I must make a confession: I have never attended a track and field meet, not at any level. So when it was announced that UK would be hosting the East Prelims for the 2017 championship, I figured it was time for me to see what a track and field meet was like in person.
Thursday, day 1 of the meet, was a day of learning for me. Where was the hammer throw taking place? (beyond the far side of the track) How do you read a Heat Sheet? (focus!) How do you watch 3-4 events simultaneously? (you pick and choose). Are the event announcers always as entertaining as they are at this meet? (I’ve been told they are).
The Heat Sheet – pages & pages of info
The sheer volume of competitors at this event is staggering: 1,695 athletes (with some athletes competing in multiple events) in a meet that has 1,728 individual spots and 96 places for four-member teams. Of those entries, the University of Kentucky had 44 entries (24 women and 20 men). And the quality of the competition? How about 16 Rio Olympians (9 women and 6 men), which includes UK’s own Jasmine Camacho-Quinn.
It’s important to understand that winning the events at this meet was not the goal, but rather performing well enough to qualify for the National Championships in Oregon on June 7-10. On Thursday, Kentucky had 7 athletes that punched their tickets to Eugene, including all 3 long jumpers that had qualified for the prelims. That’s pretty impressive, especially considering 6 track records were set on the 1st day of the meet.
Friday saw 6 more track records being set and 5 more Wildcats making the cut to Eugene. Some of the notable Wildcats moving on were Destiny Carter and Kianna Gray, both qualifying in the 100M. The 2nd day of the competition also brought out huge crowds, no doubt improved due to the beautiful weather on Friday. It is very impressive to watch the organized chaos that comes with an event of this size. There were constant streams of athletes arriving and departing, along with coaches and spectators. Even with multiple events taking place at the same time, officials kept everything right on schedule, which is no small feat.
The final day brought more good news for Kentucky’s team as the Women’s 4×100 relay team qualified for Eugene and, assuming the contested results stand, the 4X400 relay team is moving on as well. Olympian Jasmine Comacho-Quinn was the top qualifier in the 100M hurdles and was joined by teammate Jacklyn Howell. The Women’s 200M saw 3 Kentucky athletes advance as Comacho-Quinn, Gray and Carter all made the championship field. Rounding out the women’s qualifiers was Marie-Josee Ebwea-Bile in the triple jump. For the men, Nick Anderson (110M hurdles) and Justin Kretchmer (high jump) will be packing their packs to head west as well.
That the Kentucky Track and Field team enjoyed a good amount of success was not all that surprising. Since Coach Edrick Floreal has taken the reins of the program, the Wildcats have been nationally ranked (the women’s team was #7 coming into this weekend’s prelims) and are a legitimate threat for some national titles when the Championships take place ten days from now.
As for me, spending roughly 15 hours at UK’s track facility and watching some world-class athletes compete was a great experience. I learned a lot about how a track meet works, I got to see Olympic-caliber athletes perform, and I was entertained endlessly by the track announcers in the press box. The off-mic commentary was priceless, but I really shouldn’t share those details. To borrow a phrase — “What happens in the press box stays in the press box.
The four day finals will be televised on ESPN, ESPNU, ESPN2 and ESPN3 at various times. Check your local listings.
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