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Ed Austin is retiring after 60 years of firing the starting gun at track meets

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Ed Austin, 87, has fired a starter’s pistol so many times during his 60 years as a track and field official that he is grateful for earplugs.

He estimates he will have fired off a “boom!” more than 20,000 times when he retires as a starter later this season.

Austin, who became a starter in 1957, will be working his final Arcadia Invitational on Saturday night at Arcadia High School. And if anyone deserves a standing ovation for his commitment and devotion to track, it’s him.

He graduated from San Fernando High in 1948, where he ran track. When he became a starter, he had no idea he’d still be doing it 60 years later.

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“My big joy is working with young kids,” he said.

Asked to reveal the secret to his success in performing his task, Austin said, “Stay loose. My goal is no false starts. If you do your job right, you won’t have any.”

He’s seen track change from running on dirt to running on all-weather tracks; from using stopwatches to using video cameras for timing.

Through it all, Austin has been the man wearing the red hat and red coat who gets the race started by raising his pistol and firing to let the runners go.

He has one remaining wish.

“I hope I make it through this season,” he said.

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High school track and field

What: Arcadia Invitational

Where: Arcadia High School

When: Friday night relays: 4:30 p.m. to 10:10 p.m. Saturday Open session: 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday Invitational: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Tickets: Friday, $9; Saturday, $18.

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