A couple weeks ago now, the NAU track team traveled to Pocatello, ID for the Big Sky Indoor Championships at Idaho State’s Holt Arena. I, along with a few other lucky teammates, was signed up for the 5k-3k double. 40 laps is a lot of laps on a banked wooden track. 41 is even more.
Yes, you read that right. Five thousand and two hundred meters. They made us run an extra lap. So what, right? Everyone had to do it. What’s an extra lap. Well here is how it happened.
As we gathered on the starting line before the race, I noticed the lap counter was on the ground. An older fellow dressed in obnoxiously orange attire (Go Tigers!) was fiddling with the lap counter. From what I could discern, the first digit of the lap counter was stuck and he couldn’t get it to go to “2.” About this time I noticed the gun went up and got ready to start the race. I came by the first lap in a good position near the front. Still no lap counter. Finally, as we rounded our fourth bend, there was the lap counter, showing 24 laps remaining. This is a joke, right? Do they really think we just ran a 200m in 70 seconds? As each lap went by, I hoped they would correct their error, but to no avail. Eventually, I canned it and realized they had no clue. But then I started to wonder about the other competitors. Did they realize the mistake? When will they kick? Are they going to run the full 5.2k or will they stop when we are supposed to. As you might guess, this is a terrible state of mind to be in when racing.
In the end we ended up running that extra 200m, and no one else in the field seemed to really notice. Of course I voiced my frustrations to one of the officials after I finished to which she replied, “Oh, it was off.” I guess I should give them some credit for thinking something might be off. Good work, gang. After the race, there was some talk about protesting the finish, because at 5000m NAU’s finishing places were 1-3-5-6-8 (24 points) as opposed to 2-3-5-6-7 (23 points). We decided that wasn’t fair and let it be.
By this point in the meet it had come down to a two-way dog fight between NAU and Sacramento State. Sac State had no one competing in the 3k, so it was up to the distance crew to close the gap on them. Before the race, a few of us made some very sarcastic comments to the officials about counting the laps correctly. I was happy I wasn’t the only one that was annoyed.
Diego took the race out at a solid pace, just like he had promised. Andrew Belus followed close behind and then I tucked in after him. Around we went, hitting the mile just under 4:30. I knew exactly where my race was, and that was right on Andrew’s heels, but I just couldn’t hang. A few runners slowly passed me, and Andrew continued to do battle up ahead. In the end, Diego won, Andrew was 4th was a huge PR of 8:25 (converts to ~8:15!), I was 6th in 8:35.53 and Tim Freriks was 7th.
Our 4×4 team somehow managed to win even though they were in the slower heat. We thought everything was working out perfectly. Then they read the scores: we lost the meet by HALF A POINT! Brutal. Now that mistake in the 5k hurts even more, but that’s just the way it goes sometimes. I’m proud of the team as a whole, and especially John Yatsko, for rallying behind each other. This was definitely NOT the most talented team NAU has taken to a Big Sky Track Championship, but, since I have been here, it was the best team effort.
A little side note: in 2008 the Indoor Championships were also hosted by Idaho State. On that occasion, Sacramento State won both men’s and women’s titles, like this year. In 2008, NAU went to Sacramento for the Outdoor Championship and took the men’s title home. By chance, the Outdoor Championships are in Sacramento once again. Will history repeat itself? You know what I think.