Stories Of Americans Passionately At Play

"Sport, at its best, at its most human, is able to inspire an innocence and joy that is unique to each of us."
~ Richard Corman ~

From the IGTS Vault

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Tracking & Fielding The Indoor Nationals

In April of 2010, author Tim Forbes embarked on a one-year “sports walkabout” that took him across the country to 100 sporting events involving 50 completely different sports. Why? Well, it’s complicated. His journey and ultimate discoveries about the true value of sports were published in the book “It’s Game Time Somewhere” (Bascom Hill Publishing, 2013).

They really should administer aptitude tests with the purchase of a track and field event ticket.

“Excuse me sir, but before I can let you in, I need to know that you possess the multi-tasking capacity necessary to fully assimilate this meet.”

Then again, I’m glad they don’t test. Because based upon my early performance at the USA Indoor Track & Field Championships, I would flunk.

I’m not ashamed to admit it—the Indoor Championships overwhelmed me. What to look at…what to look at…what to look at? Everywhere throughout the Albuquerque Convention Center there were people running, jumping over bars, throwing things. And that was just the event production team.

Fortunately, I had purchased a ticket in advance—and thankfully it was one with a specified section, row and seat number on it. Because left to my own devices I’d probably still be wandering around. But I managed to pull it together and quiet my synapses long enough to locate my assigned seat, where I spent the next several minutes hoping that my head wouldn’t involuntarily start doing an Exorcist 360-degree thing.

Then, out of nowhere, SHE appeared: The Angel of Programs. Little did the girl working the grandstand that day know that she could have charged me $4,780 for the simple 18-page viewer’s guide that provided coherent information on the what’s, where’s and when’s. Mostly because it dovetailed nicely with my other secret weapon.

I highly recommend that everyone with either a genuine love of sports or a neurotic need to see 50 different sports in one year go out and get themselves a track and field consultant. Mine is the RV Goddess, who has been on the IGTS “payroll” (I use the term loosely here) since the Pac-10 Combineds, aka Event # 11. In the days leading up to these Indoor Championships, she fed me a steady stream of informational tidbits—one of which was that the legendary Bernard Lagat would be competing. A few days later, another missive clued me in that Lagat would be joined and challenged by young Olympian distance-running sensation (and Oregon Duck alum) Galen Rupp. “Expect a new US 3000m by Lagat,” came the advisory.

Now I knew what to look for, and where to find it. And as luck would have it, it would play out right in front of me, as I had arrived just in time for a stretch of prime events. And I was seated in the heart of the home stretch of the track, just 50 yards from the finish line. Warming up just in front of me were the athletes about to compete in the Women’s 3,000 Meter Run—the first “final” of the Championships.

So despite events being contested all over the venue, I managed to focus exclusively on what was expected to be a spirited duel between Sara Hall and Jenny Barringer Simpson, who, at the Boston Indoors earlier in the month, had both posted times that were within the top ten of American performances thus far this year. Here in Albuquerque, the reality of the race matched the expectation, as Simpson called on a strong closing kick to win by just 1.7 seconds over Hall.

Jenny Barringer Simpson approaches the finish line in the women's 3000 meter run.

Jenny Barringer Simpson approaches the finish line in the women’s 3000 meter run.

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That just warmed up the track though, as the next event was the much-anticipated Men’s 3,000—and my first exposure to American track royalty.

Originally from Kenya, but now a naturalized U.S. citizen, Bernard Lagat holds somewhere between 6 and 1,238 indoor and outdoor American distance running records. That’s in addition to a record eight victories in the legendary Wanamaker Mile. And he had come to Albuquerque specifically to be a part of the “It’s Game Time Somewhere” Tour. At least that’s what the RV Goddess told me.

Even if I had no prior idea of who Lagat was, I would’ve known that something big was about to happen, because the buzz in the building ratcheted itself up a couple dozen notches when the large field for the Men’s 3000 appeared and began loosening up. By the time the starting gun went off, everyone was on their feet and nothing else in the building mattered.

As expected, Lagat and Rupp went out strong, joined by Aaron Braun from neighboring Colorado. Before long it was a three-man race, which it remained for several laps, as the noise level mounted. Here’s how it ended…

It wasn’t the new American record that everyone had hoped for, but it was great theatre—as was the manner in which Lagat greeted and interacted with his fans and the media following the race. After an engaging interview on the awards platform that appeared to charm even runner-up Rupp, Lagat gave an autograph and a few words to each and every person who asked.

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As for me, I was all revved up and ready for more action. But there was just one little thing. From where I sat there wasn’t a whole lot of action to be readily had. So I abandoned my cushy reserved seat and went exploring. And in doing so found a remote area that had been set up to facilitate competition in the shot put and the Weight Throw—the women’s version of which just happened to be taking place when I wandered by.

Track&Field~LoreeSmithThrowIt occurred to me that what they were calling the Weight Throw would probably be called the Hammer Throw if we were outside, which would have then enabled me to make at least one bad joke about “hammer” rhyming with “glamour,” in reference to the Superwoman-esque costume worn by Loree Smith of the New York Athletic Club.

After watching this event to its completion, I took in some of the Men’s Triple Jump as a nightcap. But I left the building thinking that I had missed something—like I’d had control of the television remote all evening and had been constantly on the wrong channel at the wrong time.

I vowed to do better during the next day’s festivities.

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