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Special Flag Flown Over Track Meet
The Riverbank High track and field team surrounds the flag pole at the south end of Angelo Novi Stadium on the RHS campus after a track meet on Wednesday. Coach Monte Wood gathers in the commemorative U.S. flag that flew on a helicopter mission over Afghanistan and was provided to the school by 2006 athlete and graduate, Tony Winstead. Ric McGinnis/The News

A former Riverbank High School student and track athlete arranged for a special honor at the school’s new all-weather track this past week.

“On Tuesday (April 12), 2006 RHS alum and former track athlete Tony Winstead had his wife deliver an American flag to me,” explained head track and field coach Monte Wood. “Tony is currently deployed in Afghanistan flying Blackhawk helicopters. I was scared for a moment that something had happened to Tony, but she reassured me that he was okay. She presented me with a flag that flew with him in his helicopter on a mission in March.

“I was honored and humbled to say the least.”

With the flag presented on Tuesday, and a home track and field meet scheduled for Wednesday, Wood said it was fitting to utilize the occasion.

“We decided as a coaching staff that we would fly that flag at the stadium during our meet to honor Tony and the other RHS alumni that have served or are serving in the armed forces,” Wood explained.

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, just prior to the meet, both Riverbank and Hughson teams gathered at the flag pole.

“I said a few words about how we may battle in competition, but the reality is that there is a war still being waged, and we are all on the same team,” Wood said, adding that he went on to add, after the flag was raised, that he wouldn’t be singing the National Anthem.

“Here is where it got really good. One of Hughson’s coaches said, ‘Hey, we have some guys who will sing it’,” Wood noted. “Four Hughson athletes stepped forward and their quartet sang the Star Spangled Banner with both our teams gathered around the flag pole. It was a powerful moment.”

Then the track meet went on as scheduled, with the Riverbank boys defeating the Hughson boys in a dual meet for the first time in four years. The Lady Bruins, however, came up just a bit short.

“After the meet was over, we gathered at the flag pole, talked and took the flag down,” Wood said, pleased that the flag was flown over the TVL meet.