Jerry Slavik founded Windsor’s first road running club and organized its first road race. A co-founder of WRACE, he is an extremely important figure in the city’s running community who played a pivotal role in modernizing race organization and timing practices in our region.
Slavik was born in Blenheim on June 1, 1932. He came to Windsor with his family at six months of age.
At W. D. Lowe Vocational School, which he attended between 1946 and ’50, Slavik played on three WSSA City Championship hockey teams and the 1946-47 OFSAA All-Ontario Championship squad. He was a defenceman. In 1948, Slavik played Junior “B” hockey for the Windsor Spitfires “B” team, which was coached by Jimmy Skinner. He played three further seasons with other local Junior “B” teams.
In football, Slavik played at the centre position. He also played baseball in the Mic Mac League.
Slavik became involved with the sport of running by accident – literally. After an automobile accident in 1967, Slavik suffered a broken hip; his doctor prescribed running as part of his rehabilitation. Slavik took his advice and continued to run in various capacities until 1990, when his hip again began to give him problems. Slavik logged every mile – 31,000 in all – he ran during those 24 years.
During his quarter-century running career, Slavik completed one Boston Marathon and six Detroit Free Press Marathons.
In 1970, Slavik founded the Windsor’s first road running club (the YMCA Road Runners) and its first road race (the Percy Such Run). He is notably a co-founder of WRACE (Walkers and Runners Around the County of Essex), a local organization that stages 40 to 50 races annually. That same year, he founded the Grade School 26-Mile Marathon, an event that ran for 20 consecutive years in Windsor.
Slavik played an instrumental role in WRACE’s development of its sophisticated computerized timing and results system, a photo-based technology that can tabulate the results of any race within 10 minutes of its ending. Today, the system is used extensively throughout Ontario in track and field and road racing. It has even been used at the Pan Am Games.
Slavik, who served on the YMCA Board of Directors from 1970 to ’83, has been consistently involved in organized running events in the Windsor-Essex area. Impressively, he worked the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal as a race official and final results recorder. Slavik also organized the Windsor 100-Mile Team Relay Runs, served as a Race Director for the Terry Fox Run, and organized and officiated the Windsor Rotary Club’s AutoMan Triathlon for over twenty years.
In 1985, Slavik and other WRACE members began to help organize, officiate, and compute times and final results for every elementary and secondary school track and field and cross-country meet in Windsor and Essex and Kent Counties. Slavik was even responsible for timing and results at the SWOSSA Meets.
In 1988, Slavik began organizing and officiating various Canadian Legion track and field meets in Windsor and throughout Ontario. He assumed a greater workload in 1989, when WRACE began organizing, officiating, timing, and tabulating results for the University of Windsor Invitational; the OUAA, OWIAA, and CIAU meets; the St. Clair College Invitational and OCAA Meets; and the Belle Isle New Year’s Eve Run.
In 1991, Slavik began organizing and officiating the timing and results for the Windsor Special Olympics Track and Field Meet. The next year, WRACE did the same for the Windsor Classic Indoor Games for the Physically Disabled.
In 1994, Slavik assumed the responsibility of organizing marshals and officials on the Canadian side of the Detroit Free Press International Marathon, which involves supervising a total of 150 people.
The next year, Slavik served on the organizing committee as Windsor bid to host the 1995 Commonwealth Games. While Windsor did not win the Games, that year he officiated at the Ontario Special Olympics Track and Field Championships in Niagara Falls, the Ontario Junior Track and Field Championships, and the Canadian Junior Triathlon Championships.
Slavik has received numerous awards for his contributions to youth and community sports. Perhaps most impressively, he won the Canadian 125th Anniversary Confederation Medal for achievements on behalf of Canada in 1992. He has also won the AKO Person-of-the-Year Award, the MEDA Charitable Trust Award, the University of Windsor “A” Award, and the St. Clair College Booster Club Man-of-the-Year Award.
At the time of his induction, Slavik continued to organize and officiate an average of 100 events per year.