Leader of the track

Robin Short
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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.

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,

“I’m simply track, track, track,” he says. “That’s my real love ... for over 50 years.”

Oh sure, he’s toned it down a bit. No more are the three and four nights a week away from the house, off to practice, and the two or three weekends every month, every summer, out coaching, officiating and generally helping to organize track meets.

Those were the days when family vacations were set around the local track and field calendar.

“We have grandchildren now, and sometimes we go out to Eastport,” Stender says. “If the family goes out there, you can’t say, ‘I have to stay back for track and field.’ I did that for 25 years. We wouldn’t go because I had to be here to look after the team or officiate.

“But it was never a point where I had to go when I didn’t want to. Never. I love track, and I hope I’ve got another seven to 10 years in me.

“I hope at my 80th birthday I can still help.”

“I hope at my 80th birthday I can still help.” Wulf Stender

Stender arrived in St. John’s, via San Francisco, from Hamburg, Germany in 1962, a young European lad anxious to see the world. He landed a job at Campbell’s Ships Supplies where his ability to speak German and some Russian came in handy when taking orders aboard the foreign vessels down at the harbour.

Though he wasn’t exactly Olympic calibre, he was nonetheless a pretty fine track and field athlete back in post-war Germany, once winning the long jump title at a tri-city (Hamburg, Berlin and Nuremberg) meet.

And when he touched down in St. John’s, he wasn’t long seeking out a track club. That was back when track and field was a big thing in Newfoundland, when as many as 12 clubs would be represented at any given meet.

Continued on next page ...

Organizations: Royal Canadian Legion, Westerland Track Club

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Hamburg, Germany Eastport Canada San Francisco Mount Pearl Berlin Nuremberg Halifax Canada Games Park King George V Park

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Recent comments

  • Mike Gulliver
    November 05, 2012 - 17:17

    Mr. Stender was one of the most positive influnces in my life, just just my track life. His ability to bring out the best person in you is unparralled to any other coach I've ever seen or met. He truly is a legend and has built a legacy that will never be surpassed

  • Bob dyckson
    August 28, 2011 - 19:58

    Robin,great story on mr stender.he was the friendly,interested coach who got me started in track.it was at the old king George v track and he was at every track meet I attended until I retired.he really is a track and field hall of famer.

  • Krissy Dooling
    August 03, 2010 - 09:22

    Thank-you for writing an article about Mr.Stender - he really made a difference for many kids in the athletics community.

  • aaron Murphy
    July 27, 2010 - 11:01

    I ran track for many years in the '90's and competed for Newfoundland in Canada Games and Royal Canadian Legion National meets and National Juniors because of Mr. Stender...great coach and a great sporting family. I live overseas now, but always look back fondly to Westerland training sessions at Pearlgate many moons ago!