“The kids keep me young.” After five decades, Iowa track legend Jim Patterson will retire from starting

Published: Apr. 19, 2022 at 10:40 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - When Jim Patterson take out the starting gun, the stadium is silent.

Jim, or Mr. Patterson, as he’s known on the track, has demanded that respect for 50 years. He would have made it 51 had he not missed the 2021 season due to open heart surgery, a hurdle that wasn’t high enough to stop him.

“I was in good shape going in and that helped me,” Patterson said. “I wanted to end my track starting with actually doing the events not coming out of an illness.”

Mr. Patterson was first a gym teacher at Coolidge elementary when he was asked to start a track meet five decades ago.

“And they paid five dollars back then,” Patterson said. “They furnished the gun and the shells.”

He held that job as a P.E. teacher - and a high school football official - until he retired in 2002. But high school cross country and track keeps him in the game.

“I think Iowa track is outstanding,” he said. “Being around the kids, being around the coaches, you meet a lot of nice people.”

Everyone knows Mr. Patterson, including Kennedy activities director Aaron Stecker.

“Ever since my first year in Cedar Rapids schools back in 1999 I was coaching football, he was a football official,” Stecker said. “You can tell he’s a elementary P.E. teacher at heart we need folks him to buy into what educational athletics is about.”

But Mr. Patterson can’t truly stay away. After a summer playing golf, you might find him next spring.

“I will probably come here and be an umpire and do something that does not involve starting,” Patterson said.

You can’t keep an Iowa legend away for long.

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