Ray and Joel Stark at the Washington State Track and Field Finals. Teammates, trackmates and brothers, the Starks work and play together on and off the field. Joel now moving on after graduation leaves the rest of the records for his brother Ray.
ELMA — It is now down to the youngest Stark to make the history books. It has been said that there has never been a set of brothers to win state championships in the same event in the history of Washington State. In the next couple of years, the record books just may have to change. For the brothers Stark, Joel and Ray, a trip to Washington State 1A Track and Field turned into medals and continued the tradition of Stark family track and field wins.
The eldest, Aaron, started the family on the road to athletics when he set the pull up record at Elma Middle School with 56, still a current record.
Aaron inspired Christen, who made his mark in track and field by setting his own records and winning state titles. Christen was both a sprinter and a hurdler and in his senior year helped Elma take a fourth-place state finish as an AA school with two first-place finishes, a sixth- and a seventh-place.
The torch was then passed down to Joel, who has been running hurdles for the past five years and this year won the 1A State 300-Meter Intermediate Hurdles.
“I told my brother Christen that I was going after his records,” said Joel. “He told me that I better beat him.”
Christens’ 300 Meter record still holds, but Joel gave it his best shot and bested the field with his 39.02 time. Christen, as a senior in 2008, took both the 110 meter and 300 meter hurdle events. His 300 meter time was 38.57. Christen ran a 38.47 the year prior in the 300 meter low hurdles and a 38.49 in the 300 meter intermediate hurdles. His time in the 2008 meet is still second-place overall, tied with Robert Hanke of Standwood in 2009.
But the records and state championships are more a family tradition youngest brother Ray is trying to grab onto.
“Joel did run a little bit faster when he was my age, but I am going to stick with the training and I am going to get them,“ Ray said.
The duo have ran track and field and played basketball together for the Elma Eagles for the past school year. And when they are not on the field of competition they hit the weight room to prepare for their athletic season.
“Its not about bulking up,” Joel said. “It’s about building your muscles for the sport.”
“We do squats and straight leg dead lifts, among other exercises that build specific to running,” Ray said.
Their total focus is on the sport to the point of abstaining from things like soda pop during the track season.
“These two are driven, very focused kids, they come from a very supportive family,” Elma track coach Bryan Schneider said.” They have different builds so they compete in different events.”
Even with their differences from Aaron to Ray, the Stark running tradition was set in motion long ago.
“I enjoy track the most,” Joel said. “It’s a family and you make friends for life in track.”
“I really enjoy the hurdles,” Ray said. “I don’t think I could do any other event.”
The Starks did run another event for the 2012 Elma state track team, the 4x400 Relay — consisting of first leg Ray, anchor Joel, Erick Atkins and Chance Bremer — ran to a third-place state finish.
“It’s the Stark Sandwich,” Ray said. They argue as to which one is the pickle in the middle of the relay team: Atkins or Bremer.
With Atkins’ speed and Bremer’s endurance, the Elma 4x400 relay team was always tough to beat during the regular season.
The team will have to rebuild a little going into the next year as Joel heads off to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, another family tradition, and in about a year will fulfill his mission for his church.
“I do not know where I will go yet, they will advise me three months prior to my departure. It could be in the United States or international; it will be for two years. And when I come back I will have to decide about continuing in the Marines or not.”
As well as joining the Marines, Joel this year obtained his Eagle Scout rank, a honor that Ray is on pace to complete next year.
It seems that the family tradition runs deep with the Stark boys, each still in contact with others and reaching out to assist when needed.
“It has been a pleasure working with the brothers through out the years,” Schneider said.
With the last of the Stark boys now advancing into his junior year, Ray, will have the weight of the family on his shoulders alone. And if it is to be that a new record will be set in the hurdling record books, three brothers each taking a State Championship in the same event, Ray will only have two years to solidify the Stark name into history.
No pressure Ray, the family and school is behind you.