sports blog by andy shenk

Spring on that Track!

In At The Game, Track & Field on March 29, 2013 at 9:23 PM

I took some notes on the Elkhart Central – Concord boys track & field meet yesterday evening, but I’m unsure what to do with them. It’s a little tricky recapping 11 running events and five field events, especially since I didn’t bother to wander over to the long jump, high jump or pole vault pits located at the far end of Rice Field. Shot put and discus didn’t make the cut, either. I’m too much of a running fan to care.

Instead, I plopped down in the third row of the bleachers, facing the finish line. It’s about a 15-minute walk from my house and it was pleasure enough to walk a few miles and sit out in the brisk March air for a few hours on Thursday afternoon. On Wednesday I was stuck inside the house writing from 6:00 am to 2:00 am (with a few breaks). On top of my evening at Rice Field, I made two strolls yesterday to Kroger’s for groceries – the second time because I forgot to buy popcorn, vegetable oil, garlic and bananas – and each time made me a little more excited for summer’s approach. I hope I’ll be spending most of it relaxing in Moscow parks and attending the rugby and track & field competitions scheduled for Luzhniki Stadium.

Russia’s a long ways off, though, for now. Elkhart Central’s Rice Field, which must fit at least 10,000 spectators, was so fresh, clean, and familial Thursday evening … three adjectives public events in Moscow are hard pressed to supply. A few parents leaned on the fence to watch the races. Most were scattered in the bleachers the length of the home stretch. There couldn’t have been more than a hundred fans on hand, but every time the runners came hurtling toward the finish cheers for “Central!” and “Concord!” or just the names of sons, brothers, and prospective boyfriends rang out from the multi-generational crowd.

The 100-meter race jumped out. My pulse rose as the boys pounded down the track.  Central senior Larry Gates dusted the field in 11.25. The Blue Blazer senior, 5th last season at the Goshen sectional, outran the rest of the field by about half a second, roughly the same margin between his time and the world record at the turn of the 20th century. Gates, I imagine, was more excited to match his sectional finals time in 2012 this early in the season.

I think I must love the pure simplicity of a race. It never ends on a suspicious foul call or pass interference, not to mention stoppage time penalty kicks. Racing lets the athletes decide every time. Even if the favorites usually win, it’s so raw and visceral that I’m starting to tremble a bit and hyperventilate as I write this out. No joke.

I didn’t know the favorites yesterday, either, so I decided to pick my top runner from each school prior to the mile run based on appearance. I whiffed on the best distance runner at the meet, Concord’s Henry Zelaya, who cruised to first in 4:48, but my Minutemen pick did place second overall. On the Blazers side, I went against the blonde kid I’d initially tabbed for glory, settling on a teammate with tousled, brown hair. 4 minutes, 59 seconds later my guy out-leaned his teammate at the line for 3rd place. The move drew some chuckles in the bleachers. It’s just a dual meet in late March, but it’s nice to see someone that competitive.

Going back to Zelaya, I was an idiot for not selecting him in the mile run. High school boys that skip the shorts and go with tights in a long-distance race have to be committed. He easily won the 2-mile, too, a few hours later, in the penultimate race of the night. After running in a four-man pack for the first 2000 meters, Zelaya separated by a few yards on the backstretch of the 6th lap and built his lead during 7th. With 400 meters to go, the sophomore took off for good, blitzing the final lap in 69 seconds after running between 77 and 83 seconds for the first seven.

The 4×400 capped the evening. Concord and Elkhart Central’s varsity squads stepped to the line. I was cold, especially my fingers. The sun had sunk beneath the bleachers behind me an hour before and a cool breeze lingered in the air.

The fans and athletes crowded the stands and infield for the meet’s final event. After dominating throughout the competition, the Blue Blazers led from start to finish in the relay. Junior Tre Taylor ran the anchor in a team-best 53 seconds for a total time of 3:41.

I began my walk home while the JV teams prepared to race one final heat of the 4×400. From the opposite side of the stadium, the sun now squinting in my eyes, 16 runners clipped by. I’m not sure I’ll ever watch another meet at Rice Stadium, but it’s a good start on my personal road to the 2013 Track & Field World Championships in Moscow.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: