Weekly Feature

2017-06-22 / Lifestyles

Bill Wende contemplates past, future of Section6Runs website


Bill Wende, cradling his camera, wears a black T-shirt promoting his website, Section6Runs. He used the website over the course of 10 years to post photos of student-athletes competing in cross-country and track and field. Bill Wende, cradling his camera, wears a black T-shirt promoting his website, Section6Runs. He used the website over the course of 10 years to post photos of student-athletes competing in cross-country and track and field. Hundreds of athletes have been in Bill Wende’s camera lens as he spent countless days running around in — or sometimes biking in — torrential rain, blazing heat and the rare, perfect afternoons snapping pictures.

The New York State Athletic Administrators Association just recently honored Wende with a “Community Service Award” for his website, Section6Runs, which he used to post pictures of high school student-athletes competing.

“The impact of the website really hit me last year,” Wende said. “A dad came up to me and thanked me. He said his son, who was an average runner, would see his picture online, and he said you could see his head and shoulders pick up.”

Wende has been taking pictures at cross-country and track and field meets since fall 2006.

“My son, Kurt, ran for Williamsville North, and the fledgling site was for the school,” he said.

He first took the pictures on a “small, crappy Kodak camera.” The pictures were something to look at though, he said. He also posted results and schedules.

Wende graduated from Clarence High School in 1974, where his interest in photography began. He said his dad had a makeshift darkroom in their basement.

“He had the basement finished, and it was just like a little closet space by the sump pump,” Wende said.

After the site began to gain traction, the consideration of taking pictures for all of the Section VI schools began poking at him.

“I never thought track and cross-country kids got their due,” Wende said.

As the popularity of the site built, he wanted the quality to increase, so he invested in higher-quality cameras.

“Some professional photographers would come out to meets with their huge artillery,” he laughed. “People really underestimate the creativity, time and even education of photographers … They’re not appreciated enough. We have the proximity to athletes. You’ve seen me laying and sitting on the track. … I like composing the picture. … You want it to tell a story.”

Over the 10 years, he has taken more than 255,000 pictures, been to 435 meets, driven over 15,000 miles, used four cameras and gotten two new knees, and his wife, Mary, never complained, according to a T-shirt Wende made last year. He said he has gotten to know many students, parents, coaches and officials. “I’ve made so many dear friends, and I’ve met many wonderful people,” he said. “All of the kids I’ve gotten to know, you kind of become a proud parent when they [achieve a personal record] and you can capture that.”

Wende retired the website in June 2016 after the outdoor track and field sectionals. He said the officials, athletes and parents gave him a “huge sendoff.”

During the senior lap, which Wende helped bring to Section VI after seeing a McKinley High School student start it at All-High Championships, Wende and his wife walked down the final straightaway first.

The senior lap is now named after


On the infield afterward, he was given numerous cards, hugs, gift certificates and even a plaque.

“One father came there just for me. His kid graduated a few years before, and he came up to me, handed me a Salvatore’s gift card and left,” he said. “It just blew me away.”

Wende decided to step away from taking pictures. One of the reasons was because many of the students and parents he knew weren’t around anymore.

“I started to lose interest in taking pictures. I spent the weekends at the meets and wasting my Sundays uploading pictures. It just wasn’t as fun anymore,” he said. He said he spent four to five hours after every meet uploading and selecting pictures to put up. “It became work,” Wende said.

He said his site has still gotten about 1,500 hits a day. Over the course of his photography career, the site has gotten over 10 million views.

Wende said the WNY officials and West Seneca West coaches, Pete Szymanski and Emilio Mancino, who were the indoor track chairmen at the time, were instrumental in getting access to athletes, setting up his website and promoting it to coaches, parents and athletes.

Wende said he will be starting up the website again. He added that it will only be results, schedules and special exceptions such as the WNY Relays and sectionals.

In recent weeks, pictures of cars from the WNY Region of the Sports Car Club of America have been added to his Zenfolio account.

When asked about future plans for him and Section6Runs, Wende paused for a moment, and then he said, “Wherever it takes me.”

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