A slightly different look back at the State Track and Field Meet

After taking pictures at the TSSAA State Track & Field meet for many years, the camera sometimes captures the images in a way I did not expect.  Or then there's a picture worth taking that really doesn't have much to do with track.  So for something different, I thought I'd take a rather lighthearted look at the State track and field meet from this year.  This article has nothing to do with performances or personal bests or records or anything like that.  It's just a different view, that's all.   And if you have a sense of humor, then this article certainly is for you!  So enjoy!

I got a kick out of some of those pictures where the caption says the athlete is confused from entering so many events while looking like a high jumper going over a hurdle or something like that.  And after coaching for so long, I can see the realism in the statement!  And not being a professional photographer I sometimes wonder if the camera messes up and combines a pic or something like that... but normally that doesn't happen... or does it... anyways, I'd like to talk about the hurdles for a minute.... Or wait... high jump... hmmm.... No... now I'm confused...


Now if you're a track and field athlete, you know that you really don't have to buy a lot of equipment to compete in the sport.  But you do need one piece of equipment that tends to be a fairly important part of your success - and that piece is your shoes.  Spikes, throwing shoes, jumping shoes... it's that piece of equipment you can't do without.  The shoes should fit well, be somewhat comfortable and do what you want them to do.  So remember... take care of them... talk to them... caress them... and by all means, treat them nicely and be proud of them!!


Then again, there's the athlete trying something different to get the edge... maybe doing the Zola Budd technique... or maybe that's just too much of a drastic commitment... so, we'll go with the sock and shoe method! 


Running distance races around and around on the track takes some really strong concentration.  Coaches are always conveying the importance of having to gut it out, dig down really deep, focus intently and be aggressive through the finish line.  Strategy comes into play on every lap, heck every step sometimes!  There are tons of books written about how to help your athletes take that aggression and turn it into a successful long race on the track... so it's not surprising we see some athletes really taking that seriously and take that advice to heart.  I'm not sure, but I don't think I want to be the one that passes this guy in a race!   


When you're in a field event at the state meet, you can almost always count on the weather being sunny and hot.  You're out there for a while waiting for your flight or just waiting to take your attempts.  I like to see the athlete stay loose, stay warmed up but that wears them out too much so it's better to get some rest between attempts.  So an umbrella is almost a necessity to keep that sun from baking you like a burger on the grill.  Umbrella's do the trick pretty well when there's no other shade.  But this is track and field, it's the purest of all sports and so just any old umbrella isn't going to do...

It has to be colorful...


And you have to be able to share it with your friends who need one...


And you get points if it's really colorful... but you get extra points if it matches your uniform... even more praises for this arrangement...


But why stop there, an umbrella needs to have accessories that make it feel more like home... or in this case, maybe a fully equipped home away from home!  Can I get a cappuccino?   


Everybody knows the pole vault is a really exciting event to watch.  It's one of those events that can generate a really nice photograph as well.  The event is so technical that any angle might get a nice shot at the technique a vaulter requires to execute a flawless vault.  It does take a different kind of athlete to master this event and coaching this is pretty tough to master as well.  Like some people will tell you, sometimes these vaulters get just a little crazy at times....

Like maybe waving to the crowd once you've cleared the bar...


Or what happens when you are executing a perfect vault and then... just at the most inappropriate time... you forget what's next.... Um... I'm upside down, should I open my eyes or close them... I'm supposed to do what with my arms now???



Or occasionally the vaulter gets super confused executing the vault and wonders if he should go over the bar or maybe under... or maybe, what the heck just do both!!


Or maybe they just like to find a higher place to have a nice comfortable place to sit.  Nobody's going to take this chair! 


As a vault coach you already know there are so many different types of poles.  The weight, the flex, the manufacturing methods, even the color of the pole... and a good coach always makes sure the athletes are matched up perfectly with the pole.  To do that, you have to bring a lot of poles to the meet... and if they aren't lined up in proper order, then things can get perplexing!


Then the athlete gives their analysis of the effort... like this... but coach, it's the most colorful pole out there, it's a perfect fit for me!


Then of course, if you are going to coach the vault, it helps to have a bit of the force with you... you know, it's a very difficult event to teach!  Like maybe Yoda himself helping you.... Raise the bar Luke... stay in place... Ok, it may not be the same as Luke Skywalker raising his X-wing fighter out of the swamp, but getting that cross-bar on the pegs requires mind over matter, use of mental telepathy, or is it maybe just luck of the throw... either way, that bar has to get up there somehow! 


Then you will see all kinds of technique in the high jump -  the fosbury flop was a technical breakthrough for the high jump years ago... well, hmm, no... wait... we were talking about the pole vault... oh geez... I'm getting a bit confused.    

When it comes to the state meet, everyone knows this is the ideal spot to just hang out... whether the pole vault is your thing or not, this chunk of concrete ends up being the best spot to be at this meet...



Moving on... you have to be dressed correctly for the state track championships... and we might as well start with the head... a good hat in the sun will keep those rays from burning the hair off your head... now this reminds me - do I need to do some shopping soon??



And then if you left our hat somewhere and can't find it... you improvise...



The warmups and tights are important, and if they aren't colorful, then what's the point... but then again, you could start with the basic whites...


Or of course, they don't have to be full length for you to stand out... a nice inconspicuous muted color and some great balance... priceless! 



