From Competition to Coverage: A Reflection on the 2021 Colorado State Track Meet

Last weekend I returned to Jefferson County Stadium – not as a high school long distance runner, but more as a sports reporter. While walking on the infield to have better access to the athletes, I found my mouth dry, palms sweaty and butterflies floating in my stomach. I was transported to 2016, a few minutes before my own anxiety-inducing run to the state meeting.

As a junior at Frontier Academy High School in Greeley, I had the opportunity to compete in the 3,200-meter run at the State Championship competition. I placed 11th in 10:11, two places off the podium and only a second off my personal best at the time.

I remember having a mixture of emotions after the race. On the one hand, I was happy to have been close to my best level, but on the other hand I was upset not to get on the coveted podium with my two senior teammates with whom I trained daily these last three years. What I didn’t realize at that point was that I would continue to look back on those feelings and emotions five years into this race.

The starter pistol shot at the start of every 2021 State race tends to elicit a Pavlovian response where my heart rate soars and adrenaline soars for a brief moment after years of track racing. Within the race itself, as I focus on getting good action shots, I imagine and internally relate what my high school coach might have been yelling at me to do every step of the way. , lined up against the fence like all the other surrounding coaches. me.

As the runners cross the finish line, I see faces reflecting success and disappointment. Emotions that I have felt many times in my running career and after my own state race. There are faces with tears of joy that flow from their eyes as they have accomplished something they dreamed of since starting the sport, and there are also melancholy faces as the athletes attempt to navigating a disappointing result or for many their last run in high school.

For those who are completely removed from the sport, I think it can be difficult to really feel what these athletes are going through right now. Everyone has experienced some form of success or disappointment, but I think it’s hard to feel the true range of emotions of a track athlete unless you have it or have been. at some point in your life.

For the majority of athletes who compete at the state level, they’ve trained tirelessly since they were freshmen in high school or even college. They have spent the last few years dreaming of being able to compete at the state championship level and admiring the upper class students or alumni who have accomplished this feat.

These athletes spend all day in class waiting for the final bell to ring so they can enjoy the best part of their day – running with the team they love and training to get them a little closer. dreams they have dreamed of exhaustively. about. Dreams of becoming state champion, dreams of running at the college level, and dreams of one day becoming good enough to make an Olympic team.

However, the reality is that there can only be one champion state. There are also a limited number of places and scholarships made available through college athletic programs. And many just don’t have the right genetics to lend themselves to an Olympic team. I’m not saying it’s impossible to have the opportunity to run at the college level or even have a career in racing, but I’m saying only a small percentage of people in the world are good enough. These harsh truths about athletics translate into melancholy faces in front of me.

I felt it that day in 2016, and have felt it several times throughout my injury-laden career at Portland State University. For years, I’ve tied my whole identity and motivation to one point or place in a race, which many runners crossing the finish line last weekend did as well.

But looking back, now retired as a reporter only, I urge athletes who have competed in Colorado State Track and Field competition not to obsess over quick times or the place you may have. -be placed. Instead, indulge in relationships with your teammates and with your coaches.

Every interview I conducted at the State Meeting evoked the memories that were created with the team, regardless of the specific outcome. The fact that I had to watch how I did in 2016 also shows that your performance in a weird encounter at the end of the high school sports calendar has no real lasting value.

Instead, the friendships and lifelong memories you make at that meet or team dinner throughout your short stint as a high school track athlete. I promise these memories will shine much brighter and last longer than a state champion’s plaque, an 11th-place ribbon, a college scholarship – or even an Olympic medal.

Cody Jones is an intern for the Post Independent.

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