May 2004 President's Message

by Graeme Shirley

On February 15 the San Diego Association conducted the 50 km Race Walk Olympic Team Selection in Chula Vista. The San Diego area has had the honor of conducting a number of national championships, including track and field, masters track and field, cross country, and high school cross country, but these were the first Olympic Trials in track and field here.

As the Association President, I would particularly like to thank Tracy Sundlun of Elite Racing who headed the event organization. And it truly was an event, not just a race. The tone was set at Friday night opening ceremonies at the Olympic Training Center which featured lighting a torch, remarks by 1992 Olympic Gold Medalist Yueling Chen, presentations to each of the Trials competitors, welcoming statements by the mayor and a county supervisor, a reception, and dinner.

Sunday, before the race, honorary starter Arnie Robinson, 1976 Olympic Gold medalist, talked about the Olympic experience as the competitors toed the line.

Of course the walkers were the stars of the day. At the halfway point, Curt Clausen was in fifth place, two minutes out of the lead, 25 seconds back of fourth, and a minute off the Olympic A-standard pace. Ten kilometers later, he was in the lead, and by the finish, he was ten minutes clear of second and made the 4-hour standard by 1 minutes. It was a fascinating, exciting four hours.

Special thanks go to Ron Daniel, who headed the walk officials, and Jim Skelly who organized the timers and course officials.

But the day wasn't over. An awards dinner closed the weekend. Craig Masback (USATF CEO) and Vince Peters (USATF Race Walking Chairman) presented awards to the competitors and complimented us on our organization.

Obviously I was pleased with the efforts of everyone involved with the Trials, but there was more than just my opinion. On Sunday evening, we arrived home after the banquet, hoping for some TV coverage on the local news. Of course, the walk was the same weekend as the Torrey Pines golf tournament and John Daly's popular victory. We hoped for at least a mention. NBC led with the Race Walk Trials. Then they went to golf.

A couple of days later I received a letter from Craig Masback. "Congratulations on an outstanding Olympic Trials. I was very impressed by the significant role played by your association and your contribution to the best Olympic Trials ever. Everything about the event was first class, from the opening ceremonies, to the conduct of the race, to the organization of a TV program, to the final banquet."

But we are not resting on those laurels.

The Spring Road Race Challenge series continues. The monthly throws competitions end May 1. The Association Track and Field Championships will be at San Diego State June 17. Junior Olympics Track & Field Association Championships are June 12, and Regional Championships are June 26. The Association Masters Championships are June 26. Mebrahtom Keflezighi made the Olympic Marathon team, then won the 8K and 15K national championships. And, oh yeah, I was able to sign my fifth world record application at the Carlsbad 5000. Our awards dinner is January 29.

Life is good. But busy.

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