By Dency McClure
To cover state track is to survive the 18 or more hours on your feet, sometimes in the harshest conditions to capture the thrill of it all. I’ve covered extremely hot state track meets to one with a high temp in the 50s with a strong wind and there was no sun in sight. It’s not for the faint of heart. It is, however, a testament to say I did it and never had to be hauled off by the lingering EMS staff.
Yes, the EMS staff linger just waiting for someone to drop. Much like a wild animal waiting for the weak to show itself. Not a pretty thought at all. The key is to constantly drink water, a good hat and sunscreen, plus my personal trick is to keep hard candies in my pocket that I enjoy almost unceasingly.
The sights and smells of state track are much like a county fair. You have the glorious smells of the pricey food vendors with fresh buttered popcorn, hot roasted peanuts, sticky pink cotton candy, and oh the fabulous zingy frozen Lemon things. Those are the best treats when it's hot. You have camps under the bleachers of contestants much like those at the fair animal show barns. Watching the events is the excitement and rush of the rides on the midway. People are everywhere outside of the sacred field. I have to admit it’s nice to flash the badge and walk into the show arena. Last but not least you have the porta potties.
At state track the porta potty area is so large I personally refer to it as Porta Potty City. It honestly looks like a little planned city with streets and rooftops. I have to admit I was very glad to find Porta Potty City after hiking up three long steep flights of stairs to get to the regular, non air conditioned, restrooms. No more reason to risk death on the stairs when you can easily walk to the city. I fell up a non moving escalator last year and caused myself great physical injury. It’s okay to laugh! So, yes stairs can be deadly. Lets just say I look way over my age holding onto the railing and going slowly. No need to act normal and end up bashing my face into them.
There are many sights and sounds that make it unique to being a track meet. The sharp loud jolting sound of the starter gun, along with the sight and smell of the smoke in the air. The distinctive sound of cleats clicking rhythmically on the track or cement. The clang of multiple medals around the neck. The sound of the events and results blaring over the speakers. The roaring of the crowd and the distinctive smell of pungent sweat lofting around when the wind dies down.
The comradary of photographers and media is always fun too. You get to know people from different towns and areas. It’s always fun to see them and catch up and enjoy the state of excitement mixed with exhaustion and misery. Nothing makes friends like shared extreme physical circumstances.
My favorite events are the pole vault and the relays. We didn’t have a good way to practice pole vaulting when I was in high school and I had too great a fear of heights to even be interested. The strength and fearlessness it takes ceases to amaze me. Watching it is absolutely addicting for me. If you saw the number of photos I take of pole vault trying to get some magical shot you would surely be aghast.
I’ll be honest the stress of being on a relay was almost more than I could take in high school. Maybe that’s why I love to watch them. Capturing a good hand-off with the camera is a proud moment. I love to watch the contestants carefully set their tape marks and then take a moment of meditation or prayer as they mentally go to their competition mindset. It’s also interesting to watch them pace or jump to prepare physically. I love the yells as the hand-offs are happening and the sight of the white flags popping up at each exchange station around the track. Then the best sound is the celebration sounds of the teammates watching their last leg cross the finish line. Then seeing the true compassion that got them there as a team. The bursting emotional run, though exhausted, to embrace and celebrate together. They know that without each other none would have ventured this far alone.
The real reason to cover state track is the adrenaline rush! Being present with the knowledge that a new state record may be about to happen or even a national one! Watching an event with that great anticipation is exhilarating. Hearing the crowd chant and roar with the knowing possibility of a new record. No matter the student, town or school you came to watch you feel pride and excitement that it might happen in front of you. That you might get to bare witness to history being made!
This year new records will never be written in the history book. The pages will remain blank with what might have been. Future generations will question why this year is blank and how those pages could just simply be missing. Not only are they missing from the books they will forever be missing in our hearts. The what might have beens...the if onlys. This year I feel would have been one of the more noted ones. One with extra entries in the history book. The few track meets that took place showed phenomenal times for the early weeks. So much so that coaches were questioning the way and equipment being used to mark those times knowing if they were legit major history was in the making! Yet, the history is not to be and the pages will forever remain blank.
Here’s to all the record breakers that could have been. We know and will not forget what might have been. We saw your abilities and your true accurately recorded results and will hold those in our memories! We will forever know the records that might have been and remember this as the year of unmade history.
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