Sunday, April 24, 2011

Official Officiating

Track Season is here (finally).

The tough part is that it means many trips o'er the mountain to reach Hayward Field at the University of Oregon in Eugene. I told my wife that when we hit the numbers, I'll be renting a house there every year from April through July. This house will be within walking distance to the track. Until then, it's a full tank of gas and long podcasts on the car stereo.

The great part about track season is that my fellow officials and I get an unobstructed view of the events. Plus, we get to act important. And for free!

Yes, my eyes are open

Don and Betty, world class umpires
Always in a good mood (as long as it's not raining...)

Highlights so far:

Yesterday at the Oregon Relays (all levels of competition), a high school boy in the 1500m ran his last lap in 56 seconds while breaking 4 minutes. Huge wheels on that kid.

Boise-based Eagle High School had a good team in the competition. A coach and runners from that team were standing right behind me with two of their boys struggling in a distance race. I told them it's because they weren't getting enough love from the crowd. So the contingent roared on the last lap, and both kids kicked it home. It works!

Then the Eagle boys' team flew to a convincing victory in the 4x400 relay. Nice way to finish the meet.

During the high school girls 400m race, I had to disqualify a heat winner. She was parked on top of the inside lane line for at least 6 steps. High schoolers are DQ'd after the third step on the line. Sorry, kiddo, but rules are rules.

Big, big kudos to the catering company that provides meals for hungry officials. Incredible cheeseburgers! Last time, they even had sauteed mushrooms. A full belly makes for a happy official.

On the homestretch during a break in the competition, I had a nice conversation with a 20-something spectator (if you're not a track nut, you might not follow this):

Him: "Which university is OTC?"

Me: "It's Oklahoma Theological College."

He nodded wisely, but still looked a bit confused.

Me: "You haven't been in Eugene for very long, have you?"

A shake of his head.

Me again: "Ever heard of Athletics West? OTC is the modern day version."

Him: "Huh?"

Me: "Never mind."


For the unfamiliar, OTC is the Oregon Track Club, where some of the country's best runners train after college. OTC is like mom and apple pie out here.

One of my new habits is to run a few warm-up laps on the track before each meet starts. For me, this is kind of like paying homage to the running gods. Two weeks ago, I was trotting along when I noticed some tall guy doing same. Turns out it was 2008 Olympian Andrew Wheating. I crank it up a notch; pretty soon, he's off the back and nowhere to be seen.

Disclaimer: I was approaching cardiac arrest, while he showed zero signs of exertion. And he probably left the track out of sheer boredom. Doesn't matter: I'll take it.

On Saturday, I set off to to run about 2 miles with some sprints. After a couple of laps, some official at the finish line yells at me: "No warming up here. You need to use the practice track!"

Come on, man. I'm in the outside lane, the one that gets no traffic. And it's an hour before the meet starts. Grumbling, I end my run and walk back. Suddenly, I realize what just happened.

With my Nike garb, I looked like a real runner. And my form has always been fairly economical, so I sort-of look like I belong out there. And I was going slow and easy, like I was preparing to do battle.

Then it dawned on me...

This guy thought I was a collegiate or pro athlete. 

Never stopped smiling, as I will be doing this Tuesday on my 46th birthday.  

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