Let's Watch Some Track & Field!

When someone asks if I'm "watching the game," I get excited that a track meet is on television. Yes, I'm a total track geek. I'm vaguely aware that there are playoffs going on for hockey and basketball, and I can't help but notice when there's a Cubs game as I live a block from Wrigley Field. But my favorite thing to do is watch track meets! Unfortunately, outside the US Championships, World Championships and Olympics, TV coverage is very limited. However it's getting better. They did show the NCAA Division I Indoor Championships this year, and other meets that feature big names are sometimes shown, along with occasional Diamond League events in Europe.

Fortunately, you can see a lot more now on the Internet too. It feels like Spring just started, so it's hard for me to believe that the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford is already this weekend. There have been some exciting races held at this meet. For example, in 2010, Galen Rupp was all set to break Meb Keflezighi's (yes, the guy who just won Boston) American 10,000 meter record of 27:13.98. He did so with a 27:10.74, but was beaten to the punch by Chris Solinsky, who made a strong drive from 800 meters to win in 26:59.60. This year, it's the 5000 that's stacked. Of the 23 entrants, here's some of the big names:

Evan Jager. American record holder in the Steeplechase, Jager ran a 13:02 PR last year in Brussels. It might be early in the season for a PR, but he is certainly capable of breaking 13:00 at some point.
Lopez Lomong. Moving up from the 1500/mile, Lomong broke Bernard Lagat's American Record (indoors) with a 13:06 last year, which Galen Rupp has since broken. Read about his fascinating story in Running for My Life: One Lost Boy's Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games (2012).
Ben True. He had a breakthrough performance with a 6th place showing at the World Cross Country Championships last year, and has a 13:11 PR.
Chris Derrick. Also a strong cross country runner, he's a two time U.S. champion, with a 13:08 PR, and capable of much more.
Ryan Hill. Hill qualified for the World Championships in dramatic fashion last year with an impressive kick, and has been running great ever since. He ran an impressive indoor 3000 in 7:34, and should be ready to cut a chunk out of his 13:14 PR.

Other contenders include Matt Centrowitz (World Championship 1500 silver medal, 4th in Olympic 1500), Andrew Bumbalough (13:12), Garrett Heath (13:20), Donn Cabral (8th in 2012 Olympic Steeplechase), Diego Estrada (13:15), Hassan Mead and Tom Farrell (13:14).

This is a big weekend in collegiate NCAA track, with Div. I, II and III conference championships starting to take place this weekend and next. Nearby me, there's the CCIW Div. III Championships in Naperville, where John Crain of North Central College will compete in the 1500 and 5000. Crain recently ran a 14:05 PR in the 5000 at the Drake Relays, and even more impresive, a 28:52 10,000 at Stanford, which is the second fastest time in Div. III history, just behind Dan Mayer's (also from North Central) record of 28:48 set in 1994. With national championships not until May 22-24, he might push it in the 1500, in which he has an impressive PR of 3:50. Here's a comprehensive schedule of collegiate meets across the country.

There are plenty of high school meets going on. Track can be a lonely sport, especially for distance runners. Certain years in high school and college when the distance team was small, I'd end up by myself on long runs, and even in races you'd often hear crickets for the longer events such as the 2 mile in high school and 5000/10,000 in college. So if you have friends, neighbors or family competing this weekend, show your support and go cheer them on!

Already have plans to watch a track meet, or have your own experiences to share? Tell us about it!

Tony has been a runner for over three decades, competing in cross country and track in high school and college, and road races for various clubs. He's served as team captain for several Corporate Challenge teams at YMCA of the USA, and has informally coached many friends over the years.

Tags: Y, YMCA, Run, Running, Jog, fitness, track and field, track meets, NCAA

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