Sunday Morning Musings: Indoor Track & Field, It's A Thing

These words come to you from a shiny wooden desk that sits besides a frosted window overlooking one of Gunnison's most iconic scenes - the W Mountain (more accurately known as Tenderfoot Mountain). 

Yes, I'm writing from a hotel room - the Econo Lodge in Gunnison (at 7,703 feet) to be exact, and of course the famous "W" is hidden beneath a few feet of snow, per the usual in these parts at these times.

There's that black Keurig machine staring at me, and those wrapped paper cups for consuming coffee stacked neatly in a wicker basket. Hotel coffee isn't dark enough for me, however. I need a real shot of caffeine in the veins (or perhaps I don't - these words also come to you caffeine-free.)

It's sort of ironic being back here (or is it nostalgia I'm feeling?), shacking up in a hotel in a town I once spent three and a half years living in. That was back when I covered everything from youth gymnastics to collegiate track and field. Back was the Sports Editor for the Gunnison Times. 

I've ridden my one-speed road-bike-converted-townie all over these streets - even on snow and ice (in mountain towns you don't drive - you ride your bike everywhere).

Just across the street from my frosted window is Jorgensen Ice Rink, where I used stand freezing head to toe covering hockey. It's there that I learned Lloyd Christmas was right - you always wear two pairs of gloves when you're in in the Rockies.

It's where I once had the opportunity to camp out in the penalty box during a high school hockey game and interview local athletes about their sins on the ice - a comical piece I aptly titled "Tales From The Sin Bin."

And right next to the rink is Jorgensen Park - or -The Jorgensen Park, where every summer sporting event takes place (namely, adult softball). 

I used to insert as many song lyrics and band references into game recaps, omitting the fact that PBR was almost always buried in ice in those styrofoam coolers besides the ball-players (to their credit, everyone was over 21). At times I'd try to see how many clichés I could insert, as a cliché within itself. 

You know, real read between the lines shenanigans. The kind of thing you'd expect of a mountain-town writer when the beat got a little slow.

While nostalgia (yes, it's nostalgia) is hitting hard as I scan the mountainous landscape that I used to call home, I'll bring this back to why I'm rambling on in the first place - I remember the first time I covered the Western Colorado University High School Indoor Open (Or, the Meet Formally Known As Western State High School Indoor Open. It's also the reason I'm currently staring out a frosted window.)

It was the first edition - back in 2015. 

Times flies.

Obviously the angle was quite different then - I was covering the handful of local athletes competing in the meet. 

Back then the meet was running perhaps one heat of every event, giving every heat the gravity of being a "final."

Those were simpler times... 

Simple as in shorter, or as in low-key. 

But as Bob Dylan once crowed out: The times are-a-changin'.

And we arrive at our point in 3... 2... 1...

Nowadays, there are heats in the sprints, and indoor has become a season in Colorado.

Anyone who went to that final edition of the Colorado Mines HS Indoor Series #6 would have to agree - indoor meets are getting packed.

(108 athletes ran the 300!)

While CHSAA doesn't recognize indoor as an official season, athletes and coaches don't seem to mind - participation numbers are on the rise. 

And meet directors are clearly hearing that call - in the past two indoor season we've seen the addition of two more big meets - the Let's Get REAL Classic and the Let's Get REAL Invitational

Now Air Force, Mines, and Western aren't the only schools with indoor tracks hosting stellar high school meets - U of Colorado-Colorado Springs has joined in as well. 

(Will the U of Colorado?)

10 years ago the number of athletes competing in outdoor track and field was just over 15,000 combined. Five years ago the number jumped to just under 17,000. Last year that number was clawing at 18,000. 

Clearly those outdoor numbers have trickled into the winter months, where indoor is picking up. 

There was an indoor meet  nearly every weekend in Colorado from the first week of December through the first week of February (excluding the winter break in late December). 

Sometimes two (as in the case with this weekend - this one right here, where I find myself traveling several hundred miles over three days to spend two nights in hotel rooms while covering two meets, which add up to writing a few thousand words, downloading a few hundred photos, and processing a few dozen videos.)

Life on The Road.

The vast amount of opportunities to hit the boards has paved the way for athletes to eye even bigger national meets like New Balance Nationals Indoor (which quite a few Coloradans have already qualified for). 

What's equally impressive is that Colorado is gradually catching up to the caliber of the east coast, where indoor is a season - and states like New York, Virginia, and North Carolina have actual state championships for all three seasons. 

I use that word - gradually - very loosely here. There's still a long way to go.

But while I sit and stare out at the white tundra in one of the coldest spots in the continental US, I have hope. 

Hope that for one, it'll be much warmer inside the Mountaineer Field House - I made the mistake of only bringing one pair of gloves, and B, that in the years to come Colorado just may have a full-blown indoor season (and then we can debate the pros and cons of that, because I'm sure everyone has their own opinion on the matter.)

It's only a matter of time. 

Three seasons is a bit much for high school athletes - particularly distance runners. 

On the other hand, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. 

Or, Every cloud has a silver lining. 

Alright, I'm out of clichés.