What’s track and field all about? It’s about passion -- for the sport and for pure competition. In recent weeks, I've been lucky enough to experience that passionate fervor, first at the Occidental High Performance Meet (Oxy) in LA two weeks ago, then at the Heart & Sole Elite Mile in Santa Rosa two days after. They were two unique and completely different experiences but both filled with the passion our sport needs more of.

If you ever have a chance to go to Oxy, whether as an athlete or a spectator, I highly recommend it. The track is a small, intimate venue; with the stadium plopped down in the middle of crowded Los Angeles, there isn’t a lot of room for expansive bleachers. Spectators and fans pack the stands on one side of the track, while the athletes congregate on the opposite side. At a small track in one corner of the world, some of the most talented mid- and long-distance runners talk, laugh, stretch, meditate, and most of all RUN FAST.

Oxy was a convergence of talent and passion. American collegiate records fell, new US leaders emerged, and numerous Olympic A standards were achieved. But the meet wasn't just about running fast; athletes also sought competition, and in epic battles down the home stretch, the athletes' passion for the sport was evident. Fans were treated to exhilarating finishes and the energy and excitement in the stadium was palpable.

(Photo borrowed from Jordan McNamara)
My event was one of the last races on the track, so I had the pleasure of watching the races before my own, and the magic on the track served to inspire me. In the men's 1500, fellow Bay Area athlete David Torrence ran 3:35.41, sneaking under the Olympic A Standard by 9 one-hundredths. In his post-race interview, David's passion was evident. He transferred his energy to the crowd, pumping up everyone in the stands. His zeal and enthusiasm is just what our sport needs more of! Fellow runners, take note!

As for my own race, it left something to be desired, but I’m trying to be happy with it, since it was a personal best. I ran 16:12 for 8th place, but I unfortunately ran it the hard way. I went out with the pack and came through the mile in 5:00. 15:35 pace is a bit out of my wheelhouse at the moment, so I paid for the hot early mile in the later stages of the race. Still, I gained experience running with America’s best and have to be pleased with a new PR.

Two days after my race at Oxy, I traveled to Santa Rosa to compete in the Heart & Sole Elite Mile. Although my legs were trashed from running a 5k in spikes, I wanted to support the event, which was coordinated by my former Aggie teammate Alex Wolf-Root. Although the meet wasn’t nearly the caliber of Oxy, it brought the same passion and energy to the track.

The Santa Rosa running community came out to cheer on the elites, and in return fans were treated to the same exciting home stretch finishes as the fans at Oxy. High school runners lined the infield to watch the elite miles and their youthful energy helped power me through 4 laps on tired legs. My 3rd place finish netted me a nice $600 paycheck – always a good way to finish a weekend of running :-)

High-fiving fans at the Heart & Sole Elite Mile

At both Oxy and the Heart & Sole Mile, I got to be a part of exciting races and intense competition. The meets showcased passionate athletes chasing dreams. At a time when public enthusiasm and fan support for track & field is waning, we need more events like Oxy and the Heart & Sole Mile and more athletes sharing their passion for the sport.

Next up for me -- the Portland Track Festival on June 8th. I'll be giving the 10K Olympic Trials A Standard one last shot. Updates to come!