It’s early June and the "elite" track season is about to hit high gear. Pre last week; Oslo today; NCAA Championships started today; and the New York Grand Prix on Saturday. It doesn’t get much better than that if you’re a track fan – or does it?
Well, on the flip side of the coin, the high school athletes here in California are just winding down their season. The State Championships were just this past weekend in Clovis and I was fortunate enough to have athletes in three different finals in my first full year of coaching since my kids were born. And after a full season at the high school level, I’m reminded just why I fell in love with this sport in the first place – and just how much adults have screwed it up!
Elite athletes may run faster, jump higher and throw farther, but when it comes to passion, competition, excitement and the ability to pack a stadium and hold the crowds attention – ALL DAY AND NIGHT - well the kids win that battle hands down. And it really comes down to something simple that I’ve been screaming for years - when given the opportunity to see the BEST perform people LOVE track and field and will watch for hours!
That sentiment is shown at its finest during the qualifying meets leading up to State as the nearly non existent crowds at League, grow to moderate crowds at Division, and lead to a small high school stadium of screaming fans at Masters – the qualifying meets across the State for the big meet in Clovis. Not coincidentally, with each "step up" towards "State" the crowd increases as the competition gets tougher!
You see sports fans in this country LOVE competition. And the kids here in the Sac Joaquin Section gave the fans a show week after week as first at Division then at Masters meet records fell left and right. Because the best kept going at it. No ducking, no dodging. No sitting out because the appearance fee is too small, or I might risk my ranking status. You want to go to State, you go head to head. That’s the heart and draw to this sport – and the elites have taken it away!
And for those that say that attention spans are too short to run full meets – that’s why the Diamond League is a series of "half" meets – haven’t been to a high quality high school qualifier. Because it takes a good half hour to get out of the parking lot at 10:00pm from meets that start around 4:00pm! And there’s no concert involved. No special entertainment. No races run in the street. Everything is run inside the stadium. Everything meaning ALL the sprints, ALL the field events. Everything meaning no events are skipped or left out and we wait to do those at the next meet. Everything in one day, including relays – and the fans cheer the entire time with nothing on the agenda but track and field!
And if you want to see what a facility looks like that’s designed just for track, well just go to Clovis. This facility will have you going gaga and USATF needs to get the blueprint and go to work on something comparable to host a World Championships!! If a small town like Clovis can get it done then so should USATF be able to.
And as I’ve said a thousand times "Track Town USA" could be a franchise in this country. Not a single location is the upper reaches of the Northwest forty in the US, but venues all over the country – like churches anywhere that knowledgeable fans gather to watch and support track and field. Because Eugene has nothing on Clovis in the fan support, check out our facility, watch us put on a meet department. State went off like clockwork with as awesome a group of fans as seen anywhere.
Over the past month, I’ve watched everything the adults running the sport say CAN’T be done, be done. Why? Because at the high school level it’s still all about the competition! Not concerts. Not street races. Not partial meets. COMPETITION. And when those running the sport figure out how to get the best back on the track competing against each other this sport will have an epiphany, a Renaissance, a revival. And take its rightful place as the centerpiece of the Olympics and showcase it’s talent to the world.
By the way, my top athlete was silver medalist in the 300 hurdles! Number 2 in the State of California. Proud of Austin (Carter). Proud of all my kids as about another dozen just missed that trip to State. Oh well, I’ll be back next year with even more kids in tow. And I’ll be reminded just what it is that makes this sport great.
Now I have more time to come tell you what I think of the sport. Recent doping suspensions. The Diamond League so far. The World Relays Championships and several other items I’ve been to busy to address while the trying to prepare the next generation of competitors. I just hope they remember what it was like before they get there.