Now that we’re back from Eugene, Oregon, also known as Track Town, U.S.A., I thought I’d share what our typical day was like during the Olympic Trials.
My wife, Malinda Walker, was willing to make her ninth trip with me to a major track & field meet (2008-Olympic Trials, Beijing Olympics; 2009-Prefontaine, USA Champs, Berlin World Champs; 2010-USA Champs/Prefontaine (Des Moines & Eugene on the same trip!), 2011-USA Champs, Daegu World Champs; 2012-Olympic Trials). London will be our tenth trip. Joining us for the 2012 Olympic Trials was our friend John Gieng. Poor John had to put up with the antics that only an immature forty-one year old track coach and his going-on-five year bride can deliver.
Our typical day began with coffee from our Holiday Inn hotel room coffee maker with coffee bought at the Starbuck’s down the road. The capacity of the coffee maker was four cups. The caffeine requirements of the three of us combined was more than four cups. We had to empty the filter and make a fresh brew a couple times. Did I mention that at the Olympic Trials Fan Festival, official Olympic sponsor Chobani was handing out free samples of their Greek yogurt? I would frequent their booth multiple times every day and thus would have a good selection to pick from out of our refrigerator every morning.
After fueling up, we usually went for a run. Sometimes we would join one of the many group runs happening around town and sometimes we would go it alone. After the run, we needed more fuel so it was usually a stop to get brunch and more coffee then back to the hotel for a shower. Any time back at the hotel meant checking my e-mail, Facebook, blog stats, and LetsRun.com, to see what happened while we were out.
That usually brought us to one or two o’clock. At that time, we started planning when to head to the track for the meet. This year, getting ready to leave for the meet meant John checking the weather on his smartphone. What was the chance of rain? What was the expected temperature? This would lead us to the important decision of what to wear. Six out of the eight times we used our rental bikes to bike to the meet. Sometimes the chances of rain were so high that a glance out the window answered the question. We ended up taking the bus once and driving and taking a shuttle once. We don’t mind biking in the rain but it’s no fun to sit for four hours of a meet in wet clothes.
Biking to the track was always an adventure for me. While John and Malinda casually pedaled the five mile/25 minute ride to the track, I had to focus to keep up. If my mind wandered to Shannon’s upcoming race or I started writing my next blog in my head, I would look up and find myself a block (or more) behind them.
We had to go through security to get in. Plastic water bottles were allowed. Water in said plastic water bottles was not. No umbrellas. No outside food. Bags were inspected. We all had to walk through a metal detector. Once inside we would visit the Fan Festival for free stuff (did I mention the Chobani yogurt?), buy more coffee from Allann Bros., or visit the USATF appreciation tent. After the Chobani booth, the USATF appreciation tent, which offered USATF members free ice cream, coffee, and kettlecorn the last three days of the meet, was my favorite.
Our seats were in the west grandstand, Section F, row 19. We were on the final straightaway, with the long jump runways right in front of us. For the short sprints, directly in front of us was probably 60 meters to go. We did have an overhang above us but when it rained and the wind shifted we were close enough to the end of the overhang to get wet. At this point, I need to give a shout out to the Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders (LMJ&S) because the seat cushion they gave out to all participants of the Woodminster race, while at first seeming to be a silly giveaway, was a valued commodity on the wooden seats of Historic Hayward Field (my dry and comfortable rear end thanks you, LMJ&S!).
When Shannon wasn’t running, there was lively banter between the three of us – who had the A standard, what underdog was going to surprise everyone, who’s uniform was the dorkiest, etc. When Shannon was running, there was nervous tension in the air. The Olympic Trials is very well timed so every event gets its time in the spotlight. The announcer keeps you informed of what’s happening. The scoreboards on the field and the two jumbotrons help you keep track of the field event marks and who’s in what place. On the rare occasions when there was a break in the action, I reached into my backpack to pull out a snack from Chobani.
After the meet the main questions were: Where are we going to eat? and Are we going to have coffee or beer with dinner? Some nights we stopped by the local watering hole favored by Northern California coaches and track geeks, the Wild Duck Café. Other nights we ate healthy food somewhere else.
After biking back to the hotel, we had a pretty standard evening ritual. John would update the Pamakids Olympic Trials Game Standings and we’d have lively discussion about how various people were doing, who made good picks and who made horrible picks (horrible ones being the more entertaining of the two), and who Noe’s Moustache might be. I would formulate the next question to be sent out (with suggestions from the peanut gallery of Malinda and John). Once the Google Doc was updated, I would send out the nightly e-mail to the Pamakids Racing Team list serve.
Then we would have more discussion about the meet we just witnessed or what we were looking forward to seeing the next day. The night USATF released their dead heat procedures was by the far the most entertaining evening for discussion and comedy in Room 623 at the Holiday Inn in Springfield. When we’d had enough of LetsRun message boards, FloTrack interviews, RunningSpace videos, and USATF tweets, it was time to turn off the lights and go to sleep….so we could start this whole wonderful cycle all over again. Yes, it was Track Heaven.
