Long-time coach and official Wulf Stender has given nearly 50 years to track and field
He’ll turn 72 next week, moving about better than ever with a new hip, but images of young German track star are still far off in the mind’s rearview mirror. Yet, if there’s a track meet going on in this town, chances are Wulf Stender’s close by.
© — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
After a car-crash in 1963 all but destroyed German-born Wulf Stender’s hip, putting an end to his budding track and field career, he turned his attentions to coaching athletes and officiating track and field competitions throughout the province. At 72, Stender continues to do so with no signs of slowing down. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
His competitive career came to an abrupt halt in 1963, when a car accident left him with a crushed hip, major reconstruction and a six-month stay in hospital.
The injury launched a new career, in coaching and officiating, one that’s lasted over 40 years.
He’s either coached or served as an official at five Canada Summer Games — including the 1977 St. John’s Games — and 13 Royal Canadian Legion national youth championships. He’s been to every province in Canada with track and field, and has made “about 1,000 trips to Mount Pearl,” where the current Pearlgate facility serves as the only true-blue track and field facility on this end of the island.
He ran the Westerland Track Club for 30 years. That club operated out of the Aquarena until the adjacent track — which had been used for the ’77 Canada Games — was turned into a parking lot. And he was the man behind the Macdonald Drive Junior High club for a number of years.
Though his specialty was coaching, Stender was — remains, actually — heavily involved in the officiating end of things. He worked the recent Hershey youth meet, which drew 661 competitors to Pearlgate, one of the biggest meets staged in Newfoundland.
“As a coach,” he said, “you also have to help officiating. We are always short. Right now we desperately need more officials.
“But my satisfaction was seeing kids develop through coaching. I took anyone, whether or not they had potential. My belief is there’s always a chance for improvement, even if the kid is very slow.
“I hope at my 80th birthday I can still help.” Wulf Stender
“Even when I was officiating,” he said, mending nicely from his Jan. 28 hip-replacement surgery, “I made the athletes aware of their mistakes. So I was always coaching.”
Track and field, needless to say, was and remains part of the Stender family’s fabric. His two children, Jennifer and Mark, both competed. Mark, in fact, still holds the record for the fastest time in the 100-metres, in 10.9 seconds (both Stender kids, by the way, are doctors: Jennifer a St. John’s GP, and Mark a Halifax sports medicine doctor who conducts bypass surgery three times a week).
Wulf Stender would like to see more young Jennifer and Mark Stenders coming up through the ranks, but acknowledges that without a dedicated track and field facility in St. John’s, it makes the possibilities just a bit more difficult.
“St. John’s should have a track,” maintains Stender, who will be at the finish line for Sunday’s Tely 10, helping out wherever needed. “St. John’s will soon will have to host the Newfoundland and Labrador Summer Games. If you host, you need to have a track. You can’t say we have track in Mount Pearl. No, we need a track in town.
“We lost the Canada Games Park after 10 years. There was no maintenance done. We lost King George V Park after 10 or 12 years. We need a track facility. There are almost 200,000 people here. And no track.”