DESCRIBE THE WORST YEAR OF TRACK & FIELD you have ever seen. If somebody asked me that question, the answer would unquestionably be, “fantastic!”
The worst year of track is better than the best year of just about any other sport you can name, right? You might be surprised to read that I feel that way, given how the tone of my columns is usually kvetching about how to improve this, that or the other. But feel that way I do. Countless years of total immersion in the sport and it’s still at the top.
So no suggestions for improving the sport in this month’s musings. Instead, just my personal highlights of 2005, another track year extraordinaire:
•The NCAA Outdoor Championships started a 3-year run at a “permanent” home. It’s a ground-breaking experiment by the collegians, but Sacramento has the perfect weather to pull off a meet that remains friendly to sprinters and distance runners alike.
•The NCAA also got it right by putting some teeth into the Regionals concept, some name athletes actually failing to advance to the Nationals. They were missed, but the overall drama coefficient went up a notch.
•Sacramento lost to Eugene and Paris lost to London. The good news is that I would have been just as happy in ’08 and ’12 had either/both gone the other way.
•The BALCO saga apparently came to an end (even if not in satisfying fashion).
•I try not to get too excited about World Records in events that are still in a nascent state, but how can one not go ga-ga watching Yelena Isinbayeva pole vault?
•The Kansas Relays underwent a rebirth. Might the Midwest Triple Crown become a sequence of substance once again?
•Oslo got a new stadium while retaining the spirit of the old Bislett.
•Helsinki, one of the spiritual homes of the sport, got its second chance at hosting the World Championships and did it admirably. Forget the horrid weather—that the stadium was rockingly full almost every night served only to heap more credit on the Finns as some of the greatest supporters the sport has ever known.
•Helsinki also saw the emergence of a brilliant corps of U.S. youngsters. Youngsters who not only lit up the track with their exploits, but also proved to have an esprit de corps not seen in many a year. They’ll help make the sport popular for years to come.
•The “year of the quartermiler” was our tag line early, and it played out in wildly exciting fashion.
•Adam Nelson finally got a big gold, and remained as entertaining a performer as the sport knows.
•Neither of them ran at the Worlds, or against each other, but grizzled distance rivals Haile Gebrselassie and Paul Tergat each showed he has major miles left in his marathon legs, adding luster—and eager anticipation—to an event that’s on the rise.
•The Worlds were covered over the Internet. Perhaps not great news for T&FN, but great news for American fans.
Jeeves, lay down a case of that ’05 for me, will you?