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Gristmill: Around the Oval

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 09:56
In all its track and field glory, the Armory in Manhattan.
Baylis Greene

Finally — the Armory. For a family of runners of various abilities and speeds and enthusiasms, you’d think one of us would’ve made it there before last weekend, spectator or participant. To the legendary Washington Heights home, that is, of the Millrose Games, “the fastest track in the world,” gloriously banked.

An imposing brick pile on the outside — former headquarters of the Army Corps of Engineers’ 22nd Regiment, former gun club shooting range, former homeless shelter — it’s a sleek and modernized running center on the inside.

There are attractive displays of historical track artifacts behind glass. There’s an eatery where the coffee’s good and the chicken Caesar salad wrap is nothing to sneeze at. There are screens overhead, big and sharp of picture. There’s an impressive sound system that never lets up with the dance music and hip-hop, even during the competition, the occasional Eurythmics thrown in for the 50-somethings in the crowd, all carefully D.J.’d by an unseen hand that somehow, and I know this may be hard to believe, manages to keep it from getting on your nerves.

The volume will dip enough to allow the knowledgeable announcer to supply, from somewhere in a booth above the proceedings, commentary and at times helpful or tongue-in-cheek tips. To my own college runner of a daughter, collapsed in a heap just over the 5K finish line: “Get up, is what you want to do. Walk it off,” came the voice over the loudspeaker. “That’s the generally accepted wisdom after you’ve just completely exhausted yourself.” This in an accent born somewhere in the outer reaches of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

About “knowledgeable,” thanks are due. I mean, aside from those engaged in it, who really knows how in the hell a heptathlon is scored?

It would be incomplete, sports fans, not to point out that that daughter of mine, Penelope, Pierson High class of 2021, won that 5K, earning her SUNY Geneseo Knights 10 points on their way to the All-Atlantic Region Track and Field Conference title. And for her, a spot in the top 20 in that event across Division III, meaning she’ll be running at nationals in Birmingham, Ala., this weekend.

As I keep saying to anyone who’ll listen, “Alabama bound.” Just like Lead Belly sang.

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