When i first became a track umpire in 2009, i thought it would be amazing if someday i could work at the Olympic Trials.
But that's a tall order....there are something like 8000 officials nationwide, with one of the largest subsets being the umpire group.
Umpires are the officials who work the running events; we look for thrown elbows, runners cutting off other runners, dropped relay baton passes, and the like. Some of the other officials include starters (the gunslingers), throwing events, jumping events, and whatever else there is.
Over the years, I've worked more and more meets: NCAA Championships, Prefontaine Classic (international meet). And i eat this up; since i was 10 years old, I've been a track and field nut, reading deep into the history of the sport.
And i thought I'd make a lousy official, because I'd have to put aside my fan tendencies in order to do my job out there. But i quickly found out that i simply need to pay attention for the 5 seconds or so that the field is in my sector, and then the next umpire down the track picks them up. Then i can become a fan again.
My other concern was that I'd hate to hold an athlete's career aspirations in jeopardy, whether or not they deserved it with an unintentional foul. The good news is that an umpire doesn't disqualify anyone...we simply write up the infractions and give them to the referee, who is the one to decide whether a runner gets the booth. So it's not on my shoulders at all.
I'm good with that. In fact, after 9 years, I'm now to the point where i'd have no qualms about making the final call. And i quickly was recognized as an up and coming umpire; very knowledgeable about the rules, eager to learn, and always willing to ask questions. And since i like to write, it's no problem for me to add lots of paper to the referee's workload.
Then things began to happen: in 2014, i was selected to be one of 12 umpires to work at the Junior World Championships. A great honor and a tremendous experience....after the final event concluded, i sought out the gentleman who organizes all the officials. I'd spoken few words to him over the years, acutely aware of my place in the pecking order. Anyhow, I found Dennis and thanked him for the opportunity.
He floored me by saying that people at the highest levels have their eye on me as a Chief Umpire in years ahead.
Wow. I can most certainly dig it.
In late 2015, I applied for the 2016 championship meets. US Indoor Nationals, World Indoor Championships, and the Olympic Trials. I was told that there would only be 5 umpires picked for those first two meets, and probably 12 for the Trials. Slim pickings.
I was picked for all three. Including the US freakin' Olympic Trials! If i couldn't make the Trials as a runner (my childhood goal), being an umpire with the best seat in the house is pretty cool, too.
This is going to be a tremendous year.
And oh by the way...Los Angeles is bidding for the 2024 Olympics. With the vast majority of officials being in their 60s and older, there will be lots of attrition in the ranks over the next 8 years. Which means that if Los Angeles wins the bid, there is an amazing chance that i could get picked to work at the Olympic Games.