Saturday, April 28, 2012
Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
Find more columns by Joel here.
Steamboat Springs I hope track survives.
I have absolutely no indication that the Steamboat Springs High School track and field program is in danger of being cut. No one’s said that to me. I have no secret source, have overheard no conversations and have seen no hints.
But considering the debate of Tier 2 sports that erupted last month and the diminutive size of the Sailors track and field squad, I can’t help but wonder.
I’ve always been a big fan of track and field programs, and a trip Wednesday to the smallest meet I cover every year — a clash of area middle schools in Hayden — reminded me yet again why I love the sport.
My first exposure to track was in about fifth grade in my small Kansas hometown of Andale. The track program started at junior high for us, so I wasn’t participating, but the junior high played host, and we were recruited to help work the meet.
“Work the meet” may be an exaggeration. We didn’t keep times or mark distances. The sole responsibility of my class was to run onto the track when prompted and drag the hurdles off, or “hurdle hustling.”
It was the casual nature of the day that won my heart. It was the way the junior high athletes lounged around in the green grass, laughing with their friends between events, the way some tossed footballs or played Frisbee while pausing to cheer for friends.
In high school, my friends always would bring a barbecue grill to meets. Hanging around drinking Gatorade and eating hamburgers with friends on a sunny spring day instead of sitting in school, and all I have to do is run a few laps around a track?
What could possibly be better?
Plenty, or so most Steamboat athletes seem to think.
I shouldn’t be one to judge. I also love many of the sports that siphon athletes away from the track program. I love to play and cover tennis and baseball, and while I never played soccer competitively or lacrosse at all, I enjoy covering those sports, as well.
Track, though, seems like such a perfect fit for a budget-crunching program. There’s something for everyone in track. There’s a place for big guys and strong girls. It takes a certain breed to tackle the distance races and an entirely different one to be successful in sprints.
It’s not all some dedication to laziness, either. A good meet with good teams can be thrilling, with the final races as pitched in drama as anything else I cover.
Of course, Steamboat doesn’t have to pick one sport to survive. Many of Steamboat’s other spring sports are successful on the field/court and bursting at the seams with athletes, and simply put, they’re not going anywhere. That’s a great thing for all the athletes who love their sports.
I hope track isn’t going anywhere because since I first stumbled upon it nearly two decades ago, there have proven to be few better ways for me — whether serving as a hurdle hustler, an athlete or a reporter — to spend a spring afternoon.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com