Sunday, July 10, 2016

Olympic Trials - Final Day

Last night, I skipped dinner with some co-workers. Turned out to be a good call: dinner took 3 hours, and I had things to do this morning.

Like my second run with the House of Run podcasters. And Eugene did what Eugene does: massive deluge. I kept looking for an ark floating down the Willamette.

We ran about 5 miles on Pre's Trail. Jason probably had it the worst; recovering from a bum knee, he was on the bike while Kevin and I ran. You can't generate any body heat while riding a bike at 7 mph in a cold rain.

But you can definitely run faster than you think you can when you're being nudged along by others. We talked track the whole way, and the time flew.

Oh, and a Phil Knight sighting out there. He didn't stop to chat, probably because I was wearing adidas.

There was a last minute officials/volunteer brunch held at Autzen Stadium, right where we finished the run. So I simply bounded up the stairs to the Club Level in search of good eats.

First time for everything: a fried chicken and waffle sandwich. 

Just in case I forgot where I was...

 From the "It's a Small World" category: an official at the brunch told me that someone who knew me 33 years ago in high school was there shortly before I arrived. This unknown person recognized me on the track, but didn't bother to leave their name! Now I'm very curious...

Back to my room for a quick shower, then off to Cheshire, about halfway to Corvallis. Old friends Corey and Bretagne recently moved there with their four kids to a great place out in the country.

A greenhouse for the ages

Wine-worthy grapes

Japanese hot tub

Byron and his buddy

Awesome table/fire pit combo

C, B, and my man D

Great seeing them again!

Now, back to 'work.'

Jogging down the practice sprint track behind the stadium, en route to that tent in the distance...

On the head of another patron...The Olympic Creed

Not to be confused with Apollo Creed

Ah, the medical tent and another massage. Get there before the athletes arrive, and the physical therapists practically fight over you!

Great likeness, eh?

Yes, that's my nose...

Below the West Grandstands, the last umpire briefing of the year.

Umpire Sue is wearing a sweatshirt that says "Track", but with her other gear obstructing some letters, it looks like 'Teaneck.' Since she's from Long Island and I'm from New Jersey, I rib her unmercifully over this.

Only a few races today. Molly Huddle gets her 5k/10k double, running away with a lap to go. Shelby Houlihan uses her 1500 speed to take a close second, and is probably helped by the black and red kit that matches her black and red hair. After making her first Olympic team, she looks almost distraught for at least 10 minutes. Right before she's interviewed, I walk behind her and whisper, "Jeez, smile Shelby!" I think she heard me.

Edwin Moses was recognized for his 122 consecutive victories. Impressive feat, though many athletes of that era noted that Ed was notorious for ducking tough competitors to keep the streak going. Regardless, two Olympic golds looks pretty good on a resume.

After her collision in the 800, Brenda Martinez is definitely the crowd favorite for the 1500. She works her way into 3rd with 50m remaining but has nothing left. She sees a runner about to edge her out, so she dives and secures her spot. Took her awhile to realize she made it, but the look on her face made the bodily damage worthwhile!

Jenna Prandini rigs up in the 200m homestretch and follows Brenda's lead by diving at the line to nudge out Allyson Felix, who can't be too disappointed since she already has a slot in the 400.

Kendall Williams makes the team in the heptathlon, making her the 2nd most famous resident of Marietta, Georgia, following in the footsteps of my Annapolis classmate Ken D.

Great meet. As we disbanded, I asked a fellow umpire to again thank his wife for hand-crafting my flag holder last year. He looked at me for a second and said softly, 'It was the last thing she sewed.'  No other words needed.

A Brazilian troupe did a little 'Welcome to Rio' piece.

Sigh. No more track.

Back to the real world.

I love track.

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Olympic Trials - Day 7

Just an ordinary day at the long as your track is somewhere other than Eugene, Oregon. The track here was on ye shall soon learn.

Last night, as we were disbanding for the evening, we were told we had to oversee an 'extra' event at 0730 Saturday.

Strange: the Trials schedule is set months in advance, and it's not like there's a lot of improvising going on.

No, the support groups decided they wanted to run a 4 x 200m relay. The organizing team, the timing crew, the video judging folks, a butt-ton of interns, etc...Great, except I planned on swimming at 0730. Had I known with more notice, i could have adjusted my workout schedule. Oh well...

This morning, it was POURING. And the security gates weren't open. And none of the starters were  notified....I swear, if this group decides to cancel now....

A 4 x 200 alley start, a one turn stagger, 14 teams...yes, it's amateur hour. I won't go into more detail. In a sheer and blatant act of defiance, I climb onto the backstretch bleacher wall and sit there with my legs dangling, a clear breach of Hayward Field protocol. Funny, I don't care much...At least it finally stopped raining, and the race wasn't more than 3 minutes long.

