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Longtime track announcer Dale Yellowlees continues to leave his mark on the sport

As a kid, Dale Yellowlee had tireless legs and 80 acres to run around.

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So he followed his heart and instincts and ran away.

“I’ve come to realize now as an adult that I’ve been running all day,” says Yellowlees, a Saskatoon track and field athlete. “It was exactly what I did. It was natural. And by the time I got into high school, it turned out to be useful.”

Yellowlees, who lives in Saskatoon, is a longtime track announcer whose resume includes the Commonwealth Games and Canadian Olympic Trials. It’s also his job to fill in the Elite Invitational Field at the Knights of Columbus Indoor Games – finding and importing athletes from far-flung locations for the historic local event.

Before that he trained. And before that, he was an athlete specializing in long-distance events.

“We all did our elementary field day stuff,” says Yellowlees, recalling his earliest days in the sport. “I was always fast enough to be in the race, but there were always four kids who were faster. A kid in my 8th grade said to me, “You know, when you get into high school, they keep walking. I think you would be good at it.”

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“And then it happened — I went to the track in the spring, and it turns out I could keep running and the other kids couldn’t.”

Yellowlees had a notable high school career — including a memorable one-mile run at the 1964 city championships. Yellowlees broke the existing city record by 10 seconds, but still finished fourth.

“A Crossroads Moment”

When he enrolled at the University of Saskatchewan, he thought his competitive days might be over, but then Yellowlees splashed through a great pool of fortunes and circumstances.

He’d gone out to watch an inside school cross-country meeting, watched former high school star Garth Hilderman win by a wide margin, and decided to keep up with the crowd.

The following weekend he ran his first cross-country race, losing to Hilderman by one step.

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The next week he went out to watch another race.

“I heard someone yell, ‘Hey, are you Yellowlees?’ It was Richard DuWors who was the head coach at the U of S,” Yellowlees recalled. “He was from Boston and spoke with a New English accent. I walked over and he said ‘The guys told me someone almost hit Garth last week and we had to come and find out who it was.’ He knew my name because his kid was the same age as me and he told me all about cross country and how to run. I said ‘okay.’

“It was a crossroads. If that hadn’t happened, I might never have done anything in athletics again. It was just one of those moments.

“I went out, ran cross-country, did pretty well, had a mediocre career.”

A few years later, Judy asked Peddle to pitch in for a few hours as an announcer at a local track meet, and Yellowlees — who had experience as a stage actor with articulation, projection, and intonation — agreed. He turned out to be good, and opportunities soon arose.

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Yellowlees performed double duty at this winter’s K of C Games, performing both the announcement and securing the invitation field he recruited. He has the distinction of competing on a bouncy floating floor in the old Saskatoon Arena at the inaugural K of C meeting in 1965.

The place was not designed for athletics. There was hardly any warm-up area, and the smell of hamburgers and grease was in the air.

But he loved it.

“These were great track meetings,” says Yellowlees. “We had no internet and only a few channels on TV. It was the city’s biggest game to win international track and field stars and this place was going to be packed. And when some of our local athletes got good enough to run in these things… it was crazy.

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“There’s a famous one where John Konihowski beat the former world record holder (Curtis Mills) on his stage of the 4X400 relay and you couldn’t talk to the person next to you. People were just crazy about what was going on at the track. People loved their local heroes. It was wonderful. Biggest game in town and everyone had tickets. A really exciting time.”

Runners compete in the 2020 Knights of Columbus Indoor Games Elementary Relays on Thursday, January 23, 2020 at the Saskatoon Field House in Saskatoon, SK. Photo by Liam Richards /Saskatoon Star Phoenix

That atmosphere has since calmed down, but the elemental relays – held in conjunction with the other K of C events – provide a lasting boost of energy. So did Donovan Bailey, once the world’s fastest man, who was a guest at this year’s Games and mingled with those in attendance.

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Meanwhile, Yellowlees keeps hopping. He is on the Board of Directors of the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame and teaches English online 30 hours per week.

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He continues to make his mark in a sport that has lured him since his earliest years and never stopped.

“[Athletics]came naturally to me,” says Yellowlees. “I played basketball and football in high school and was pretty ordinary. But it turned out I was a little bit better than usual (at the track) – I was the best guy in school and I got better as I got older.

“I was the first guy here who decided he had to run 100 miles a week. I did that in the ’60s and at my peak I was in the top two or three juniors in the country at three miles. This is as good as it got.”

But then he coached, announced and coordinated. He was the 2007 Kinsmen Athlete of the Year and was inducted into the Saskatoon Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. That too was very, very good.

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