The University of Oregon’s Hayward Field will host the 2010 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships from June 9-12. That means that for the third year in a row a major track & field championship meet will take place in the city known as “Track Town USA”; that city would be Eugene, Oregon. The previous meets were the 2008 USA Olympic Trials and the 2009 USA Championships. There will be plenty of exciting competition at this year’s NCAA Championship meet – there always is.
At the 2009 NCAA Championships, before the final event – the men’s 4X400 meter relay – no less than four schools had a chance to be crowned team champion depending on the outcome of the 4X4. One scenario had four teams tying for first place with forty-six points. Heading into the 4X4 this was the situation:
- Oregon, 46 points – no 4X4 team
- Florida, 41 points
- Texas A&M, 40 points
- Florida State, 36 points
Florida State dominated the race, running sub-3:00 claiming ten points to tie with Oregon at 46 points. Florida battled hard and ended up in fourth place for five points so they, too, ended the day with 46 points. Texas A&M was in second place on the final exchange and they needed to stay in second for eight points and a national championship at 48 points. If Baylor were to catch them on the final lap and knock Texas A&M down to third place, Texas A&M would only get six points and they would be the fourth team tied with 46 points. This was some of the highest drama imaginable for an NCAA Championship meet. What a happened? Watch the video and remember to stay focused on whether Texas A&M gets second place (thus winning the championship outright) or third place (creating a four-way tie for the title).
Included in this year’s drama will be the host school, the Oregon Ducks, contending for both the men’s and women’s team championship. Track & Field News’ pre-meet predictions have the Oregon women in a near dead heat with Texas A&M. On the men’s side, Florida and Texas A&M are predicted to battle for the title with Oregon holding down third place. But there is a reason they actually have the meet and don’t crown the champion based on seed times. You can be sure that Oregon’s coach Vin Lananna will pull out all the stops to try to win a championships or two on their home track. The home crowd at Hayward Field has been known to cheer on local athletes to incredible performances (Remember the 2008 USA Olympic Trials Men’s 800 race?).
In truth, the NCAA Championships began the weekend of May 27-29 at the regional qualifying meets. For the first time, and somewhat controversially, qualification for the NCAA Championship meet began with qualifying rounds at two regional meets (the western regional meet in Austin, TX and the eastern regional meet in Greensboro, NC). The top forty-eight athletes in each event and the top twenty-four relay teams in each region qualified for regionals. The top twelve athletes and relay teams in each event at the regional meet then qualified to what’s called the NCAA Championships. The only exceptions made to this protocol of qualifying from regionals to the championship meet are for the heptathlon and decathlon. The top twenty-four athletes in each of these events qualify straight to the championship in Eugene.
Since there were preliminary rounds of competition at regionals, and there will be semi-finals and then finals for most events at the championships in Eugene, I consider what started on May 27 and will finish on June 12 to be one big and long NCAA Championship meet. This seventeen day meet began with the qualifying rounds in Austin and Greensboro, took a ten day break, and will end with the semi-finals and finals in Eugene.
Track & field isn’t the only thing happening at the University of Oregon. It’s also graduation time. After Eugene was named the host school for the 2010 NCAA Championships the University of Oregon had an issue to resolve, when would they hold their commencement exercises? Based on the University of Oregon’s traditional calendar commencement should be on Saturday, June 12, the first day following final exams. But Saturday, June 12 will be the last day of the NCAA Championship meet, and there was concern that there would not be enough hotel rooms in Eugene and its vicinity to house both the track & field fans and the graduates’ families. A number of ideas were bantered about, including: holding graduation either two weeks after finals (i.e. June 19) or after dead week but before finals (June 5). Both ideas had major drawbacks. With the first, students would have to wait around for a week after finals for graduation. With the second, could there be a graduation before final exams? Isn’t it mandatory for a student to pass those exams before they can achieve the necessary credits to graduate? The decision was finally made to hold the University of Oregon’s class of 2010 graduation ceremony on Monday, June 14. Throughout the debate there was criticism from those who felt that the university placed athletics ahead of academics. In fairness to the current Oregon administration, it was a previous regime that agreed to host the NCAA Championships.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one final news item connected to the University of Oregon. On Saturday, May 29, 2010, after ninety-six years on this earth, and exactly two weeks before the 2010 NCAA Championships will be decided at Hayward Field, Barbara Bowerman passed away. She was the widow of famed Oregon coach Bill Bowerman (if you haven’t read Kenny Moore’s book, Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, I highly recommend it). This year’s Oregon teams are hoping to repeat a feat that two of Bowerman’s Oregon teams achieved: winning an NCAA Championship at home (1962 and 1984). There have been some touching articles written about this gracious woman. On behalf of all runners, I hope you rest in peace and I thank you, Mrs. Bowerman, for sacrificing your waffle iron for the sake of future runners’ shoes.
FOR NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP COVERAGE:
There are plenty of places on the web to get NCAA Championship meet coverage. CBS will have live television coverage from 10:00 A.M. to noon pacific time on Saturday, June 12 (check your local listings).
- Runnerspace – http://www.runnerspace.com/NCAAOutdoorChampionships
- Letsrun - http://www.letsrun.com/2010/ncaapreviews2010.php
- Track & Field News – http://www.trackandfieldnews.com/
- US Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association – http://www.ustfccca.org/division-i