 34 track and field events.
Mac-Hi itself only has about 600 students.
"The number one thing about this event is that the smallest or largest school can be a contender. That's the key - the kids think that the bigger schools will have athletes that are bigger, better faster, but that's not true. There are some great athletes you never hear about until they come to a meet like this," said Pioneers head coach John Milleson.
The Carnival of Speed has been on local track calendars for 74 years with boys events, and about 48 years for girls. Until the mid-1990s, only about eight schools competed.
By the time Milleson took over seven years ago, it had grown to a consistent 10-15 schools.
Now, he's at more than 20 schools every year, and the record is 825 athletes.
And without recruiting, 24 schools signed up this year.
"This is a big meet," he said. "It's a family meet. People can come together, meet old friends, coaches can share tricks of the trade. A lot of people have been coming forever and they have it on their calendar every year."
Keeping track of the schools and athletes is no easy feat.
Each school can have up to two athletes per event and each athlete can be in up to four events. With activity everywhere, a crew of 40 to 60 volunteer judges - some with no prior track experience - is needed.
"They're unselfish in giving their time away," Milleson said of the volunteers. "Without them this event wouldn't happen. They're indispensable."
Although there has been confusion regarding specific rules and judging at events, it's usually solved without issue, he said.
"The coaches know that these are community volunteers who take time out of their lives to be here, and they're appreciative," Milleson said. "If they see something that doesn't look right, they stop and are very helpful about it, nobody gets mad about judging. If we can't get volunteers here, there's no event."
Students from past Mac-Hi track teams also help at the event, as well as Milleson's assistant coaches.
Those volunteers help the coaches and keep the scores, but the event is ultimately about the students.
"These are all good kids," Milleson said. "We've never had a problem at the track facility. They've always been appropriate and well-mannered. It's fun to host a meet when you've got kids like that - you know you're looking at the future."
There are 17 events for both boys and girls, and multiple heats within the events, ranging from the track to field to jumping pits. Trophies are awarded for the high-point boy and girl of the day, but not for school points.
"There's never a lull in the action," Milleson said.
Proceeds, including team fees and gate admission, go to the Mac-Hi track and field team fund and maintenance costs for the track itself.
Admittance is $3 and the gates open at 10:30 a.m. The event runs until it's over, usually about 6 p.m., although there's no concrete ending time. Attendees should be mindful of the weather, though it's unlikely the event will be cancelled, Milleson said. Blankets and rain gear have been needed in the past.
Teams attending from Oregon are McLoughlin, La Grande, Weston-McEwen, Umatilla, Riverside, Stanfield, Pilot Rock, Irrigon, Heppner, Enterprise, Sherman, Powder Valley, Joseph, Ione, Imbler, Echo and Arlington.
From Washington, DeSales, Walla Walla Valley Academy, Asotin, Colfax, Riverside Valley Christian and Waitsburg-Prescott will be on hand.
Moscow High is Idaho's lone representation.