Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Give us this day our dual track & field meet...

A while ago, someone asked me (left/1977 photo courtesy Franklin High School archives) the question, "If there was one aspect of track & field that you wished could be brought back, what would it be?"

Without hesitation, I answered "The high caliber dual meet".

The dual track & field meet has gone the way of the Edsel--it's a rare entity.

One of my earliest experiences with the sport of track & field revolved around the dual meet. As a sophomore at Seattle's Franklin High School, one of the first meets I was involved in was a dual meet in mid-March 1975 against Nathan Hale HS, one of the state's premier track teams.

I ran a 4:58 mile that afternoon, placing third, and scored one point for my team. Franklin eventually won the meet 65-61, and started a three-season undefeated streak. More significantly, that meet against Hale gave our team the belief that we were a good team. We went on to win the first of three straight Seattle Metro League track championships.

Two other memories of dual meet participation included two straight wins against Renton High my junior and senior seasons, with each victory by one point or less, with each event coming down to the triple jump, which was still going on after the mile relay concluded.

I will never forget the sight of my teammates giving Greg Henderson a ride around the track on their shoulders after he clinched the victory over Renton with a victory in the triple jump as the airplanes roared around us from the nearby Renton Municipal Airport (Renton Stadium is conveniently located behind Boeing's Renton plant).

As this is the week of the University of Washington/Washington State University dual track meet (Saturday May 2nd at Husky Stadium), I will save some of my memories of that meet for an article I'll post later this week.

In an era where well-financed NCAA division I college teams are opting to fly their teams to warm weather venues to chase regional qualifiers, blah, blah, blah, it's refreshing to know that some schools still value the dual meet.

On the West Coast, the USC/UCLA dual is still going, as is Cal/Stanford. A few weeks ago, UCLA flew up to Eugene for a dual meet against Oregon, which generated a lot of excitement among the fans who came out to Hayward Field.

In the Midwest, Michigan and Ohio State renewed their annual dual track meet both indoors and outdoors. USATF CEO Doug Logan recently made overtures to the Jamaican federation for a series of home-and-home dual track meets for 2010 and 2011.

For all of that, there still aren't enough dual meets at the collegiate level.

From a personal perspective, there is nothing that helps athletes prepare to compete at a higher level than a dual meet. You can't replicate the feeling of having to get third in the 5000 after you've run a 1500/800 double knowing that if you can somehow run 14:50 and squeeze past the other team's third runner, you give your stud 4 x 4 relay team a chance to put the meet away.

Here's a link to a great blog piece from Conway Hill on the state of the dual meet.

I'll have a post in the next few days on the UW/WSU dual track meet--stay tuned!

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