Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 Outdoor Nationals: Day 1

Last meet of the year....happy about that; it's been a long year of track.

And also a little sad about that. Because I love track!

The forecast calls for heat, and lots of it. Ergo, my somewhat primitive (and very portable) air conditioner....

A Styrofoam cooler, a fan, and two PVC elbows. Plus ice, of course; the fan blows air across the ice and out the elbow vents. Instant psychometric bliss!!!

(ok, so the fan is a little weak. Fortunately, I brought the Home Depot receipt with me). And yes, there is also a case of beer in that cooler...I get freebies from work, and lots of the umpires are fans.

Nice drive to Eugene, over the hill and thru the woods. And a bunch of slow drivers to pass....

Arrival is followed in rapid succession by:
  • find a parking space at the dorm (30 minute max)
  • check in; get my room key
  • unload the car
  • feed the meter and get another half hour
  • get credential and shirts at the Matthew Knight Arena
  • get bag of ice at grocery store for air conditioner
  • drive car 10 blocks to friend's house and leave it there (overnight parking on campus is non-existent or very expensive)
  • walk back for pre-event briefing
  • get stipend: wait a minute, it's $300, and they told us it would be $400. Will follow up (damned right I will!)
  • back to dorm for dinner
  • blow off reception for officials; it's 8pm by now, I need to be at the track in 12.5 hours, and I want to exercise early in the morning.
Walking down Agate Street, I have my first celebrity sighting: Evan Jager, American record holder in the steeple chase, doing a little shakedown run (this pic was from a few weeks ago):

With that funky hair bun he wears, he reminds me of this guy...
John Belushi, Samurai Stockbroker
Decent night's sleep, it cooled off nicely. This morning, lots of internet connectivity issues; not sure why, it worked fine last night.
I hate campus internet!!
While waiting for the business office to open at 0700, I squeezed my workout in. Jumping rope, almost 22 minutes straight without missing! Very psyched about that; I've done longer workouts when I've missed every couple of minutes. And I figured that since I'll be roasting in high-90s temperature on the track for 12 hours, I should probably keep my workout a little shorter.
At the track for our pre-event briefing: before each day's events, we go over specifics for those particular races: positioning, fouls, things to look for, etc...

Great quote from the briefing when discussing the 800m: "Jim, you're the designated Cone Head."

Yes, umpires have their own language. In the 800m, the runners have a 1-turn staggered start; they must stay in their lanes thru the first turn. Coming into the backstretch, we place a line of cones on designated marks; the line defines the place at which runners can leave their lanes and steer toward Lane 1. Once they pass, the Cone Head will pick up the cones so no one steps on them in the second lap.

First events: Junior Heptathlon 100m hurdles. As the runners settle into the blocks, the starters ensure that all fingers are placed behind the starting line. Then I notice that the backup starters are also looking at the runners' feet. After the heat, I ask why.

It's due to the timing system. After the runners are set in the blocks, the blocks are then electronically armed. Any pressure after that point is registered as a false start. Good to know.

Especially 2 heats later, in the Junior Boys Decathlon 100m. They get set in the blocks, and the starter stands them up. An Oregon freshman didn't have full contact with rear foot on the block pad. No big.

Except they get into the blocks again, and the same kid does the same thing! At first, the starter was simply going to reiterate the issue. Then the kid protests that he wasn't doing anything wrong.


The starter's referee stands in front of the kid with a yellow card. It wasn't a flag for a false start; it was a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct. Since I'm the lone starting line umpire, my job is to raise the same color flag as the card so the press box can see it. Things have already gotten interesting!

I like making things efficient. When it's approaching 90 degrees, I seek out any shade I can find. Like this: the backdrop behind the 100m starting line....

At noon, the sun created a 2 foot shadow behind the backdrop, so that's where my chair went.

Between events, I'm holed up under there, out of sight and out of mind. I only make an occasional appearance like Bob Barker emerging from the curtain on The Price is Right.

Later, I'm at the 200m start, under that wonderful overhang that is the roof of the backstretch stands. Most of this brutally hot day, I was able to find shade. Life is good.

I also remembered that I had one of those cooling towels. Soak it in water, wrap it around your neck, and the evaporation cools you off. Works great, sort of. Every little bit helps.

