October 2023 Volume 19

Journey to the 2023 Prefontaine Classic - Diamond League Finals

Noel Spencer, MBA, LUTCF, EA
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My journey to the finals of the 2023 Diamond League race in Eugene, Oregon, began as a thought, then a dream, then a plan.

After witnessing the near miss of the world record in the 200m by Sherika Jackson in Budapest, Hungary, I immediately said, she will be striving to break the record in Eugene in September.

I called my daughter, told her my thoughts, the problem I will encounter is the recoil of me going to the meet a week after my granddaughter’s 2 nd birthday. Would I ever be forgiven if track took precedence over family. The birthday was September 8th, 2023, and the meet September 16-17th, 2023.

Phillipa Jagla, my daughter called me a few days later to inform me that the party would be moved to the weekend of the 16th, September 2023. I was ecstatic.

I earnestly began the reservations with airlines, hotels, rent a car and Ticketmaster. Ticket Master had inexpensive seats at the corner of the first baton exchange priced under $50.00. However, the prices for the seats at the finish line literally was above $200.00. I went for the big price; I needed to see the world record as Sherika crossed the finish line.

So, the morning of the 15 th arrives, my flight from Newark, NJ airport departed at 7:00am, arrived in Portland, Oregon at 8:40am PST. I had a day to recuperate.

I got up early on Saturday morning in Lake Oswego, 20 miles outside Portland and 80 miles away from Eugene. I started to plan how I would execute efficiently the Saturday by driving 85 miles to Eugene, two hours at the meet, and then two hours return travel, then my granddaughter’s party

I started to rethink the strategy as a demanding day, which could lead to fatigue and not leave me with energy to return to Eugene on Sunday.

I made an excellent decision not to go on Saturday. As I relaxed to watch the local news; the broadcaster said, “Havoc is going to rule in Eugene today. The Diamond League starts at 11:30am. Ends at 1:30pm. However, there will be two college football games starting at 5:00pm and the other at 7:00pm. Oregon Ducks at 5:00pm and Oregon State on the other side of town at 7:00pm. Tailing gating parties are all day at these get together- traffic is going to be a nightmare.”

So, I determined, I would never make my granddaughters party at 4:00pm back in Lake Oswego, OR. Plan aborted.

The party kicked off at 4:00pm as planned, my daughter, granddaughter Jazz and her father, plus the extended family began to arrive. Food and drink were flowing; a great time was been enjoyed with all kinds of stories been exchanged, especially about how the Maserati Ghibli handles the road.

Jazz then did the unexpected. At two years old, we saw her scribing letters and coloring art books, plus turning the pages in age-based books pointing to symbols and trying to call the names; mostly abbreviating the full pronunciation. My son’s name is Leighton, however, she calls him Tony.

Oir lightning bolt occurred one hour in the party, when Jazz took the dog’s leash and began leading the dog down and up the driveway for the first time ever. It was a sight to behold; awesome for Grandpa to witness.

The party ended at 6:30pm and I began to prepare for the expected world record run in the 200m by Sherika the next day. Pam, mother-in-law of my daughter, then said she would journey to Eugene with me the next day. She made this gesture after overhearing my thoughts on going by myself to a part of the country I never been before by myself. I quickly accepted the offer.

Rick a major contributor to the Oregon Ducks, was at the party too; he said Noel, here is a tip: “When you exit the highway to the stadium do not follow the signs to the parking lot; however look for 13 th avenue, make a right, then look for an underground parking on your left 400m after you turn. That parking is 600m from the stadium and is unknown other than for the boosters attending meets. I found it, got easy parking and in 6 minutes we were entering the stadium, Parking was $5.00. Free parking was 10-15 blocks away from the Stadium.

We arrived at the stadium at 11:00am and the first event is at 12:00 noon. Walked around the complex, enjoying the various vendors with sporting apparel and exercise equipment, plus the latest spikes and training footwear that will enter the market in the near future. I did not partake in any purchases.

The first big event was the pole vault, won in world record height. Then the women’s high jump set both meet and world records. I started to get antsy, saving, I could never guess I would be enjoying such an experience in Eugene, the capital of Track and Field at Hayward Field, the miracle field for recording setting feats.

