By CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — More than a dozen candidates applied to become the new race director of the North American VASA.
In the end, Doug Dowdy’s 26 years of experience with the NCAA and running athletic events were what set him apart from the rest.
The VASA Board announced this week it had named Dowdy as its race director, where he’ll be in charge of the 38th annual cross country ski event to be held Feb. 8-9.
“(He’s been) involved in football games to volleyball games to softball, and on and on — sometimes three and four events in one day,” said VASA president Pete LaPlaca. “He’s had large staffs reporting to him and, luckily for us, he moved up to the Traverse City area about a year ago. He’s been involved with the M-22 Challenge and he just wanted to get back to be involved in an athletic event.”
Dowdy, who has worked for BATA since moving to Traverse City in January of 2012, was an athletic administrator for Division I schools such as Illinois State, Delaware State and, most recently, Eastern Michigan.
“All of those years I had a lot to do with event management and preparations, as a result I’ve got a pretty good structural mindset about how to help folks who like to put on events,” said Dowdy. “This is a great event. It has a great tradition here in Traverse City. It’s my hope to assist them in any way I can to make it as good or better than it’s been in the past.”
Dowdy already has started his work as race director and was at a board meeting on Saturday morning, where he’s quickly getting up to speed in preparing for this year’s upcoming races, which include a 6K, 12K, 27K and 50K for freestyle skiers, a 12K and 27K for classic styles, and 6K and 16K traditional-style races, the Gran Travers Classic. This year race organizers have added a King Vasa Fat Bike Race.
“We’re looking for new ideas, always looking for innovations. We thought he’d bring some of that to the table with the events he’s been involved with,” said LaPlaca.
For now, Dowdy doesn’t have any new changes in store.
“It’s too early to talk about those things, even if I had (thought of any changes),” Dowdy said. “We have a lot of tremendous events here in the Traverse City area — the Bayshore Marathon, the M-22 Challenge. A great volunteer base, particularly with the VASA race. If we can get their ideas on making it better, then we’ll implement those when the time is right.”
Ultimately, Dowdy doesn’t see too much tweaking that needs to be done.
“It’s not an event that needs an awful lot of steering,” he said. “There are a great, great group of volunteers who really make this event wonderful. Hopefully I can add to that experience for all the people who participate. The setting, the distances and getting from start line to finish line is a tremendous experience for those participants. That’s certainly not going to change while I am director.”