My status on the track team as a freshman sometimes makes me wonder if I will be competing week-to-week. Sometimes the meet is so exclusive that only three or four athletes will be able to attend. That is what I had imagined happening on Friday, February 5th, when it came to the High Performance Meet in Portland, Oregon. I knew a few things about the meet that made me think I wouldn’t be going. The first was the meet was on a brand new, 200 meter, banked track that they will be using for both the National and World Indoor Championships in Portland later in March. The second was that there would be Olympian Track Athletes there, and competing. The last thing, was just in the name: High Performance Meet. I perform at a high level, but I am no Olympian. Needless to say, I was thrilled when coach sent me the message that I would be competing that Friday!
We were able to finish the whole day of classes because the meet did not start until 5:30. However, since the meet was so late it meant that I would be running at 10:30PM! We left the school at 1:30 and bused down to Portland in two hours.
When the World Indoor Championships take place this March, they will be in the Oregon Convention Center. For now, the track is being kept in a Portland warehouse and is for now known as the Nike House of Track. Pulling up to the building didn’t really have an exciting feeling about it. They weren’t kidding when they said that it was just a warehouse. Nothing flashy about it and I began to have my doubts. Then we went through the front door.
I wasn’t sure what I had just walked into but it was like a living advertisement for Nike, and being the branding/ marketing nerd that I am – I loved it. The building was dimly lit aside from the track, where the green tread seemed to glow as bright as the looks on our faces. We claimed a spot in the bleachers and coach gave us our race bibs, where for the first time for many of us, numbers were replaced by our names – just like they are for Olympic athletes.
We got on the track for a few warmup laps and it was crazy thinking that every famous track athlete would be running on this same track, and some would be on it tonight! After my warm up, I only had to wait for 6 hours before I got to run, so I cheered on my teammates and then I saw my first Olympian arrive.
Fellow social squad member, and sharer of the same first name, Andrew Kier was also at the meet and walked over to me and said something like, “I just held the door for Allyson Felix, and she said thank you, and I’m freaking out!” Something along those lines. Allyson Felix has four gold medals at the Olympic Games, and another nine at the World Championships. Three of us collectively gained the courage to talk to her, and we surprised by how approachable and kind she was to us!
I was also able to meet a runner, Trevor Dunbar, from Kodiak, Alaska who had just graduated from the University of Oregon and is now running professionally for Nike. It was inspiring being able to meet someone from Alaska who is on his way to making it big in the track world!
Finally, I met one of my favorite track athletes, Andrew Wheating, another Olympian. Again, he was extremely approachable and I was able to have a really fun conversation with him! He was running the individual 800 about an hour later, and I was running the 800 in my relay later that night as well, so I asked him for a bit of advice to think about when my turn came up.
The meet was extremely well attended, and they set a capacity limit of 1600 people. Many of the athletes, including us Saints, had to move to the floor with our gear to make room for the other spectators in the bleachers. Still, many didn’t have a seat and stood along the outside of the track to watch.
I could tell that these spectators truly loved the sport of track and field, and their energy and excitement spread throughout the rest of the crowd and into the competitors. This energy is what topped the list of things that made this meet special. Along with the brand new track, the Nike influence, the higher performance competition, and of course the Olympians and other professional atheletes, I felt a bond with everyone in attendance through the energy in the building.
Oh, and we had a really successful meet on the track! Full results are on the Track and Field website. To close out the meet, my distance medley relay (DMR) team placed first with a team of all freshmen and one sophomore! It was a nice confidence boost for all of us to come away from that meet with a group victory. The four of us took in that moment before we boarded our vans to head back to SMU.
It was a different meet, and unlike any that I had been to before for sure. I’m thrilled that I met my first Olympians and I sure hope that I haven’t met my last! I think that it gave the team some positive energy before heading into the GNAC Championships, February 19-20, in Nampa, Idaho.
Thanks for reading,