Jamaican athletes were well represented in the major events, like the long jump, the tiple jump, ladies’ hurdles, men 400m and 400m hurdles. The women were in the 100m hurdles, 400m; I was overwhelmed with our entries in these events.

However, from my finish line seat Section 221, Row 6, seat 6, I had a spectacular seat to view the start of the 400m races. Great view for the 100m, but poor view for the 5000, 3000, and the 200m races. What I meant to say with my “however” was the seats surrounding me had a lot of track addicts from over the years - young and old men and women. Great atmosphere for me to start pointing out the Fortisans participating.

I was proud to tell anyone listening that 9 members of the 30 member team from Jamaica at Budapest were from my high school, Kingston College in Jamaica WI. I told them about Lennox Miller at the 1968 Olympics. The lady beside started telling me how Tommy John and Carlos were her friends in College and to this day remember their stand for equality on the podium. I told them about McLeod at the 2016 Olympics winning the 110m hurdles gold medal, I told them about the last Olympics with Hansle Parchment beating Holloway to win the Gold in the same event.

The crowd of ten around me all said in unison that Holloway beat him three weeks ago. I said, any time Hansle runs beside Holloway; Holloway freezes and Hansle comes from behind and beats him.

The 110m meter final race was about to start. The stands became quiet. Holloway gets an excellent start, leaves Hansle in the blocks; the race looks like repeat victory for Holloway; at the 5 th hurdle, Hansle hits overdrive and he surges and passes Holloway at the 9 th hurdle going away to the finish line becoming the 2023 110m Diamond League Champion.

The mass around me now understood what I was saying. Whenever Hansle runs in the next lane to Holloway; Hansle finds an overdrive gear to win the race every time. Parchment’s impressive performance earned him a world leading and personal-best time of 12.93. Parchment exclaimed these words in the post-race interview. “Got the PR, got the win, so I’m very happy about that,” said Parchment, who again spoke of not getting a good start. Parchment has the 13 th fastest time in the 110m, with the world record over the distance held by Aries Merritt 12.80 back in September 7th, 2012. Omar McCleod also a Fortisan has the world’s seventh fastest time of 12.90 set in Jamaica on June 24, 2017.

Tajay Gayle, the NCAA long jump 2023 champion finished the long jump in second place, losing first due to the winner having a better second jump than his. Tajay Gayle’s best long jump is 8.69 meters, which he achieved on June 25th, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon. His best triple jump is 17.47meters, which he achieved on June 26th, 2021, in Eugene, Oregon. Both jumps are Jamaican national records. He is the first Jamaican to win a gold medal in the long jump at the Olympics.

Now came the 1:45pm scheduled time for the 200m race with Sherika Jackson and the expected 200m world record. My group around me said they did not expect it to happen today because she ran the 100m the day before; and will lack recovery time. The group liked my logic as the 100 been a warmup for today. The person from Seattle said he is sticking with his prediction that she will win but no record.

The announcer states that the runners are entering the arena with the oversized monitor featuring their profile. However, the stadium was silent, no buzzing, no anticipation of expectation from the track enthusiasts. I found this to be concerning. They knew something I did not know.

At the conclusion of the race, there was no world record, however, a meet record was set by Sherika. My Seattle person said, winning two diamond league trophies, one for the 100m and the second for the 200m provides a better bonus for winnings and marketing versus one event with the world record.

I close by saying, I had a fantastic weekend. First seeing my granddaughter and her family. Seeing Jazz walking the dog Elvis for the first time. And seeing so many unbelievable athletes in person setting world records, National records, area records, meet records, and personal records. Proud to know our school was well represented, maybe the only school that had so many athletes at the meet and as winners. Shame the announcers did not know they were from Kingston College in Jamaica, WI.

Finally, seeing Ms. Natoya Goule-Tappin set a Jamaica national record in the 800 meters 1:55.96 running her heart out to finish third in the race; behind the winner of the race who set a world record that day. I left satisfied that I got my reward. Natoya accomplished this feat after representing Jamaica at international meets since her high school days.

Fortis forever.

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