Wednesday, July 2

For the past few days (and the next few) I'm in Eugene, OR helping to officiate the 2008 US Track and Field Olympic Trials. This is the second time I have been selected to work the Trials - which is the best and most important meet in the US. I'm serving as the chief high jump official, which means that I and my crew of nine are in charge of all the high jump events during the meet. That includes the women's heptathlon, men's decathlon, women's and men's qualifying rounds, and the women's and men's finals. All but the last two are done on two simultaneous pits, so our crew is divided between the two.

I want to set the record straight up front that officiating high jump is more than just putting the bar back up when it falls off! Of course, neither is it rocket science. But there is more to it than appears from the outside. For example, here is a sample "schedule" for the high jump crew for a 7:25 start time:

4:25 - The set-up crew (five of us) meet at the venue to prepare both pits. That will include making sure the standards are vertical and square and marking their location so that they can be quickly replaced if moved; properly placing the mats to provide adequate room for each athlete's approach; putting down a 10 meter white line at each pit to indicate the plane of the crossbar; examining, measuring, and marking at least three crossbars per pit to make sure that they meet USATF specifications and that they are as close as possible to the same on each pit.

5:25 - The entire crew meets in the Officials' Tent to review specific assignments (which were made about a month ago), discuss any issues from previous events, and talk through procedures.

6:00 - The crew goes to the venue to make sure everything is ready and to work with the media on where photographers and television cameras, etc. can be located, set up timing clocks and chairs, and check the calibration of the standards.

6:25 - I go to the clerking area to give instructions to the competitors and escort them to the venue.

6:40 - Warm-ups begin and last until 7:20. This is often the most difficult part of the whole process, especially with large fields. Each athlete likes to warm-up differently, so trying to accommodate them all and let each be prepared as they wish for competition can be a challenge.

7:20 - Athlete introductions

7:25 - Start the event, which will usually run for about an hour and a half.

So, for a major championship such as this, we will put in about four and a half hours for each competition. And the biggest thing in officiating field events is dealing with people - athletes, coaches, media, meet management, and other officials.

We are very fortunate with our crew. Though they come from New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Minnesota, Oregon, Colorado, Nebraska, Kentucky, and Arkansas I have had the chance to work with all of them over the past three years. So I know their personalities and strengths. And though each of them has been a chief high jump official at national championship meets, there has been very little problem with ego. The crew works well together and enjoys working with one another. In fact, no other crew at the Trials will spend as much time together socially as we will.

Before I close this post I also want to say that there isn't a better place for a meet like this than Eugene, OR. Even though the signs entering Fayetteville say that it is the "Track Capital of the World", it doesn't match Eugene. Hayward Field is a special place. For the Trials, it seats over 20,000 and the fans are knowledgeable and enthusiastic. They are on their feet and loud for every event. And they have had a lot to cheer about at this meet. I'll try to hit some of the highlights in the next few days.

1 comment:

jess said...

i realize that this is an old post..but i haven't read many blogs in some time so i had to catch up and wanted to make 2 comments!

a) i would HATE what you described having to do at 4:25 because i detest measuring. so, i truly admire you all for having the precision and desire to do so! :) i would want to "eye" the thing and try it out...not great for such an event of a meticulous nature!

b) your description in the newest post about your drive up the Oregon coastline sounds divine! i have always wanted to visited oregon! someday!

hope you are well Mike! glad you got to have such a great trip and opportunity!