Last summer, I started working for the Dallas County News at about this time of year. However, at the time I was a college student at Iowa State who needed an internship to get his degree in journalism and mass communication, so this is where I started that internship, reporting and photographing sports.
After doing busy work making schedules and getting my computer set up on the first day, my second day consisted of covering one of the biggest events of the summer in the state of Iowa: The State Track Meet at Drake Stadium, and that is the subject of this column.
I didn’t know what to expect when I showed up at Drake Stadium on Thursday, the first day of the meet last year. To make matters worse, after taking more than a half hour to find a parking spot near the stadium (one that I wasn’t sure if I would get towed from or not), I briefly shown where I could and could not stand, which athletes I needed to get photos of, and then turned loose to handle things on my own. I played it off like I knew I could handle it, but I was a little nervous.
Even during the 2A and 3A competitions, which was the bulk of the events I was covering, I was really surprised about the number of people there were sitting in the stands at Drake Stadium. I played hockey in high school and at our league tournament, there were enough people to fill up the Ames/ISU Ice Arena (A.K.A. not that many people) at each game, so it was surprising to see the thousands upon thousands of people at the state track meet.
I’ve since then realized that it makes sense given the number of athletes that get the chance to compete at the state tournament between the four classes and through my internship last summer, and through the events I’ve covered since I became a full-time employee at the DCN I’ve realized the state track tournament as one of the more fun and special events that I have gotten to cover as far as high school athletics goes.
From my perspective, I get to take photos from a spot that I don’t usually get to at the local meets, right at the finish line and it usually leads to some good photos. Also, I get a chance to interact with media from newspapers, radio stations and TV stations from around the state and, sometimes, even ones from surrounding states.
But even more importantly, I get to see the way the athletes interact with each other and the way the interact with athletes from other teams, while it be chatting on the infield with someone they know from another school or exchanging that high five or that hug with a fellow competitor after a race is over, and their season comes to an end.
Seeing parents, athletes, and even members of the media (from my perspective) for one event is what makes the state track meet so special.
While I may not be looking forward to finding a parking space in time to get inside Drake Stadium in time for the 9 a.m. start time or baking in the hot sun for many hours at a time, I will be looking forward to seeing athletes from Dallas County and across the state battle their hearts out for a chance to call themselves “state champion” while loyal family, friends and supporters look on from the stands at the Blue Oval.