Or maybe the darker colors make for a more interesting mixture... but if you don't have some pizazz to your routine, then it's nothing but a pair of tights...


Then sometimes your coach just wants something to stand out so he or she can see you in the crowd...


A little fire effect just to be sure people know you're as fast as lighting... or fire... well, you get it...


And then it might just get a little cold and the only coat you can find is one that fits, well... almost fits... but seriously, it's cold....and yes, the sleeves have holes for my hands... or, hmm...


But no matter what, you have to look good when you compete and a pair of foster grants will do the trick...


One area of the track and field events that can generate some excitement are the horizontal jumps, the long and triple... they tend to bring out so many different situations and certainly the cheers!  Now... if you're going to be a jumper, the one thing you can't be afraid of is the sand.  Yep.  You're going to need to embrace that finely granular material because if you're a jumper, you'll pretty much have it all over you...


Then sometimes you don't spray the sand.  When I was young, I used to watch cartoons and the most dangerous things you could come across was quick sand... but somehow, I've never seen the stuff... well, maybe until now... you just sink... and sink....


And you want to make every effort to get out of the sand as fast as you can....


The approach in the long jump is always an important technical phase of the event... but sometimes, you want to just throw everything out the window and let loose and just fly...


You train hard all the time and so you know you'll get times when you do your best, get a good run in, jump your best... but then there's those times where you're just baffled at what happened... you thought you did everything just right, but somehow coach decides to point out something that maybe just didn't go the way he thought or you feel like something just didn't turn out how you thought it should.  All you can do is stand there and look amazed at what just happened...


Did I really do that... 

But before all that happens, you have to focus... have to be serious... and even if you aren't, you better look the part...


Then there's those times when you're nearing the finish of a race or have finished and you just can't hold back the thrill!  So you let it all out in the loudest of screams you can...


Or maybe you just want the guy next to you to hear you pass....


Or just feel like yelling...


Then you are just happy to finish so a good yell is always appropriate... and hand gestures help punctuate the accomplishment!


So bottom line, if you're not into the event, and can't at least show your enthusiasm... why bother competing! 

Relays are always exciting and fun to watch... knowing how to prepare for the start is a key to winning and knowing your chin fits perfectly in the end of the baton and can serve as probably the best headrest on the planet, well, that's a distinguishing characteristic that should never be overlooked!  


The key though is to be sure whoever is giving you the baton is absolutely certain they are in the right lane and know who to pass it off too... hey... here I am.... Yea, I'm in lane two, what're you doing in lane four!! 


And lined up and ready to go... I'm first!  No, I'm first... no wait, it is you... I think...


Making sure you're focused when you get the baton... blink and you could lose...


Relays are also a really good place to hang out with a big crowded group of friends too!

     

The warm up area for the State Track and Field athletes is a very large wide open practice field that is adjacent to both the track and the parking lot at MTSU Hayes Stadium.  It's mostly restricted to coaches and athletes and some other authorized folks, so it's meant to be private.  Team tents are set up around the perimeter and you can always see athletes warming up with drills and jogging.  The athletes can bypass the main entrance and go right into this area, a big advantage when it's crowded and you're nervous about the upcoming events.  Basically, it's a sanctuary for the athletes to get ready for their event, rest a bit after one, or just hang with your team. 

Knowing this is the athletes second home for the week, one gracious team decided to fix up the gate a bit and turn it into an exclusive covered entrance when they decided to set up their tent right over that gate!  Hey, yea, you don't think they... no... you think... no, they just wanted the entrance to be special for the athletes! 


The Decathlon starts out the week for the State meet.  That's a grueling ten events over two days, and it normally takes up the whole two days and not just a couple of hours... and when it's hot out, a nice clean refreshing jump in the pool.... Um... ok, I suppose it's the steeplechase water barrier... it's still a good spot to cool off... maybe???  


Now I'll throw in a riddle of sorts... tell me what's wrong with the picture:


Here it is... we read left to right... so the 3 and 4 are in the correct order... but the B and A on the shirts is not... ok, ok, I know it's the name of the school, but just thought you'd play along! And yea, I know, lame... but what the heck, made you think! 

And lastly, I'd like to end with a note about the people that run the State Championships.  For one thing, there's a ton of volunteers needed to make this meet run smoothly and on schedule.  We have one of the best timing system companies around giving us our results.  The volunteers are out of the park on their efforts! 

Ok, but to stay on the lighthearted side for a little while longer, I have to comment.  Every year we see a couple more younger volunteers help out but there still are a lot of folks that move a little slower and have a good amount of gray hair (me among those of course).  But these guys get around the track.... 

They also like to hang out with their buddy's...


Or lounge around getting a little sun....


Or just provide the last line of defense at the finish line... or wait, that's not what they're doing...they're comparing their beards... well... actually, they're just making sure I don't step in the wrong area when I take a picture...


Now you folks know I'm poking fun, you're the best and the state meet needs you to do your thing!  We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your dedication and love of the sport to come out and do this all week every year!  We thank you!! 

It's these volunteers that keep this meet alive and on track and so I give them every ounce of credit for doing a great job and certainly I've made friends among these folks as well.  Thank you very much for a job well done! 


Well folks, there's my different take of the State Track and Field Championships!  Hope you enjoyed the light-hearted look at things and hope all are thinking about how to make next year's state championship that much more exciting and memorable!  Good luck in your training and remember to train hard and enjoy Track & Field!

See you on the track,

Coach Ted

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