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Track time

I am my father’s son when spring comes around. In the Colburn household, it was just as likely to be called track and field season.

In the late 1960s, a group of men branded themselves the Marion Warrior Wolfpack. Membership didn’t depend on having a kid in high school; they were guys who just loved sports and took supporting local teams seriously enough that they bought red windbreakers with the name across the back. I still have Dad’s.

They went to most of the competitions, both home and away, and Dad often took me with him, particularly to track meets. I carry with me still vivid images of Gary Melcher powering across the shotput ring, standing next to the track as Jack Loomis and Bill Finke sprinted past, the excitement of relay races, and feelings of awe and admiration for what I beheld.

There was the pilgrimage to Lawrence for the Kansas Relays, the anticipation of the Glen Cunningham Mile, and the year I saw Jim Ryun compete. It was track and field at its amateur finest, and I was hooked. Watching the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City set the hook permanently.

Fishing poles became javelins and bricks became shotputs in my young hands. I rescued paper towel rolls from the trash for use as relay batons. I snared a ragged old mattress for a high jump landing pad, and abruptly discovered upon landing why it had been discarded.

I tried track in junior high, running sprints and hurdles. My meet performances convinced me to join the high school golf team, but I picked up distance running as a young adult and continued periodically through the years as life circumstances allowed.

One thing I love about track and field is its history. It’s a sport more than 2,000 years old, and most of the events that were contested 700 years before Christ still exist in some form today. Watching track and field is like traveling through time.

The sport is almost purely about reaching the limits of performance of the human body. One could argue that relay teams are nothing more than the sum of four individual performances. There is little practical use to be found in tossing a discus or a shot, triple jumping, or pole vaulting, but one must marshal in the proper doses strength, agility, speed, and coordination to excel. There is little I find more satisfying than the pure joy of running, or more awe-inspiring than watching elite track athletes celebrate the miracle of the human body with their performances.

Needless to say, I’m looking forward to covering some track meets. Bring them on. It’s track season.

— david colburn

Last modified March 26, 2015

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