Heck, my back is tight this morning, so maybe today's workout will simply be some stretching.

Dinner tonite?

Carson Hall dining room
Not sure what I'll do for dinner: some folks are going out. I'll see how I feel later.

Before the women's heptathlon, I swing by the Nike retail tent to do some window shopping. $30 for a regular t-shirt....not horrible, I guess it could be worse.

Remember my tight back? After the 100m hurdles, I stroll up to the medical tent. There were no athletes around, but lots of physical therapists. I treat myself to a 45 minute free massage courtesy of a powerlifter....ah!!!

Looks like the rain might actually hold off for the afternoon. And the winds are light. That's always good.

All that precipitation sure does make things green around here...

The line to get thru Security...

The line below (on the right) is for important people with me.

I love track.

National Anthem, courtesy of some American Idol contestant. What does "land of the fray" mean?

Before the events begin, I'm standing next to a national official who is several levels of importance above me. We are prohibited from using electronic devices on the track during meets. He looks at the full stadium, then grins and says, "the meet hasn't started yet." And he starts snapping pictures.

That's good enough for me!

Bowerman Balcony

Record capacity today
Standing room only

East Grandstands

Just sayin'
 Yesterday, I mentioned that Fred Newhouse and Herman Frazier were on the winning 4 x 400m relay at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Here's Mr. Frazier...


He said they ran 2:58 on a rainy day: that's a 44.5 average split. 40 years ago...those guys had serious wheels. 

As the high hurdlers are in the blocks, Ishmael the marshal asks the people on the Bowerman balcony to be quiet. Even that frizzy-haired old guy in the UO ballcap...yes, this means you, Phil Knight. 

Hurdler Ryan Fontenot has your typical sprinter's build: densely muscular, strapping. And the most un-strapping baby face.

The TV production trailer has a guy who signals the starter to begin each race. I assumed that the producer is also the person who gives orders to the cameraman who get in the face of the runners before each start. Nope; two different producers, two different agendas, and either person can hold up the race. Are you kidding me? Tonite, the TV scheduling producer gave the green light to start the race, but the camera man was rooted in lane 4 and wouldn't budge. Meanwhile, the two producers cuss up a storm at each other, all just to see exactly whose is bigger.

The men's 5000m starts slow. How slow? After two laps, the leader turned to say something to the other guys, and then started laughing. In an Olympic Trials final!!!

Rupp takes off with maybe a mile left and gets 20 yards on the field. Why did they let him go?

Answer: because they knew they'd catch him with 300m left. And Bernard Lagat, 157 year old Bernard Lagat, is hanging on for dear life. He's a crowd favorite here, and received an enormous ovation on the starting line. He is a ridiculous longshot to make the team, not with all the young legs in this race.

Except everyone else chases Rupp down, with Lagat sitting in and letting the kids do the heavy lifting. Down the final backstretch, Lagat tightens up the gap...halfway thru the last turn, he moves into third with room to spare. I think, awesome..he's on the team.

He's not done. The man has always had a good kick, but lately the youngsters have run it out of him with a hard pace. Not tonite; he hits the jets, showing the best sprint eyes in the business.
Lagat Eyes
The eyes are typical. What isn't typical? He's running right at me, and I swear it looks like he's about to start bawling when he hits the front. And he still has 50 meters to run!!!

At this point, neutral umpire decorum goes out the window. I'm screaming...but no one can hear me because the stadium has gone nuclear, and no one is looking at me anyway.

Just perfect tactics, as usual. He had something extra tonite. After the finish, he was giddy like a 10 year old at Christmas.

Did I mention that Lagat is 197 years old?

Chills. Just chills.


Taking a huge 4th and barely missing a spot on the team was Eric Jenkins, a 2015 UO grad. He stuck his nose in there and hung with the big boys, showing incredible guts. I think he just cemented his running sponsorship for the next 5 years.

Wow. Still hyperventilating  (me, not Lagat).

200m final: the two high schoolers runs a very close 4th and 5th. These kids today: no respect for their elders.

110 hurdles: during introductions, the video screen very briefly shows an anatomical view of the human body, highlighted by two red pulsing kidneys. Aries Merritt won World Championship bronze last year, 4 days before a kidney transplant...

I note that 2008 Trials champ David Oliver was a no-show, and I jot a note that UO's Devon Allen now has a better shot at making the team.

I'll say. He scorches a 13.03, huge PR, and wins by daylight. Merritt misses third by a whisker.

Winner's protocol is thus: you pump your arms, shake hands with competitors, then wave your little flag respectfully. Devon didn't get the memo...he stops, looks into the stands, then VAULTS over the fence and gives his dad an enormous hug. Devon had a tough childhood, broken family, little money, but God gave him wheels and no fear, which is what an Olympic hurdler needs.

