TIME OUT by Joe Flanagan

Excellent ending to year of sports

Another Nebraska state track & field meet in the books.
Another spring season concluded.
Another high school year of sports come and gone.
It all seems to go so quickly, doesn’t it?
The 2009-10 sports campaign was again fast-paced and exciting at Boone Central, with many highlights to be remembered and savored by Cardinal athletes and fans.
A playoff football trek to distant Chadron.
Cardinals traversing the hills at the cross country championships.
Another trip to Lincoln for the girls state basketball tourney.
State wrestling competitors – keeping the streak alive.
And some of the most exhilirating performances of the year during the 2010 track & field season – capped by three school-record efforts in the Nebraska State High School Track & Field Championships!
I often think of track & field as the somewhat forgotten sport. I’m just not quite certain why that seems to be the case.
If you’ve ever been to the state track & field meet, you can attest to it being one of the premiere high school events in the state year after year.
I’ve previously described it as a kaleidoscope of color and action. A virtual “three-ring circus” of athletic performance. Exhilarating competition by athletes who get better and better every year.
It’s all that and more.
Still, while the state meet garners top-of-the-page headlines for one week each spring, it doesn’t come close to matching the weekly devotion given sports such as football and basketball.
I believe a good part of that is due to the infatuation of team sports and team success in the United States at all levels of competition. Another hindrance could be all-day meets which are hard for many working fans to attend. It doesn’t help, of course, when Mother Nature throws miserable spring weather at us.
Even with such explanations,  and others, it still amazes me that we don’t give more attention and accolades to our young track & field athletes and their often incredible exploits.
After all, this is really athletic competition in it’s most base form. Going back to early civilizations and the very first contests of strength and speed.
How fast can you run? How high can you jump? How far can you throw?
There are certainly team aspects to track & field. Team championships are awarded at meets. Relays are all about the important exchanges between teammates.
However, the underlying theme of the sport is individual competition. Me against you. You against the next. Me against myself. You against yourself.
Therein, lies other attractive aspects of track & field.
For those from small schools, where there may not be large numbers of good athletes, it gives individuals a chance to taste conference, district and state success that might not be available in ‘team’ sports.
It’s also a sport where those considered “average” – or even “below average” – athletes can enjoy success. A true participation sport where individuals can compete against themselves, improving their marks and times, enjoying the accomplishments of their efforts.
Now, I admit to being as competitive as anyone. In fact, I’ve been accused of being “too” competitive at times. However, I also know athletic success doesn’t have to be all about finishing first.
There’s something to be said for an athlete who battles through pneumonia at a district track meet and qualifies for state, even if she falls short of the event finals in Omaha. Megan Bygland is a winner.
There should be congratulations to an athlete who runs the best time of his career in his final race after improving by leaps and bounds for four years, regardless of whether he earns a state medal. Kevin Carder is a winner.
In fact, the Cardinal track & field teams were full of winners this spring.
Congratulations on capping another terrific year of high school sports with successes large and small – all well-earned!

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