Gahanna resident Linda Melzer has gone the distance as a track and field official, earning local, state and national honors for her service to the sport.

Gahanna resident Linda Melzer has gone the distance as a track and field official, earning local, state and national honors for her service to the sport.

In fact, her contributions as a field official and attainment of master-level certification have earned her a spot in the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame.

"It has been phenomenal," she told ThisWeek. "Who can say they've lined up (Olympic gold medalists) Michael Johnson and Carl Lewis? If I could do it all over again, I would have started officiating earlier."

Fewer than 50 women in the United States have attained master certification, which requires years of work and officiating at all levels of competition, Melzer estimated.

Officiating began for the 69-year-old when her four children got involved in sports at Walnut Ridge High School and then Bishop Hartley High School.

"When you're one of a few parents who show up, you get drafted to help," she said. "When the kids were in high school, they kept needling me about getting certified."

Classes and written exams are an annual requirement to keep up with rule changes.

"From high school to college, the rules are different," Melzer said.

In addition to officiating track and field for more than 35 years, Melzer has also refereed basketball for 20 years.

"At each level, you're expected to do more," she said. "When you reach master level, you can run an event yourself. I really loved track."

Melzer said she appreciates the variety of events to officiate for track and field.

"I specialize right now in lining them up," she said. "I like that because I get to see everyone." Melzer has officiated at Gahanna Lincoln High School for many years, because she considers it a civic duty to contribute to the place she has resided for the past 15 years.

"I also do city league," she said.

Melzer's officiating resume includes the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, five Olympic trials, many USA Track & Field National Championships, Special Olympics, international competitions such as the Goodwill Games and many Ohio high school championships.

Although she traveled to China for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, foreigners weren't permitted to officiate, Melzer said.

"The Olympic athletes are in a class by themselves," she said. "You enjoy meeting them but it's all business. You can't talk to them during a race but afterwards. The excitement is there, but the pressure is on. You don't want them disqualified."

The people she has met have been the best part of the job, Melzer said.

"That's what brings you back," she said. "I've done high school, college, nationals and the Olympics. I travel so I'll see some of the (same athletes). They can't believe I'm there. You're home to them when you travel."

Officiating has even taken Melzer to places like Puerto Rico and Australia.

Although she's been honored with many awards, Melzer said her induction into the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame in December was the most meaningful.

"What pleases me about it is that you're voted on by your peers," she said. "That meant a lot." For the honor she received a glass ball called a "planet" that was made by world-renowned artist Josh Simpson.

"All his pieces are different," she said. "I love the color blue so there's a lot of blue in mine."

In addition to being a master-level official, Melzer has spent countless hours serving the sport of track and field on the National Officials Committee.

During the seven years she spent as president of the National Officials Committee, she was instrumental in the development of an evaluation and appeals process for officials.

Melzer also helped create a national uniform for officials. She is largely responsible for creating an atmosphere in which national championships pay for officials' room and board, and she worked diligently to make sure officials are respected as professionals.

"When I first started, I worked the Mason-Dixon Games in Louisville, and we had to sit in the stands to do scoring," she said. "We've come a long way."

Though Melzer has received numerous recognitions of late, including a Jan. 20 award from the Ohio Track and Field and Cross-Country Officials Association, she has no plans to pass on the baton.

"In basketball, you quit when you can't beat them down the floor," she said. "With track and field, athletes won't ask a new person a question. They're apt to ask someone they know. I'll do this as long as my health allows."