“Ever since I was in middle school and high school I sort of got involved in track,” Mentzer said. “I worked hard and became a better athlete and went on to college then got into coaching afterward. I just like the sport itself and I like to help out with some meets and make sure nothing dies as far as the meets go. I just love seeing great performances and helping with that opportunity for the kids. I love seeing great races and that competition. It’s such a neat experience seeing a person break a stadium record or a state record or run faster than anyone else in the nation. It’s just fun watching it all happen. I always love the underdog because everyone has a chance to win given the right kind of race circumstances. If you’re in the finals, you have a chance.
“I think it’s one of the most measurable sports because everything is either timed or measured or head-to-head, so I think it’s one of the purest of sports. I just enjoyed racing myself and still do here and there. I just think it’s a great way to give back and help out. I’m just glad I have some skills so that I can chip in. Most of the coaches and race directors appreciate that.”
For over 25 years, that love for track and field, and running in general, has led Mentzer to devote himself to northern Nevada running. After running track and field for Hug High School, for which he is inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame, and the University of Nevada, Mentzer has remained a key figure in the sport as a coach for cross country as well as track and field at Reed High and now as a meet director for numerous prep and community races.
“He does everything for track and field out here,” Assistant Director of the NIAA Donnie Nelson said. “I would say Lynn is part icon and part guru when it comes to cross country and track and field in northern Nevada. It’s not just for high school sports either. He also does so much for the university and the community. If you see a lot of the local road races that go on, he’s in some way, shape or form a factor in that.”
Mentzer is such a large part of the running community that Nelson said he cannot think of one without the other.
“The northern Nevada running community and Lynn Mentzer basically go hand-in-hand,” Nelson said. “He’s a fixture with people and they know who he is by face. I don’t think enough can be said for what Lynn does or his time, his energy and his effort to giving to the northern Nevada running community. He’s phenomenal and he does so much of this out of the goodness of his heart. Volunteerism is first and foremost with Lynn.
“I don’t think you can say enough good things about Lynn and his personality and demeanor or his commitment. We could never do anything that we do without him. He’s not just running results, he’s a meet director too so he has his hand in every single aspect of any meet that goes on. He’s always found a way to give back to the sport. There just aren’t people like Lynn Mentzer in the world. I mean we have a lot of wonderful people who dedicate a lot of time and energy to what we do, but he’s at the very top of the list. If we could create a bunch of Lynn Mentzers around the world, just think about how well things would run. Lynn is the face of the northern Nevada running community.”
Mentzer has spent so much time around the track that former Raiders track and field coach Dave Nolte, who coached with Mentzer, said there is nothing you could ask Mentzer about in regards to running that he would not have the answer to.
“He’s like a walking encyclopedia,” Nolte said. “One thing with Lynn is when it comes to stats, he has a photographic memory. A kid will walk up to him and ask ‘Hey coach Mentzer, what did I run in 1984 in this mile against these schools?’ and he’ll know exactly what their results were. He just has a passion for it. He loves to do the stats and all that stuff. In track he goes around and does all sorts of meets. Bottom line is he’s a good person who just wants to help people out.”
While Mentzer’s knowledge of the sport is unmatched, his praises do not end at the track.
“He’s just a great guy,” Reed Athletic Director Ron Coombs said. “If you need help or ask for a volunteer, he’s the first one to step up.The biggest thing about Lynn is he is reliable and he is professional. He’s the guy that everyone always calls for when they need help because of his expertise and professionalism. He’s a guy we know that we can rely on and we know is always going to be there. He gives up so much of his own free time.
“As a teacher, Lynn cares about his students. He wants to know not only that they are learning but also that they are being successful in every class, not just his. He is just probably one of the nicest human beings on the planet. I don’t think he ever is in a bad mood. He’s just a completely dedicated guy and he’s dedicated to his craft whether it’s athletics or academics.”
Mentzer’s appreciation of and dedication to his teaching goes beyond the classroom though. It is the life lessons that running teaches the individuals who participate in it that Mentzer said makes it such a special sport and will keep him involved as long possible.
“I think it teaches a lot about motivation,” Mentzer said. “When you really get down to it, you have to be a motivated person to succeed in track. You have to go out there and put in the time and be very consistent with it and your hard work. You can’t blame others in track. You get what you put into it. I think that goes into life itself. If you work hard and show it, people will notice it and you’re going to achieve more in life.
“I think it’s a positive way of life. It’s a positive influence on your life. A lot of the people that you are around are good people to be around and end up being good friends. I think it’s a healthy sport too when you think about your health and what it does for your cardiovascular system. It’s a great lifetime sport. I think some way or another I will always be involved in it. I will always enjoy the sport, there’s no doubt about that.”