Sunday, June 11, 2017

NCAA Championships

I've worked a lot of really good track meets this year. Once of my perennial favorites is the NCAA Championships, and it has nothing to do with the fact that the meet has been held near my house since 2013 (and until 2021).

Okay, maybe that has something to do with it.

A late departure from work, so I drive straight to Eugene's basketball arena to get my credential and gear, then we have our officials briefing.

On the left: Mack the Knife

Johnny is the guy on the right, and I read about him in 1979.


He was a marathoner living in Honolulu at the time, and this crazy race called the Ironman was in its second year. 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 run. The race leader, a guy named Tom Warren, always looked like he was suffering mightily, even when he wasn't. A local guy took one look and said to a Sports Illustrated reporter, "I don't think he's gonna make it." That local guy was Johnny! Obviously, I didn't know it at the time. A few years ago, I was re-reading that great article from 1979 when I stumbled across Johnny's name.

Fellow umpire Jeanne.

At the reception, here's Jeanne's dinner:

I will never, ever let her forget that. Well, maybe.

Not really.

Here's MY dinner.

That's more like it. Pretty good wine, too.

A few of Deschutes Brewery's best.

Dan, my roommate from the recent trip to Lexington.

Dan lost his wallet on the plane from DFW to Lexington but got it back. The airline even took the cash and put it in the bank for him. Every day on this trip, I ask Dan where his wallet is. Just trying to help a brother out.

He's been glaring at me recently.

And he gave me back the $20 he borrowed from me in Kentucky! Hello, Andrew...

Hurdles are evidently a consumable item now, with a shelf life only as long as the meet itself.

Tools of the trade...

Ran into former UO softball player and javelin thrower Liz Brenner.

She's twice my size and three times as strong. And yet, for someone as imposing as she is, you know what her best sport was?


Built like a shot putter, moves like a burglar. She's #21 in the video.

I'm assistant chief umpire for this meet. For some reason, people are calling me Bob.

I'm guessing that's a typo...

Tent City. Colleges can shell out a few bucks for shelter like they are a sponsor at a convention.

Air Force had 10 athletes here. That's enormous for a service academy! Nice job, Falcons.

Even better: I mentioned to their trainer that I graduated from Navy 30 years ago, and she said, "Wow, you don't look that old."

I'm liking Air Force more and more.

In my blog from NCAA Regionals 2 weeks ago, I mentioned the great effort by Midshipman Lucas Stalnaker that propelled him into the 10,000m final. Yesterday, he stayed in the mix until 1200m to go, when he blew the race wide open with 2 laps of 67 seconds. Just exploded the field! I nearly had a heart attack...he hung on to finish 5th with a tremendous effort.

Afterward, I saw him cooling down. He said, "Not bad. From a walk-on to 5th in the nation!"

No doubt, (now) Lieutenant Stalnaker. No doubt.

At one point, my daughter texted me a picture of her new outfit...

Under the sea...

All runners have hip numbers so we can identify them for malfeasance. In wet weather, the adhesive doesn't hold, and numbers easily fly off. The starting line clerk hands out pins to fasten the numbers. I tell him (loudly), "I have a staple gun if you need it."

During the first heat of the 4x100m relay, I'm stationed at the finish line. As the runners come around the final turn, a meet manager grabs me for a question. I'm standing in front of the photographers trying to get head-on shots of the runners; the photogs start screaming at me. Sorry, folks. But not really, since it's only a prelim heat.

Kid from Tennessee runs an insane 9.82 in the 100m semifinal. Fastest in the world this year, NCAA record, 4th fastest American all time, 8th fastest human ever. In a semi! And his footing out of the blocks was a little off. Can't wait for the final.

Pouring rain during the decathlon 110m hurdles. 1968 Olympian and Hayward Field Head Clerk Wade Bell chuckles and says, "Just a heavy mist."

Happiness is good rain gear. 