A trip up to the press box at the end of the day...

A few shots of Olympian Devon Allen...

The back of his head to the right of the green striped shirt

A little better

About as close as I could get
In the media tent, someone was getting interviewed...not sure who. I just liked the rugby scrum vibe...

Justin Gatlin climbing the stage...

LaShawn Merritt...

200m 3rd place Ameer Webb, followed by sprinter emeritus Darvis 'Doc' Patton

Mr. Allen with Jody, TrackTown meet organizer...

I'm an awesome photographer...

Veronica, Tracktown troubleshooter and babysitter of officials...

Oh, I forgot: KISS is at Matthew Knight Arena tonite. Figures!

I need my rest.

And I love track!

Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6

Olympic Trials - Day 6

Here comes the rain...

but more on that later.

This morning: a group run hosted by House of Run, a runner geek podcast like no other. The hosts, Kevin and Jason, know everything about modern-day track and field, and a whole lot about Prefontaine, too. They both traveled from all ends of the globe to broadcast from the Trials, and each morning hosted a group run from Autzen Stadium.

I was expecting 3-4 easy miles. Nope: 6 miles, including a climb to the top of Skinner's Butte. Even with the climb, the run went quickly, as we pretty much talked track the whole way.

We returned to our starting point at 9:15; with the dorm's dining room ending breakfast at 9:30, i had to hustle back across the river if I wanted to eat. And i definitely did.

Hustling over the Willamette Footbridge, I see the guy from UO who placed 7th in the decathlon; i slap him five and say, "nice job, Matt." Feeling pretty good about myself, until i realize he didn't respond. And then i realize why: Decathlete Mitch Modin evidently doesn't like when people rename him. In my defense, UO has two athletes from my town with the initials MM (Matt Maton). Regardless, breakfast was excellent.

Another opera-like National Anthem. Sigh.

Men's hurdles: I don't recognize Jason Richardson, because he's gotten rid of those awesome dreadlocks. Somehow he looks a lot smaller without them.

Bowerman balcony sighting: Pat Tyson, Prefontaine's post-collegiate roommate.

During a short break in the hurdles, I noticed Gold Medalist Fred Newhouse standing next to Gold Medalist Herman Frazier. Yes, old friends, going back to at least 1976 and the Montreal Games, where they won the 4 x 400m relay. I walk over to the fence, gesturing to Fred, who is also the meet referee. Obviously, I have a technical question about event execution for him.

Me: "Which relay legs did you two run?"
Him: "Herm led off, and I ran third."
Me: "Thanks."

I love track!

The weather quickly turned into this..., biblical proportions. Our raingear held up fairly well, but my 'weatherproof' clipboard sprung a leak. Warranty?

The NBC cameras near the finish line have these colorful NBC stickers on them. Since those are my initials...

Me: "Hey, do you have any more of those stickers?"
Cameraman: "Do you have ten bucks?"

BOOM! I think he reads my blog. That's that first time I was on the receiving end of that exchange: usually, I'm giving it to someone else.

I love track.

LaShawn Merritt, attempting the Michael Johnson 200/400 double, runs the entire homestretch while looking at the jumbotron! Not for vanity's sake (well, maybe a little), but he didn't want to go any faster than needed, and that's the only good way to see the field behind him.

High Schooler Noah Wyles has that annoying cameraman in his grill when the set command is given. The camera doesn't budge, so Noah waves him off with a 'get the heck outta here' gesture, and the crowd enjoys it very much. He and another high schooler make the 200 final.

Shamir Little has been our best intermediate hurdler for 3 years or so. Just recently, she decided to turn pro. Unfortunate timing: college athletes have a very, VERY long season, what with fall workouts, indoor track, outdoor track. Very little time off, and it has shown in the Trials, because most every collegian has underperformed. Shamir is no exception: top 4 in her semifinal advance, and she's an unfamiliar 5th. When she realizes what happened, she screams in frustration. If she had gone pro, i kinda wish she would have done it months ago and taken a break before peaking. Instead, she ran the Olympic Trials on tired legs.

The men's steeplechase team were on their victory lap when we held them on the backstretch while the 200m heats finished. After the last heat, I turn to 2x Olympian, Princeton grad, (and Clinton resident) Donn Cabral and say, "Good to have another Jersey boy out here." He gives me a knowing nod and slaps five, a true brethren who knows the peril of driving Route 78 in rush hour.

I love track!

Day 1
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Day 4
Day 5

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Olympic Trials - Day 5

Had a visitor at the early morning swim workout: this guy...

Reminds me of this guy...

Or to paraphrase that great philosopher Pedro Cerrano: Is very bad to mess with VERY bad.

