Lock Haven HS graduate Mark Heckel dedicated years to athletics | News, Sports, Jobs

PHOTO PROVIDED Mark Heckel (right) is a Lock Haven High School graduate living in Hughesville. The Lock Haven native has dedicated years of service to the sport of track and field, both as a competitor and official.

Mark Heckel was in Charlotte, NC, competing in the USATF Outdoor Masters Championships, but he wasn’t doing as well as he wanted. He shared his frustrations with a 102-year-old hammer thrower.

The gentleman looked Heckel straight in the eye.

“‘What are you going to do about it? Are you going to complain or are you going to do something?’ It was as if I had just been called by a guy who was 102 years old. Heckel said. “So I guess I better do something about it.”

Heckel, 62, has done a lot.

A current resident of Hughesville and a graduate of Lock Haven High School, Heckel has devoted his entire life – though not 100 years of service – to track and field competition as a competitor and official.

After spending 25 years as the competition director of the PIAA District 4 Championships, as well as 20 years as a registered official for the PIAA, the culmination of Heckel’s efforts has reached a new high.

Ahead of the 2022 USATF Outdoor Championships, as well as the World Championships in Athletics, both in Eugene, Oregon this summer, Heckel has been selected to be the Chief Electronic Measures Judge for annual and biennial events. .

It also won’t be Heckel’s first time in Eugene. He has already worked last year at the team’s Olympic trials as head of electronic measurements. Heckel also served in the same capacity in 2008 at the same location and in 2004 in Sacramento, California.

Heckel also worked on horizontal jumps at the New Orleans Trials in 1992 as well as electronic measurement at Eugene in 2016.

“The facility is, you can’t even describe it. It’s just beyond – it’s the finest sports facility in the world, period. Heckel said of the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, noting aspects such as the 5,080-square-foot video panel, barber shop and sauna.

A group of selected officials, directors, and appointees from USATF President Vin Lananna make up the Selection Committee for Nominating Officials, along with representatives from the Eugene Local Organizing Committee. The Selection Committee meets in December to review the nominations and review the recommendations and evaluations of these officials.

They then decide who will work on which events based on the preferences indicated by the individual officials. The committee sits at a table for two days — or in the case of the past two years, virtually — to review each nominee’s qualifications.

As clerk of the selection committee, Heckel prepares these lists and collects data, prepares everything for the community and reports who is selected and for what.

So what are some of Heckel’s other qualifications that earned him the prestigious honor of refereeing?

Three US Olympic festivals, two NCAA Division III indoor championships as an umpire, and one NCAA Division I outdoor championship as Chief Electronic Measurer. Not to mention 12 USATF outdoor championships, five indoor championships, five U20 championships and 30 University of Pennsylvania relay carnivals.

A 1977 graduate of Lock Haven High School and a three-year winner in track and field and wrestling, Heckel went on to train under the late Penn State coach Harry Groves.

Groves, who led the Nittany Lions from 1968 to 2006, won National Coach of the Year five times, Regional Coach of the Year 26 times and was inducted into the Hall of Fame from the USTFCCCA in 2001.

“Harry knew the sport as well as anyone I’ve met,” Heckel said.

Gary Schwartz was Heckel’s throwing coach at Penn State. Between him and Groves, the two poured a love of the sport into Heckel. From college freshman to four-year winner, Heckel credited his two mentors for instilling a fiery passion he has had decades later.

“They have both been instrumental in getting me involved and keeping me involved in the sport,” Heckel said.

A recipient of the 2021 USATF Horace Crow Award for Outstanding Lifetime Service to On-Field Events, a three-time finalist for the Andy Bakjian Award for Overall Service to Athletics, and an NOC President’s Award on behalf of Heckel would confirm it.

Heckel worked for the Big Ten, Big East, Patriot League, University Athletic Association, Horizon League, Ivy League and Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. He also broadcast PIAA Championship games for 14 years for the Pennsylvania Cable Network.

Like the 102-year-old hammer thrower, Heckel’s spirit and passion for the sport has not aged, whether as a competitor or official.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Heckel said. “You can be any age and if the fire is there to keep competing, if the fire is there to stay involved, then do it.”

And that fire burns as bright as ever.

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