It was a good weekend to be a Track fan. On Friday night and Saturday afternoon, USATF.tv and NBC provided coverage of the Prefontaine Classic from Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. The Prefontaine meet has become one of the best professional track meets in the world, and the 2014 edition lived up to that reputation. If you were paying attention to high school track, this weekend Massachusetts public schools were competing in the State Divisional Championships, arguably the biggest meets of the year.
And if you were so inclined, you could also take in the third of four high-performance Twilight mini-meets hosted by New Balance Boston. The Twilight series, as it’s called, is a quiet gem that focuses on distance events and attracts runners with a wide range of abilities, from Olympians to Collegians and Post-Collegians to private high and middle school kids to age group runners. At every meet there are 1-2 featured events that offer prize money, and these events draw strong fields.
On Saturday, the timing worked out perfectly for me to watch the Prefontaine meet, and then, moments after Ayanleh Souleiman ran 3:47.32 to win perhaps the deepest mile race ever, hop in my car and head over to Bentley College and the Twilight action.
I don’t know how the funding works for the Twilight meets, but New Balance does a great job of providing the essentials — Professional starter, FAT timing, rabbits for the seeded races — and the no-frills atmosphere puts the focus on just showing up and running fast. For example, former World #1 in the 1500 Morgan Uceny showed up and ran 2:00.29 for 800m in a mixed race. That time would have WON the 800m at the Prefontaine Classic.
The timing of this meet was also perfect for Private School kids, whose school season ended two weeks ago, to extend their seasons and prepare for post-season meets like New Balance Nationals in two weeks. When I was coaching at Newton North, I pretty much ignore the Private Schools. Now, I’m quite aware that the fastest kids in Massachusetts might be running at Private Schools, and recording their times in obscure meets like this one.
For example, Garrett O’Toole, a senior at the Middlesex School in Concord ran 1:50.16 for 800m, the #3 HS time in the U.S., according to Dyestat. For another example, Middlesex sophomore (!!) Viraj Deokar ran 8:26.85, the equivalent of a 9:07.39 2-mile, which would have been faster than any time run in the Public School divisional meets.
With such sparkling performances on the track, it’s remarkable how low-key the Twilight meets are. There is no admission fee for spectators, and nothing to stop you from showing up, strolling across the track, planting yourself at the 200m mark to give splits or take pictures. Meets with raucous crowds are great, too, and the sport can’t survive without them, but there’s something deeply satisfying about watching the quiet meets where there are no distractions from the immediate business at hand — circling the track as quickly as possible.
Results of NBB Twilight Meet #3 are available at the NBB Twilight website.