For what it's worth: my swim was lousy. But Zoe's mustache is looking better and better...

I had driven back to Bend early Tuesday morning, worked for two days, then returned to Eugene on Thursday for more fun and games. First up: lunch at Subo, a sushi food cart near Ninkasi Brewery.

They have someone who likes to weld creative bar stools...

looks like a lantern, but you sit on it. 

Big old bucket of wasabi

you have NO idea!

Ok, a little blurry...I was hustling to the track for the group photo

I had the Samurai Burrito: tuna, salmon, yellow tail. Pretty good.

Back to the dorm to unpack before hustling over to the track for the all-hands photo. Then dropping my car off, while forgetting my new rain jacket in the back seat. No matter: it won't rain until tomorrow. Maybe...

Lots of blue shirts smiling for the camera!
At the briefing, the topic of youngest umpire arose. Everyone thought it was me. Nope, not by 15 years. Terry about had a heart attack when I told him how 'young' I was. Maybe I wear it well.

Someone took this shot on Monday....nice reflection in the glasses!

The meet referee asked me about the men's 800m final: "Did you talk to any of the runners at the start?" Uh, no.

Him: "ok. One of the runners complained that an official said he was on the wrong line."

Not me. And that runner didn't qualify, so it's no wonder he was complaining. Better luck next time, guy.

The last two National Anthems: meh. Two opera-type singers with heavy vibrato. Sounds too mechanical for me. Best male/female voices ever? James Taylor and Ann Wilson. Just smooth, rich tone, with no warbling. Which reminds me: we need to book these guys for the last day...

A  quick trip under the West Grandstands before the women's 1500m heats. There's Tully, Conley, Sara Hall....I love track!

In the crowd, i spot a man wearing a propeller beanie. And this is the sock of a rather influential meet official....

One gripe about women's distance races...too many ponytails. With hair bouncing all over the place, it makes it hard to see what the individual runners are doing! Bouncing hair sometimes looks like bodies flying. I don't know how many times over the years that I almost wrote up Jordan Hasay...

In the women's 5k heats, they are gruppo compacto with a lap remaining. Then the field stretches out, and in the homestretch here's Kim Conley looking around like she's on a butterfly hunt. Gotta guarantee that automatic qualifying spot.

There's an NBC Sports Network monitor right next to me, so i can see the TV feed in real time. That's pretty cool, especially all the 'B' reel footage that they use.

Did i mention the rain? Got a little sloppy out there. And it started to get a bit cold. Ugh.

Before the 100m hurdle heats, I run into the Bowerman Building for a quick bathroom break. This is where VIPs (more important than me) will gather to watch from the balcony above the track. I think briefly about sneaking some food from the catered spread, but decide to wait another hour. But I'm definitely getting hungry...

When i return to the track, I notice that one of the balcony spectators is Bill Dellinger, the track coach after Bill Bowerman. Dellinger ran in three Olympics and took a bronze in the 1964 5000m. About ten years ago, he had a stroke and moves slower now. But he's still showing up...

200m heats: Correion Mosby is from Hinds Community College. Why does that school sound familiar to me? Oh, I know...and i apologize in advance to Seattle Seahawks fans. Hinds is the place where a certain Patriots corner back named Malcolm Butler got his start. Later, Mr. Butler made a pretty sharp play, possibly the most timely (or untimely) play in Super Bowl history.

Jim Ryun and Marty Liquori are paraded out and recognized. Ryun was the first high schooler to run a 4 minute mile, and later broke the world record. Liquori beat Ryun at a Penn Relays matchup that made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Ryun went on to a career in Congress, and Liquori became a jazz guitarist. You can decide for yourself who had the more reputable outcome.

Two years ago, Raven Saunders needed to raise money so she and her mom could travel from South Carolina to the Junior National Championships. She started a GoFundMe account and was able to make the trip. Good thing, because she won. Then she came back in three weeks and placed 2nd at Junior Worlds. Then she got a scholarship, possibly her only avenue to higher education. Today, she's an Olympian. Big, big tears.

Did i mention the rain? It started to cool things off. Between events, I duck under the West Grandstands to warm up. Jim had the right idea...

Know what a transformer is? It takes high voltage and converts it to low voltage. In general, electricity has several useful byproducts: for one,  power to run things. For another, electricity produces heat. Which is a good thing when you're cold. So Jim and I spent some time standing in front of these suckers, with good results.

The women's steeplechase final is a good one. Emma runs away with it, ho hum, with Garcia in 2nd. But two girls are coming on strong, and the three converge at the water jump. Then the two in back run away with it, and the ballgame is over. Garcia loses contact and then falls over the last barrier.

It's a tough sport sometimes. But...

I love track!

Day 1
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Day 3
Day 4