Every few minutes the starter's gun would ring out and wake me up.
It had to be what felt like Heat Infinity of the girl's 300, and I was sitting in the steep stands alongside the tight 200 meter indoor track at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, V.A., waiting to watch the mile. The scent of icy hot lingered in the air in a debatably pleasant mixture with popcorn.
I snagged my sister's portable CD player from her bag when she went to go warm up, and being the winter of 1997, the music in the player was naturally the Romeo + Juliet Soundtrack. I skipped along to track 11 - Radiohead's "Talk Show Host" and resumed my daze. I listened to Thom Yorke's serenading vocals and Jonny Greenwood's brooding guitar riff while heat after heat after heat sprinted by before my weary eyes.
It's hard to sleep at an indoor meet when the starter's gun shoots out and echoes between the cement walls every few minutes.
I had come here with my mother to watch my sister's track meet early in the morning, well before the sun had risen. She was a freshman at Hayfield Secondary School, in northern Virginia, and in being her little brother, I was her No. 1 fan. I'd follow her around, carrying her sport bag and a Gatorade while she gabbed with her freshmen teammates up ahead about hot senior boys.
I was part of the entourage, sort of.
Let's just say my role then was similar to that of Turtle in the actual tv series and movie Entourage.
Arch fan, driver (bag-carrier). And that's about it.
But being part of the entourage opened the door for me to witness some of the most exciting races I'd ever seen.
This was northern Virginia in '97, back in the days of Sharif Karie, Eric Post, and Eric Kweder. Before there was Nike Cross Nationals, there was only Footlocker, and this trio were not only qualifiers out of Virginia, but they were in the same region, and the same district.
Winning district or regionals meant you could win nationals.
I was exposed to sub-4 mile and Sub-9 2-mile attempts on a weekly basis - and this was back before high school milers breaking four every year or every other year was a thing. This was before The Alan Webb.
I saw Karie try - and fail - to break the coveted barrier at George Mason while also doubling back to flirt with the 9 minute 2-mile barrier.
And there was the Battle of the fastest guy in Virginia with the name "Eric." The only noticeable difference between the two was Post's bald head and tiny circular glasses. And this was obviously well before Kweder's brush with the law...
It seemed like every week there was some barrier nearly broken, or some great race to ooze over for another week until it all happened again.
Fast Forward 22 years...
Colorado might not have a sanctioned indoor season like Virginia, or most northeastern states, but there is a season, and it's been wild so far.
Like that indoor season of '97, every week there's some insane performance that lights up the Colorado track and field world.
Spend a weekend off the grid and out of internet service and you'll miss it.
There's almost always a performance breaking into the Top-10 nationally.
There's Anna Hall going 19-9 in long jump. There's Anna Hall going 2:11 in the 800. Basically, there's Anna Hall competing. There's Arria Minor going 23.70 in the 200. There's Mason Anthony going 23-9.25 in the long jump. There's Mia Manson going 19-3 in the long jump. There's Cruz Culpepper going 4:09 in the mile. There's Max Manson going 17-2.75 in the pole vault. There's Zion Gordon going 6.85 in the 60. There's Marlena Preigh going 2:06.80.
This is just the 2019 indoor season, and we're not even talking about the outdoors yet...
It's an exciting time to be a track and field fan. Every Friday I'll scroll over the list of meets on tap for the weekend and wonder who will be the story of the weekend, because there's always someone.
And it's not the quality that exists, it's the quantity.
Like the trio of Karie, Post, and Kweder in Virginia, Colorado's 5A Region 2 is eerily similar with Cole Sprout, Austin Vancil, and Connor Ohlson. The previous six names all competed at a national cross country championship.
Fun Fact: At the 1997 Footlocker National championships Karie, Post and Kweder went 2-14-17,
Fun Fact #2: At the 2018 Nike Cross National championships Sprout, Vancil and Olson went 3-6-10.
And speaking of competing outdoors...
A year ago we were on our toes every time Sprout hit the track, because he nearly set a record every time he raced.
And then there's Minor and that 51.92 all-time Colorado record...
And then there's Hall and that Heptathlon National record...
And then there's a laundry list of performances I could list but won't because because my coffee is starting to cool.
I still reminiscence back to that time in northern Virginia watching the titans of high school cross country and track battle each week. For years I couldn't think of another time where I witnessed such quality exist in such a small time and space.
But when gazing over Colorado results each week over the past year, I shake my head in approving disbelief, because it's clear that we're witnessing a handful of performances that'll likely stand the test of time, again.