When Pat Viernes was running track in college in the Philippines, the athletes were barefoot and went off of cinder blocks. Now, he takes pleasure in working with kids on the new, rubberized track at Vidinha Stadium and working on the county’s enrichment programs.
Just last week, he and colleague Dave Walker, ran the Kaua‘i Hershey Meet where he measured the long jump distances and served as a starter for the races.
Viernes has also been a starter of races for the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation track and field meets.
This week, Viernes will fly to Maui to be one of the official starters for the Island Movers Hawai‘i State Track and Field State Championships.
“Ever since I started here, I’ve never seen them get someone from the Neighbor Islands before,” he said. “I take it as either a compliment or nothing really. It’s a simple thing.”
This is an opportunity that almost didn’t happen.
Hawai‘i’s USA Track and Field administrator Gordon Scruton was on Kaua‘i in March to hold a track officials clinic, but Viernes couldn’t attend. But Scruton knew he was in need of a starter.
Scruton then called Jon Kobayashi, the athletic director for Waimea High School and coordinator of the KIF track meets.
“Jon called me and told me I’d been recommended to go to states if I wanted to,” Viernes said.
Viernes called back and said he was interested. It became official that he and two other officials would be the starters for states.
“Now, I’m going to states,” he said.
Viernes has a fondness for track. He used to run the 100 and 200 Meter Dashes while in high school at the Vintar Academy and then ran the 400 Meter Run while attending the Ilocos Norte School of Arts and Trade.
The 58-year-old, who now lives in Hanama‘ulu, moved to Kaua‘i in 1968. He worked in the plantations for 17 years before leaving them.
“I heard that the plantation was closing, so I asked to leave,” Viernes said. “Then I got the job at the recreation department and I’ve been with the county almost 21 years now.”
Viernes works with the parks and recreation programs, which is how he got involved with the track meets.
“What’s fun is the kids who came to me from the programs before, now they’re bringing their kids to me,” he said. “The cool thing is they remember me. They say ‘Are you the guy with the gun?’”
The gun, of course, is a regular track starting gun.
Viernes can be found working at the Lihu‘e Neighborhood Center. The state championships are this Friday and Saturday on Maui.
Hometown: Born and raised in the Philippines
Occupation: Lihue Neighborhood Center manager
Viernes sounds off
His favorite county-sponsored recreation event: “I guess the summer programs. That’s when all the kids come out. You meet the younger kids. You see the older kids coming back.”
What he likes most about his job: “What’s fun is the kids who came to me from the programs before, now they’re bringing their kids to me. The cool thing is they remember me. ”
On Kaua‘i’s Hershey Track and Field Meet: “I like working with the kids.”