Times and Champions Remembered

Mary Jean Yon,

What is it that defines a champion? Sure, we all know what the dictionary says . But what is it that goes into the making of a track & field champion? Take the FSU Men’s team for example. They recently entered the NCAA Outdoor Championship in Des Moines, Iowa as two time national champs and decidedly won their third consecutive national title in a manner most impressive to all. What is it that makes a team like that so consistently successful? Is it having a coach like Bob Braman? Perhaps. The team certainly could not have done it without a coach but somehow I suspect there is more to it than that. There is a mix of talent, determination and desire woven together to create a team of athletes that simply won’t quit.

If you venture out to the next Gulf Winds grand prix race, Breakfast on the Track on August 16 at the Maclay track, you’ll probably see a lot of talent, determination and desire there too. Felton and Bonnie Wright came up with this novel idea in 1998 and thought torturing runners with the opportunity to run the infamous “mile on the track” would be a nice change of pace for many of us distance runners. The results have been revealing, if not astounding. Back in 1998, 111 runners showed up at the inaugural race ready to demonstrate their speed. Over the years, participation grew to a peak of 192 milers in 2006 and has consistently drawn well over 100 runners each year. The race is run in heats so that runners compete against others of similar ability. In any of those years, one could see the same determined spirit that the champions possess. Do these runners credit coaches? Maybe. Certainly Gary Droze is willing to tailor his Tuesday interval sessions during the summer months to help runners prepare for the mile competition. Of course another great motivator for GWTC runners is the grand prix competition. Grand prix points certainly have been known to bring out the competitor in many a runner and the mile is no exception. Regardless of where you find the motivation, I suggest you show up at the Maclay track on August 16th and experience the fun for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

Hometown champions are fun to watch. National champs are even better. But the top prize comes every four years when champions from all around the world gather for the summer Olympics. This summer brings us the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, China. Track and field athletics have proven to be one of the most popular and publicized sports on the Olympic program. One of 28 featured sports, athletics has been featured at every Olympics since 1896. Look for NBC to broadcast the games August 8-24 entirely in high definition television. It should be thrilling to watch. And yes, we all know that having the Olympics in China will not be without controversy from a variety of sources. But when all is said and done, one can only hope this year’s Olympic slogan of “One World, One Dream” succeeds in calling upon the world to unite in the Olympic spirit.

Our club has been fortunate to claim an Olympian or two as members and to be able to watch as various other collegiate track stars make their way to competition at this level. It makes you wonder how many others are destined for this moment in the sun, doesn’t it? Think about that as you watch all those cute kids run the 40 meter “diaper dash” at the summer track series. Or perhaps there’s a star among the masses at this year’s Breakfast on the Track. That talent, determination and desire will always be what unites the beginner with the professional, regardless of the final destination.