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Thoughts from USA Track and a challenge to Creston

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I have a challenge for you, Creston. But first, some thoughts from the hot, muggy and sweaty USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships last week at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.

I only made it for Saturday and Sunday, missing Wednesday through Friday. But, I still saw plenty of quality track and field action.

Among the highlights, for me, were the the 1,500 meter finals for both men and women, the 800 meter final for men, the men’s steeplechase final and the finals of the men’s and women’s 5,000 meters.

And, of course, the Olympic medal ceremony held for Adam Nelson.

The ceremony came as a surprise to me as an attendee in the stands. I never thought I’d get to witness an Olympic medal ceremony in my life, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Seeing Nelson on the award stand being presented with the laurel wreath and his medal, and then experiencing the National Anthem in that manner was easily one of the most emotional and inspiring events I’ve ever witnessed.

When the National Anthem started up, chills ran down my spine and goosebumps started forming on my arms. My body swelled with pride and my eyes began to water.

And I wasn’t even the one for whom the National Anthem was being played!

There was just something about being there for that ceremony and being able to experience it that made me proud to be living in the greatest country in the world, and made me feel more patriotic than I ever had before.

Knowing how I felt, I can’t even begin to imagine how Nelson felt after having to wait 9 long years to be awarded his gold medal after being given the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics.

His long-awaited victory lap had to have been one of the best moments of his life, especially considering he was able to take it with his two daughters joining him.

Nelson received the gold medal after 2004 Olympic Champion Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine, who Nelson tied with but lost the tiebreaker, was stripped of the medal for failing a drug test.

•••

If you’ll remember all the way back to the 2012 London Olympics, I wrote about how young American distance runners like Galen Rupp and Leo Manzano provided young, aspiring distance runners a new set of heroes to look up to with their Olympic performances.

I came away from last weekend’s USA Championships even more impressed with Manzano after I had the chance to interview him after his second-place finish in the men’s 1,500 meters.

Manzano is a bit of a rarity in today’s day and age of track and field — he’s an elite-level athlete competing unattached, meaning he has no sponsor.

I was curious as to why he was competing unattached, and the topic came up during the interview session.

“At the end of the day, first, I represent the U.S. and my country and my friends, and that’s really what keeps me going,” Manzano said. “That’s all I really need at the end of the day. Of course, money is great to have, but at the end of the day, it’s not the most important thing.”

Here’s an athlete, who dedicates an insane amount of time to training and preparing for races — basically a full-time job in and of itself — who is also having to work somewhere else in order to be able to travel to track meets.

I sat with some of my friends who used to run for the Grand View University track team, and we all joked that we’d be more than happy to throw a few dollars Manzano’s way to help pay for shoes or gear, if he’d take us up as friends of his.

His comments about running for country and for friends, and money not being the most important factor, really stood out to me, especially after the interview I had just finished with fellow 1,500 meter runner Will Leer.

Leer’s race didn’t go as he had hoped. The national champion in the indoor mile and indoor 3,000 meters didn’t finish in one of the top three spots to earn a trip to the world championships.

When asked if he was still considering running the 5,000 meters the next day, Leer responded with an answer completely different from what Manzano would later say.

“No, we’ll see,” he said. “We’ll see how much money someone wants to pay me.”

And to top off the great weekend, at the end of the day Sunday, I got to take my picture with Allyson Felix and Bernard Lagat as they made their way along the railing off the track.

On my way out of the stadium, I just happened to run into my favorite track and field athlete, 800-meter runner Nick Symmonds, who was kind enough to stop and take a photo with me.

•••

And finally, my challenge to Creston.

As most people know, I spent two summers during college as a sports intern at WHO-TV Channel 13 in Des Moines.

I enjoyed every second of my time there, and am still loyal to the station.

So, when I found out Creston had been selected as a stop on this year’s RVTV tour, I instantly felt a need to make sure Creston does it up big for the crew from Channel 13.

And even more so after I found out this will most likely be the final RVTV tour for some time.

According to WHO-TV sports director Keith Murphy, there are four, maybe five RVTV tour stops that typically get brought up in a list of best stops.

“It’s debatable, but the four that get brought up most are Albia, Knoxville, Oskaloosa and Nevada,” he said. “If I had to throw one more in, I’d say Pleasantville. Those are the five I’ve heard different people make a case for.”

But, the consensus pick for the best stop has been Albia, which covered the town square with turf, brought in lights from Musco Lighting, had the school marching band and high school football team present and decorated the entire town, making it an event for everyone.

“I think it’s best when the town uses our RVTV stop as an excuse to throw a big town tailgate,” Murphy said. “That makes us feel good when it goes like that. We know standing there doing our television broadcast is only so entertaining, but for people to turn it into a way of showing colors, having fun and making it a family night out, I think it’s fun for everybody.”

My challenge to Creston is make a lasting impression on the Channel 13 sports team, especially with this likely being RVTV’s farewell tour.

Murphy said he’d like to see a town step up and try to top Albia.

“It’d be really cool on this final tour if one of the towns had a bigger turnout than Albia,” he said. “That would be awesome, if on the last trek, we thought that somebody set the bar so high that it is time to walk away on a good note. It’s going to be hard to walk away from it, but we want to do it before we jump the shark or before it seems like we’re forcing it.”

It’s time to get to planning, Creston. There’s only 74 days until RVTV comes to town.

•••

Contact the writer:

Twitter: @scottvicker

Email: svicker@crestonnews.com

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