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Behind the starting gun: WIAA State Track

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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WXOW) – In its 30th year, the WIAA State Track meet is just as big as ever at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse, and it takes a lot of work to make it all happen. Work that over 700 volunteers and officials don’t hesitate to take on.

On the meet’s first day, preparation begins at 7 a.m. But for one official, preparation is year-long, as it has been for a long time.

Mark Dahl starts off each race with a bang as the man behind the gun.

“You bring them to their mark. You make sure they’re all settled in their blocks. You call set. You get everybody up and you fire the gun. You start the race,” Dahl explained.

Dahl is one of five starters that get the state track competitors into their ready positions.

“It’s all out guts from there. And the kids have just improved tremendously over the years,” Dahl said.

A West Salem native, Dahl was selected from a pool of local officials based on coaches evaluations at the end of the regular season.

“Mark is chosen to do this because he works well with kids, he does a lot of preventative officiating, and he’s a positive person,” said G-E-T co-head track coach Matt Wenthe.

“I was selected from all of the different officials,” Dahl said. “It’s an honor really. It’s an award. Really it’s a bucket list.”

A bucket list item Dahl hits year after year, all the while getting to know every local team a bit better.

Of the 30 years the WIAA State Track meet has been in La Crosse, Dahl has been involved for 19. He plans to come back again next year as well.

Amber Meyer

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