Had an interesting sidebar with Rob, an experienced umpire. Next year, there will be six high level indoor meets held all on the same weekend in late winter: World Indoors, NCAA Div 1, NCAA Div 3, NCAA Div 3, New Balance, and Youth Indoors. Lots of officials will have jobs. The kicker is that  the people selected for National/World Indoors will probably also be the ones picked for the Olympic Trials....I'd better start handing out lots of free beer!

Women's 800m prelims: Maggie Vessey looks positively Republican in her black outfit; very conservative. Usually she's wearing colors that hurt the eyes. But never fear, she made up for her monochromaticity with an overabundance of lace.

Men's 800m; didn't recognize Erik Sowinsky. His shaggy mane from the World Relays is long gone in favor of a near-military cut.

Boris Berian came from nowhere this year to run with the world's best. He's rocking quite the dreadlocks, in the best manner of Yannick Noah (1980s tennis pro).


In heat 4 of the 800 prelims, a guy stumbles right at the start and steps on the inner line. My first DQ of the meet...

General observation: lots and lots of loud colors and stylish outfits among the pros. It's like they all shop at the same boutique...

Men's 400m prelim: Tony McQuay and David Verburg have their heat well in hand. So much so, they are basically having a conversation with each other in the last 30 yards. I'm sure it had to do with dinner plans. And that was the easiest 45.19 I think I've ever seen.

During a later heat, the dulcet tones of NBC color man Tom Hammond waft across the track. You'll know his voice from the Olympic Trials, Kentucky Derby, and many other events. He's recording a sound promo under a canopy while the 400m runners are set in the blocks only 20 feet away. Yes, his voice carries: almost caused a restart.

By the way, "color man" is not appropriate for Mr. Hammond. The man has no pigmentation whatsoever.

400m Hurdles; ugh. In 4 heats, I write up three fouls for hooking the trailing leg. My pen is running dry.

Note: in the decathlon 100m, all the athletes slap five and wish each other luck. In the open 100m, the athletes ignore each other.

LSU has a sprinter in the 100 named Aaron Ernest. He's the only one in his heat who's not wearing tights; he has regular running shorts. Hamstrings like bridge cables. And he looks like Snoop Dogg!

While the sprinters are in the blocks, Marquis Dendy uncorks yet another monster long jump, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Over 28' (wind aided), 7th longest American jump under any conditions.

Trayvon Bromell runs a legal 9.84; he's a college sophomore. Ryan Bailey, 2012 Olympian, makes a false start so blatant that Ray Charles could have seen it. Then he spends the next 3 minutes pleading his case to the starter, to no avail. DQ..

Andrew Wheating drops a 52 last lap in the 1500. He's getting his kick back: maybe he'll make his third Olympic Team next year.

In the women's steeple, a photographer is lying on his back just beyond one of the barriers and shooting upward. Somehow, that just seems wrong...Bridget Franek has some kind of halter top with all sorts of straps; I'm guessing she recently studied at the Maggie Vessey School of Couture.

Emma Coburn runs thru the barriers fluidly and maintains momentum, while everyone else jumps and loses speed. She's in another league.

The video scoreboard gives a quiet shot of Alberto Salazar; I notice that the camera lingers on him.

Curtis Beach ran a 47-48 second 400 in the decathlon, great time. Trouble is, he was all over the lane line and was DQ'd. That's a bummer...

Women's 10,000 final. Yes, I know it's warm, but one runner comes onto the track wearing an ice vest....and 2014 NCAA Champion Emma Bates is wearing a singlet with this picture on the front:

From the movie "Sandlot"
I kid you not. There are some things that even I cannot make up.

Who won the women's 10k? I couldn't tell you. I was banished from the track...

to eat dinner. The chicken enchiladas in Carson Hall were very good. We were cut loose in shifts for a late meal; these 12 hour days on the track can take their toll. It's all good.


Oh, and I own but one of these standard umpire shirts. While we were given two event-specific shirts for the weekend days, we were told to wear the standard shirt for Thursday and Friday. Since I only have one, it spent the last hour in my sink with laundry detergent from home.

Good day on the track.




1 comment:

  1. Why did Mclatchie get a shady place to sit and you didn't? No real power yet huh? LOL