While their playing days might be over, the lessons Hancock County’s community leaders learned on the sports fields continue to guide them today. In this week-long series, we look back on the positive effect athletics had on their lives.
GREENFIELD — It’s not often human beings find themselves suspended in the air high above the ground, but that’s exactly what happened to Pat Powers during a track meet at Greenfield-Central High School in the late ‘70s.
Powers, a pole vaulter for the Cougars’ track team, had made his run down the straightway of the pole vault pit. He had properly placed his pole into the pivoting slot and elevated high into the sky on that spring afternoon.
Only Powers hadn’t built up enough speed and momentum before planting the pole, and it was only seconds before he came to a scary realization.
“I was just dangling up there,” recalled Powers, now the Executive Director of Hancock County Community Corrections. “But I knew I was going to fall.”
Powers plunged sideways onto the track, landing in lane No. 2. If his free fall wasn’t bad enough, there was a distance race going on at the same time.
“Before I could get up, (the runners) were already there,” said Powers, whose family moved to Greenfield from Lapel when he was nine-years-old. “They had to jump over me and I think a couple of them jumped over my pole.”
Powers didn’t let the bad tumble faze him. He continued to pole vault through his junior year. Powers also played baseball and basketball and ran cross country at G-C. Powers credits coaches Wayne Allen (JV basketball coach), Gary Slunaker (varsity baseball coach) and Dave Willard (assistant varsity baseball coach) for impacting his youth in a positive manner, though the coaches went about it in different ways.
“Mr. Allen was more matter of fact,” Powers said. “Willard and Slunaker had more of a sense of humor in the way they taught us.”
No matter the manner of instruction, the message was similar.
“They talked about what kind of person you wanted to be, how you wanted to act. You didn’t act out,” Powers said. “None of them wanted you to like to lose, but none of them liked the show of emotion on the field or court – there was a time and place for that.”
Powers admitted that philosophy wasn’t always easy for him and his fellow teenagers.
“I can’t say it always worked,” he said with a laugh.
After attending Riley Elementary School, Greenfield Middle School and graduating from Greenfield-Central in 1978, Powers received further education at Western State Colorado University and law enforcement academies in Florida and Indiana.
Powers has been the Executive Director of the county’s correctional facility since 1999. Before that, he was the Hancock County Prosecutor for 11 years.
Spending time in law enforcement means dealing with plenty of unique circumstances. Powers maintains a credo that he tries to follow no matter who he deals with.
“I always start with the idea on how you would like to be treated in the same situation and go from there,” he said.
The lessons Powers gained from his time in athletics have stayed with him over the course of his life, and he’s imparted them on his two sons, Seth, a senior baseball player at Franklin College, and Lane, a freshman at Ball State University.
“I think there are many things you can take from the field or court and use throughout your life,” Powers said. “Discipline, work ethic and a positive attitude.”
Hancock County Community Corrections Executive Director
Education: Greenfield-Central High School; Western State Colorado University (Undergraduate); Indiana, Florida law enforcement academies
Family: Children, Seth (Senior at Franklin College), Lane (Freshman at Ball State)