2018-05-17 / Sports

Garland meet carries on namesake’s lessons

By Kelsey Pease
of the Enterprise staff


BRUCE GARLAND was known for his iconic white cowboy hat and dedication to the Suttons Bay School community. BRUCE GARLAND was known for his iconic white cowboy hat and dedication to the Suttons Bay School community. Track teams from Benzie, Frankfort, Glen Lake, Mason County, and Traverse City St. Francis gathered at Suttons Bay last week, but it wasn’t just to compete. They ran, hurdled, jumped, and threw in memory of Bruce Garland, for whom the Garland Relay Meet is named.

Garland passed in 2011 following a long battle with cancer. The event was designated as his namesake long before that, though, dating back to when he retired in 1996. It had been known as the Suttons Bay Invitational.

After his retirement, Garland didn’t leave the school, though. He attended every home meet and volunteered as a meet clerk. To protect himself from the sun, he started wearing a white cowboy hat. Retired Glen Lake coach Paul Christiansen recalled, “The kids would ask where to check in at, and you’d just point down the field to his big white hat.”

A memorial scholarship was started in Garland’s honor, recognizing male and female graduates from Suttons Bay with the highest GPA that participated in at least two sports. This year’s recipients will be announced next Thursday, May 24, at the Senior Awards night.

The Garland family connection to Suttons Bay dates back to 1968, when Bruce was hired as high school principal. “The day we found out, we had to look up on a map where Suttons Bay was,” recalled his wife, Darlene Garland.

From his first day to well after his last day working at the school, Garland held many different titles.

In Christiansen’s view, Garland is a forever fixture at Suttons Bay. “He was always there, with a smile on his face,” Christiansen said.

His many titles included — but were not limited to — principal; science and English teacher; athletic director; basketball, football, and track coach; game manager; and even bus driver for sports.

“He was a jack of all trades,” said Terry Ebright, who coached with Garland for 17 years and was clerking at the meet last week. “I think it’s great that the event honors Bruce for all he did for the school.”

His contributions to Suttons Bay fill a long list.

One such endeavor was getting the track paved. Suttons Bay was the first team in the area to have a paved track, before even Traverse City. The Norsemen hosted some of the biggest meets of the season, including Regionals and the Record Eagle Honor Roll Meet that Garland and his wife played a key role in starting 44 years ago.

“It was a meet that Albion College used to do, sponsored by the Adriane Daily Telegram,” Darlene Garland said while volunteering at the meet last week. “Bruce and I thought it would be a great tradition to start up here and so we had the editor give the owner of the Record Eagle a call to arrange it.”

Darlene said one goal of the meet was to provide recognition to athletes from smaller schools.

“Oftentimes, these young athletes are left out, even if they’re faster than those at the bigger schools,” Garland explained.

Retired Suttons Bay Athletic Director Cheryl Knudsen couldn’t say enough about Garland’s dedication. “He did anything you asked him to do - work the gate, manage games, it didn’t matter,” she said. “As long as it was for the kids.”

The sentiment was echoed by her daughter, Traci Kelly, a 1995 graduate of Suttons Bay who was coached by Garland all four years of high school. Now a track coach for Benzie Central High School, she was at the meet with her athletes last Thursday.

“He was one of the most encouraging, calm people I have ever met,” she said of Garland. “You could have a terrible race and he was always able to find something good out of it.”

As a coach, Kelly keeps Garland’s lessons in mind. “He showed me that there’s always a spot for every kid. It doesn’t matter if they’re the fastest or the slowest. Every single one plays an important role on the team.”

The Garland meet emphasizes that priority by combining the times, distances, and heights for the top two finishers of each team.

Glen Lake coach Jason Bradford said the event is one his team always looks forward to. “It’s fun because you really have to strategize when deciding which athletes to put together in events.”

In Bradford’s opinion, knowing that their performance will have such a direct impact on their teammate adds another element of motivation.

Despite being short on numbers, Suttons Bay had a strong showing by their boys in the discus, as has become customary for this season.

“Zach Morton and Caleb Smith took second place with their combined distances,” said Suttons Bay coach Jeremy Fenske. Individually, Morton threw 109 feet, 3 inches, and Smith threw 104 feet, 3 inches, placing second and fifth, respectively.

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