On the walk from the check-in room to the track, I Face-Timed my daughter. Introduced her to the umpire crew, including Kentuckian Chief Umpire Bo.

Texas A&M's Fred Kerley ran a 43.7 in the 400m two weeks ago. Kid is ENORMOUS. And that time would have gotten him an Olympic Silver medal last year.

No parents on the track. We have rules, you know...except for photographer and anesthesiologist Chuck Aragon. The first sub-4 minute miler from New Mexico and Notre Dame, he missed an Olympic berth in 1984 by five hundreths of a second. Now, two of his daughters are vying for the 1500m final. And they both make it.

Chuck is a happy boy.

He missed that 1984 Olympic spot at the hands of Sydney Maree, who injured himself soon after the Trials. Instead of stepping aside and giving Chuck the slot, Sydney kept delaying the inevitable. Finally, he did step back, but it was three days AFTER all Olympic berths had to be finalized. Which is why the US only had two runners in that Olympic event, not three.

I told Chuck: "I never liked Sydney Maree."  Chuck laughed and said, "me neither." FWIW, Sydney later spent a couple years in jail for financial improprieties.

Shot putter Raven Saunders was in the Olympic Final last year. In this meet, she couldn't nail down her form, finishing 4th. She crossed the track in front of me, looking like she just got the fuzzy end of the lollipop. Her grimace reminded me of this guy...

Phelps Face
Up on the Bowerman balcony: 1964 Olympic Bronze Medalist (and former UO Coach) Bill Dellinger. He looks great, very engaged. Good to see him.

A Slovakian heptathlete came out of the PortaJohn holding her hands in the air, then couldn't figure out how to work the hand washing station (the secret is the foot pump). She was very happy when I showed her how to get the water flowing...and where the paper towels are hidden.

Pouring, chilly rain. The next two days will be, um, saturated. I actually wish I was running, because standing still doesn't exactly generate any body heat.

Breakfast at Market of Choice. I don't need to see this so early in the morning....

One of my favorite track meet rituals: breakfast at M of C while reading about the previous day's results.

That's an egg/potato/ham bake with jalapeno good!

Our nice rain gear has the UO logo on it. 

Not exactly kosher for a championship meet where I'm supposed to be impartial. So I grabbed a hip number...

Gotta be an easier way, but heck...

Before the day's events began... 

The flags for the schools competing...but no Navy (I looked for 20 minutes). I'm filing a formal protest.

More rain...

Briefing before the day's events.

Before the last day, I took a drive to see an old friend.

Steve Prefontaine was America's best distance runner before he was killed in a car crash near the track.

Visiting runners leave their shoes, race shirts, medals. Pre would have liked that.

I'm actually Facebook friends with Steve's older sister; she's the friend of a friend. The sister was at the meet hanging out with some Nike guy named Phil Knight, but I couldn't get a picture. Too bad.

At breakfast the last morning....really?

Someone's momma forgot to teach basic manners. Gross!!

Hosts Nate and Patti joined me for breakfast. That's a veggie Benedict and a Greek omelet in the background, and my Shakshuka up front.

Really tasty.

Lunch buffet...since I was hopping in the car after the last event, this also became dinner on the road.

Suitably packaged...

Incredible finish to the meet. Oregon women were 8.2 points down with only the 4x400m relay left. The leading team wasn't in the race, and the winner got 10 points with the runner up getting 8. That meant Oregon had to win the race and beat the horses from USC in order to win the team title.

They did. It came down to the last 30 yards, but Oregon pulled out the victory. In a very, Very, VERY loud Hayward Field. Nuclear.

All-star umpire crew...

Then the skies opened, making for a soaking wet 4 block walk to the car, and a tenuous drive back to Central Oregon.

Tired boy.

(oh, yes...I recuperated by running a very hilly trail half marathon the next morning. It wasn't easy...or fun). But it's what I do...

One more meet this year! US Outdoor Nationals in Sacramento in late June. To be continued....

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