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Monday, June 26, 2006

USATF Championships review

Indianapolis was the site for the 2006 USATF Outdoor Championships, and since it was only a 4-hour drive from Superfan Headquarters I coldn't pass it up. Unfortunately, poor weather on Sunday made us decide to pack up and go home. We've all spent much too long at cold drizzly track meets and they are not fun.

Joe Allen
My co-Superfans for this trip were Tom Wabake and Bob Hayton. Tom is a fellow faculty member at school and ran for the Broncos of Western Michigan in the 1960s. Bob just retired from teaching but is best known as a coach, being named Ohio coach of the year a while back. In fact, he's the only Ohio coach with two former athletes who competed at this meet. We specifically came on Friday to see one of them, long/triple jumper Joe Allen. Joe was second at the USATF indoor this year.

Joe was a bit shaky in the first few rounds, but got off a 7.81 / 25' 7 1/2" in the third round to cement his spot in the finals. Again in the finals his first two jumps were less than great but he improved again in the final round with a 7.83 / 25' 8/14" jump. Fifth place is his best showing ever at an USATF outdoor, and with a coaching switch to Dan Pfaff he appears to be on the rise.

The Meet
Overall I thought it was great. Then again, I am rarely disappointed by a track meet. You can read summaries of the action elsewhere; I'll just hit the highlights.

You rarely see someone double in distance events at this level, and never on the same day. Bernard Lagat did, though, with a 3:44 1500-meter semifinal followed a few hours later by a 13:14 5000-meter win.

The most touching moment was in an on-track interview with pole vault winner Russ Buller. When he was ready to quit shortly after the 2004 Olympics, his brother convinced him to keep it up, and then was killed in an auto accident two weeks later. A tearful Buller dedicated his win to his brother.

I thought the meet would be much too loosely scheduled. In fact, there was very little down time between events, except for when the TV cameras were rolling on Saturday night. They've got to change the way they do things on TV.

The announcers did a good job keeping fans up-to-date on all the goings-on. I do agree with Garry Hill (one of those announcers) that there are too many field events happening at the same time, which makes it hard for even a Superfan to keep up with them all, much less a more casual fan. For example, because we were paying such close attention to the long jump, we mostly missed out on a titanic battle in the men's shot put. Garry suggests separating the junior championships and the multi-events from the main meet, and I don't see any other way.

Speaking of junior championships, the highlight of the meet for Ohio was Jessica Beard winning the junior women's 400 meters, in yet another new state record of 51.89. As you can see from the photo, Beard (in lane six) was behind until the last 20 meters. This earns her a trip to Beijing in August for the World Junior Championships, with a stopoff in Eugene for a training camp beforehand.

The meet also had a nice contest, where they picked two people out of the cheap seats and put them right on the finish line if they could answer a multiple-choice trivia question. Unfortunately, several of the answers were incorrect!

The title sponsor, AT&T, had a tent where top stars who were not competing that day would do the picture & autograph thing.
Jeremy Wariner signs a poster

Walter Davis is obviously thrilled to meet me

Charlie Gruber is one skinny dude,
and Reese Hoffa is the size of Sweetums

The Stadium
Not big, but nice. It's not too common to see a stadium built with track in mind. A smart touch is taking the seating around the curve. I'd like some shade, and they should have built concession areas into the facility, but other than that it's a great place to see a meet.

The City
Honestly, I thought Indianapolis would be a two-bit town. We only saw downtown, but that was enough for me to realize I was dead wrong. Gorgeous parkland (including a riverfront bike trail that went right behind the stadium), amazing monuments, shopping and nightlife, and a lot more make it the most attractive downtown I've seen in a mid-sized city.

We went to the NCAA Hall of Champions on Sunday. Less exciting than you'd think.

I'd be back for next year's USATF championships whether the surroundings and presentation were pleasant or not. But I'm really looking forward to it now.

1 comment:

jen said...

You have a great eye -- looking at these photos again, you're a real natural at framing a scene.