Dunn Neugebauer: Hope - and Track Season - Springs Eternal


A bird watcher at the river got excited the other day because he saw a robin. "It's an early sign of spring," he yelled.

I didn't bother to correct him - and no disrespect to the ornithologists of the world - but it's track season that is the sign of spring - track season. I never thought I'd see the day when running down kids to get their physicals in on time would be a good thing; nor would I think I'd smile when getting late night texts, instead of the usual Tourette Syndrome induced streak of cuss words.

Last year, spring left the building on Thursday, March 12th. Many remember the speeches of Governor Kemp and our then President Trump. In all due respect to those we lost, I still remember it was just two days shy of the GAC Invitational - a great meet with a just as great hospitality room.

Just as the past generation remembers where they were when JFK got shot, or when the Challenger went down, I'll never forget reading my email at the river to our trained up, adrenalin-filled kids.

"We're not going Saturday, people. At least for a couple of weeks."

People get sad for different reasons; one of mine is seeing the expression on those kids when their playground was shut down, Do Not Enter signs put up on fence posts around our tracks. I'll never forget tossing my yellow note pad in my trunk - that pad I can't wait to fill with numbers and splits and times and paces.

It sat there for months - later covered by Wendy's sacks, candy wrappers, gym clothes and general crap. 

It's back now, and so are you. So am I. We gathered at the track in the middle of this month and I saw those faces again - this time with the mattress marks - once permabonded on those quarantined faces - now off and gone, hopefully forever. The talk is not of worldly stuff - it shouldn't be with teenagers - but instead of races and PRs, spike kits, and road trips.

As a coach - and perhaps more importantly as a human - I'll always like to compare the looks on the kid's faces from last March to the other day at the first practice. It is hope, after all, that keeps us going, and gone is the world of last year's 'what ifs', they will now be worked out between the youth - somewhere in the last lap or the last jump or the last throw. 

Putting a padlock on a kid's life is painful. That look in those kid's eyes, the dropping of those hearts last spring won't leave me. It makes, and still makes me officially sad in thinking about it.

But we're moving forward now. Our kids are talking trash while taking off their warm-ups, flirting with each other and hopefully from six feet away. Times are being compared, goals written and calculated, throwers flexing their pecs.

With that said, I call a kid over, remind him to get his paperwork in by tomorrow or else. True, anything can happen; I think we learned that last year. But as of now, on this day, I walk off the track, throw my yellow note pad into the passenger seat and - as I drive off - I look back at the track, back at those kids...and I smile.

Hope, after all, always stirs that emotion in me... 

Dunn Neugebauer

Holder of lots of jobs

Author, coach, nice guy-

Latest book: https://amzn.to/33SuBZ3