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Dr. J. on Running

Indoor Track

There is Room for Improvement

Published Januray 29, 2001 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

A weekly ritual for the parents of indoor track athletes, late nights at Manley Field House are as much a Syracuse winter tradition as snow, short days and cold nights. With two children competing this season, a boy and a girl, I found myself spending more evenings at Manley than anywhere else.

As each meet carried the name of a dedicated track supporter, many of them with us in memory only, I wished the director took a minute to remember the namesake of the meet. I wished the short program of events carried a picture and a biography as well.

As a citizen proud of our nation and our freedom, I wished we taught our children to honor our flag and remember our heritage by starting every meet with our National Anthem.

As the season progressed, the faces of the officials became familiar, yet most of them remained anonymous. I got used to watching the clerk at work, the tall girl timing the sprints and the short guy resetting the vault bar. With or without children in the meet, they have dedicated their evenings to helping mine. I wish someone recognized them by name at the start of the meet.

As the fast and the strong won the races and cleared the hurdles, I got accustomed to watching a runner from Canastota in the lead, and a vaulter from Tully over the bar. I wished somebody introduced them at the start of their events, or updated us with their performances during the meet.

As the runners went in circles and the officials counted their laps, I wished we had a clock by the finish line indicating splits and showing elapsed time. As the leader entered the final lap, I wished they used the harmonic sound of a bell instead of the deafening sound of a gun.

As the evenings grew longer and fatigue took its toll, and I walked to the concessions for some refreshments, I wished they sold real food, the kind runners eat and feed our children. I also wished they brewed some fresh coffee in clean filters once in a while.

As athletes competed and events completed, I wished someone announced results and recognized achievements. I wished the loud speaker carried the good news of a sectional record or a personal record, instead of lost keys and illegally parked cars.

As the season progressed, and the hard surface and narrow turns took their toll on the fragile bodies of growing runners, I wished officials limited athletes to one event per meet. Besides making the meets shorter and allowing time for introductions, the concept of "one athlete one event" would promote participation, encourage achievement, and prevent injury.

As the indoor games draw to an end and usher the outdoor season, much wishful thinking that eluded reality in the dim lights of Manley could come true in the bright sunlight of the 400-meter ovals. Let us reward the labor of our athletes, coaches and officials, and give them the recognition they deserve.

Kamal Jabbour has read many books on the hard benches at Manley. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. Dr.J. created TrackMeets.com, webcasting live Every Lap of Every Race. He receives email at jabbour@syr.edu.


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