This must be Lexington, Kentucky. Where else?
I was asked last year to work at the 2017 NCAA East Regional Track and Field Championships; this meet is the qualifier for NCAA Championships to be held in Eugene shortly.
Sure, I'll go. Great opportunity to work in the big leagues.
Flight to LAX, no problem. Flight to ORD (Chicago), a little late. With an already tight connection, I had to do my OJ imitation (sans knife) thru the concourse.
(If you don't understand the previous reference about OJ in an airport.....well, you're not intentionally making me feel old).
Final approach into Lexington was very pretty. And very green. I keep forgetting that the eastern US gets much more rain than Bend, Oregon. De-planing, I run into Rory and John, more officials from Sacramento. And waiting at the airport was none other than Bo, the chief umpire. Nice to have a ride waiting...
|Interesting airport decor...|
Staying at the (very) appropriately named Campbell House. I asked for an upgrade due to my family's spotless lineage but was rebuffed. I think the clerk gave me an eye roll worthy of my daughter.... maybe that lineage isn't so spotless after all.
|Pedestal sink is pretty, but lacking in counter space!|
The hotel has a bourbon bar. I'm not a regular drinker, but when in Rome....
And possibly the best sea bass I've ever had.
Rory begged me to help him finish his dessert. Heck, I'm a team player...
The bigs talking shop.
Rough 10 mile run the next morning. I blame my difficulties on jet lag (and the bourbon). Later, a walkaround...Did I mention Lexington is horse country? This town has stables like other towns have Starbucks: one on every corner. You can tell by the white fences.
This one looks like Ikea. (Red Mile, a harness racing track)
Big officials meeting where we get our marching orders and swag.
Some rebel showed up...
|(gotta represent, you understand)|
Next morning: sideways rain dumping on us. I have to run three easy miles to get my legs back, and the treadmill is calling my name. But it's warm outside...and it's only rain. Grinning, I saddle up and hit the streets for an amazingly spry recovery run. Dodging puddles, snappy cadence, soaking wet, and grinning like a fool. Nice tour of the UK campus.
Did you say 'red velvet cake?' I thought you did.
Nice to hang out with distinguished friends:
Fellow umpire Audley from Louisville had visited the Northwest years back: his collegiate runner wife was a last minute ringer for a Hood to Coast relay team, and poor Audley was conned into duty as the driver of Van #2: I hope the tips were good.
(Hood to Coast is one of those crazy 200 mile relays; 12 runners, 2 vans, no sleep. Pure insanity, and stupid....I've done it twice). Oh btw...I coincidentally brought an HTC shirt with me, so I took this picture for him).
I'm good friends with the starting line clerk. He's the one who gathers the athletes prior to each heat, gets them into their lanes, and gives them any last minute instructions. I just happen to be roommates with said clerk (not by accident). He is cold-blooded efficient and yet funny as heck at the same time. Some examples:
(to next heat of runners patiently waiting): "Ok, you fabulous student athletes....future leaders of the world."
(to female runners in next race): "Women listen better than men."
(to male runners in next race): "I don't care what your parents say...you're good men!"
(in general): "Look how nice I am to you guys." and "Are you Heat 3? Don't tell anyone, but that's my favorite heat!"
(to runners waiting while current racers are in the starting blocks): "No talking, no breathing."
(to a Clemson athlete): "Clemson, how are you doing?"
(clerk): "Nervous? How do you think I feel?!?"
Okay, so I'm not the only one who loves track! (for the record, this starting line clerk worked at the 1984 and 1996 Olympic Games. He didn't exactly fall off the turnip truck yesterday.
The clerk has war stories from the world of track, and I eagerly listen. He went to school at Eastern Michigan with Hasley Crawford...
(ok, if that name doesn't mean anything to you, you are hereby forgiven. But don't let it happen again). Trinidad and Tobago's Hasley Crawford won the 1976 Olympic 100m dash out of Lane 1, big upset. Possibly the first track event I ever watched.
Mr. Clerk told me of playing poker with Hasley and his island buddies; notorious card cheaters all. Clerk bought a ticket package for the '76 Montreal Games, then found out about $2 standing room only tix. So he bought those, sold his $15 tix, and drank the difference. He said he could lean over the railing and touch the steeplechase water barrier.
Clerk also told me of attending NCAA Indoor Championships at Detroit's Cobo Hall as a high schooler. Back then, meet management would allow athletes to take a few warmup laps on the track before each race, so our young clerk and his buddy showed up wearing nondescript sweats and slipped onto the track. Monday morning, his coach called him on the carpet and demanded an explanation. None needed (or offered).
Shaking my head. I love track!
The officials' chairman is Kentucky born and Kentucky bred, welcoming us to 'the Center of the Universe.' I compliment the host school's generosity, nothing that they were quite welcoming to me. Heck, they even named their showcase basketball arena after one of Oregon's finest.
|Ok, so he came around a few years before Galen...|
Me: "Are you two cadets?"
The groomed kid cracks up. The other one sheepishly replies that he's actually a future cadet. I'm an Annapolis grad, so I look sympathetically (and disapprovingly) upon them.
|same scene from Seabiscuit!|