Dunn Neugebauer Column: This is Fun

Riley Perlakowski of Harrison gets some air over the water-steeple (photos by Dan McCauley)

I'm standing in the infield at a track meet, and I'm surrounded by adrenaline and chatter and heat sheets. There are kids warming up, others cooling down, coaches are urging and prodding and timing. 

At about this moment, a coach from another school approached, and he had a reminiscent tone about him even though all this was happening before us if that makes any sense. Anyway, he said, "This is fun."

Another co-coach has a term for this, it's called a pure moment, a time when you don't want to be anywhere else other than where you are. With our traveling minds, it doesn't happen enough. Still...when it does...

Out of habit, my yellow pad and I move to the starting line, because there's nothing more energetic and expectant and hopeful than those young faces. Everything is in those expressions - from positivity, to let's get this over with, to some who are seemingly passing kidney stones.

And as runners know, there's nothing longer than that eternal second before that gun goes off - that silence even though there are hundreds of people there, that silence that is perhaps the loudest sound on earth. 

On this same subject, and as runners also know, the eighth deadly sin is a long-winded starter, and I laugh to myself recalling a time at a race on April Fool's Day. The race director stood in front of everyone and said the course was now closed due to an accident. It is to be noted that, once he yelled, "April Fools!" not one of the 10,000 plus at the starting line laughed.

Not one. One entrant, in fact, took the man aside, told him there was only ONE thing a runner wanted to hear at the starting line and that was the gun going off. The starter didn't seem to understand so, with that, I wish him well...in any other profession. 

Back at the track meet, I can't help but smile some more when I see such...normalcy going on again. Milesplit photographer Dan McCauley is taking massive pictures, Coach Jayaraj is recording splits and times and places and is happier than a 10-year-old on Christmas Eve. Kids are lacing them up, messing up formerly neat spike kits, putting in their earbuds to get themselves psyched. 

I stand among this for eight hours without boredom, as my skin goes from frostbite to sunburn back to frostbite with the erratic Georgia weather. Still, there is this energy again that we so lost when we were all locked up, our mood dependent on news reports. There's this energy missing in Zoom school, though we're fortunate to have it in our technology-filled world. There's been this energy missing not being at a Saturday track meet. 

My phone's ringing as I get home - it's my co-coach and friend. He's excited because our sophomore just dropped a 4:18 in the 1,600, and another broke 2 in the 800. Another one was a beast on the third leg of the 4 X 400, another has an injury that needs to be tended to.

As I open my trunk before going inside, there's a medkit there, a used spike kit, a yellow pad filled with numbers. The fact that most of the numbers are good is gravy as far as I'm concerned because this is a pad that collected dust for almost a year, the ink pen was filled and ready but there was no use for it. 

Still, in closing, before I get inside, and before I condense eight hours at a track meet down to 16 sentences or so, I can't get one sentence out of my head before I drifted off into dreamland. It was only one thought, and it was only three words.

This is fun...

Dunn Neugebauer