Remembering Warren Martin and his vast contributions to South Jersey track

It was an annual tradition during Penn Relays. I’d wander out of Franklin Field and walk over to South Street, across the bridge over the railroad tracks, down the steps outside Penn’s Naval ROTC building, along the access road that runs parallel to the Schuylkill Expressway and over to Penn’s River Fields complex to the javelin area. I’d walk over toward the circle and invariably Warren Martin would find me and fill me in on everything I missed while he was officiating the event.

It would go something like this: “The Eastern  kid threw 189-5. That’s his best throw this year. The Hazleton kid is in the lead with a personal-best 196-2. He did that on his first throw. The junior from Delsea is in 4th with a 185-8. Over at the college jav, South Carolina is sitting in first and second, but watch out for Rhode Island thrower. He had a 258-foot throw on his first attempt but it was out of the sector. The high school girls jav should be starting around 1, and the college women around 2. What else do you need to know?”

 That was Warren. He answered every question you had and a few you didn’t even realize you had.

Warren Martin, a long-time educator in the Cinnaminson school system and one of the most respected track officials in New Jersey history, died this past weekend in his adopted hometown of Key West, Fla.

If you ever attended a track meet in South Jersey you know how much Warren cared about the sport and how much he put into it. From working local relay meets in South Jersey to officiating at Penn to training cadet official candidates, he was deeply committed to track and field, and he was one of those officials who never forgot that the sport is all about the kids. Warren was an expert on every event, but the throws were his true love, especially the javelin. Nobody knew the javelin better than Warren, and South Jersey has such a rich history of great javelin throwers – including U.S. Vince Labosky and Curtis Thompson – and Warren has been around for all of it.

Warren was so happy when the Burlington County Open many years ago instituted an annual award given to the top male and female thrower each year, an award given in the name of Warren’s late wife Phyllis, who was equally committed to track and field. Back when I was covering track for The Burlington County Times, I’d get to Maple Shade for the Open every year super early – like 7:30 a.m. – to set up my laptop and get situated and walk around and chat with people. Warren would always come right up to me and ask me to keep in mind on who the top throwers were. Never mind that we wouldn’t have to pick the winners for another eight hours, he was that excited about the award. And the kids that win it always really appreciate the award because throwers don’t get the publicity that sprinters and distance runners and hurdlers get. A throwers award is unique. When I announce the Open I always get a special kick out of announcing the Phyllis Martin Award winners because it always means so much to the kids and to Warren. It always amazed me that even after Warren moved to Florida he would still fly up here every May for the County Open to hand that trophy to Burlington County’s best throwers.

Warren was inducted into the South Jersey Track Hall of Fame and the Burlington County Track Hall of Fame and was honored by the NJSIAA for his years of service to track and field. I’m sure there were numerous other honors and awards. This is a unique sport. The people who spend their lives devoted to track and field do it out of a deep love for the sport, and nobody loved it more than Warren Martin.

He’ll be deeply missed by everyone he made an impact on, and that’s pretty much everybody involved in South Jersey track and field over the last 50 years.

 

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