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Thursday, November 27, 2008

NCAA Report

It's a bit late to get a real report up; Trackshark has the most complete coverage on the net. What I can report on: why do I keep on going back?

First off, I go with a college buddy or two each year, hang out and drink beer. That alone might make it worth a day off work, a hotel room, and five hours in a car each way. But the meet itself is more than worth all of that. Indiana State has this down to a science. Rating the meet:

Information: 70 meters
The PA announcer always does a great job of keeping us updated on both individual leaders and team scores (calculated every 2k) and a prominent video board does the same. The website is good. The only drawback is the meet program, which is awful for an NCAA championship and not worth the $2.

Facility & Amenities: 100 meters
Flat-out the best cross-country facility in the western hemisphere. All kinds of concessions available, including hot stew--a good idea for a day where wind chills were around 20. Meet T-shirts, sweatshirts, polo shirts and hats available. The lowest-cost NCAA championship there is ($5). Only port-a-johns, but no shortage there. I even hear a farmer across the road opens up his property for camping the night before. A perfect score.

Presentation: 150 meters
They make this a very big deal. From the national anthem, which this year featured fireworks and in the past has included a fighter jet flyover, to the awards presentation complete with a big stage and haybale seats, the fans are treated like they run the show. The live cable coverage is shown on a big videoboard; the course has every kilometer and mile prominently marked; fans are allowed free movement throughout the whole facility save the final straightaway. Literally the only thing we can complain about has nothing to do with ISU's handling of the meet. When the CBS cameras followed the winners for too long while ignoring the rest of the race, the crowd by the videoboard loudly vocalized their displeasure in the direction of the production crews.

Extras: 50 meters
ISU has created tradition over the last five years. That's not easy to do, and you can't set out to do it. Instead, you must make it a place and a time that people look forward to with anticipation and back on with pleasure. I hope the NCAA makes this the permanent home of the championships, as they have done with Lincoln and the College World Series.

Final total: 370 meters (out of a possible 400). And that's something any Superfancan get behind.

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