Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Over a year after a fatal shooting, Ingraham High wants to retire track meet starter pistols

Someone with long grey hair, wearing an orange jacket, fires a pistol into the air. There's smoke around the barrel. The hand that's not holding the pistol is holding what appears to be a timing device, lighting up. In the background, athletes have begun to sprint.
David Jaewon Oh
Ingraham High School
An official starter at Ingraham High School fires a pistol on May 24, 2022.

It’s been more than a year since a student at Ingraham High School shot and killed 17-year-old Ebenezer Haile, another student.

Students and staff are healing at their own paces. Loud sounds, like a slammed locker door or a popped balloon, still bring back memories.

But the worst is probably the starter pistol fired at track meets outside. It "sounds like somebody's firing a gun on campus," said Mike Wentzel, the school's athletic director, sitting in his office just thirty feet from where the shooting happened.

"That crisp, loud, instantaneous shot sound from a gun triggers the timing system. So that's how it starts timing our athletes," Wentzel said.

Replacing the guns isn’t so simple. A trumpet or airhorn won’t work. It needs to be precise – a 100th of a second of difference can determine who qualifies for the next round in state or district competitions, Wentzel said.

The school could buy an electric buzzer system, but the district doesn’t have the money. But track athletes, staff and students want to stop using guns — so now, students and parents are fundraising to buy systems not just for Ingraham, but also the three other fields where Seattle Public Schools athletes compete.

They’ve already raised over $6,000 of the $27,000 dollars they need. There has been some pushback.

"Some people have tried to minimize that experience and say that, you know, 'you're not war veterans,'" said Saeran Dewar, a senior and co-president of Ingraham for Gun Safety, a student advocacy group formed after the Uvalde shooting in Texas in 2022.

"When you've experienced a school shooting, you'll go about that differently. And you'll have a different attitude towards it," Dewar said.

Wentzel hopes to have the new systems up and running by the start of spring track meet season.

Scott Greenstone is a former KNKX reporter. His reporting focused on under-covered communities, and spotlighting the powerful people making decisions that affect all of us throughout Western Washington.