11 Days as an Honorary Mississippian

 Sam Kendricks, pole vault, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Sam Kendricks, pole vault, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

My friends always roll their eyes at the stock of gratuitous track knowledge I carry around and occasionally spew, but it was put to good use (4 college credits, 12 bylines, unlimited media access) while I reported at the 2016 Olympic Trials at Hayward Field.

For a week and a half in July I was one of eight University of Oregon journalism students who represented the SOJC Track Bureau at the trials. We freelanced for publications across the US who were not able to send their own reporters to Eugene to cover athletes from their state. I wrote mostly for The Clarion-Ledger out of Jackson, MS, with some additional stories published in The Arizona Republic, DyeStat, the Hattiesburg-American, and on the SOJC Track Bureau's website.

 Brittney Reese, long jump, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Brittney Reese, long jump, Ole Miss alum and Olympic qualifier. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

 
 
 Tori Bowie, 100 and 200 meters, Mississippi State alum and Olympic qualifier.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Tori Bowie, 100 and 200 meters, Mississippi State alum and Olympic qualifier. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

 Erica Bougard, heptathlon, Mississippi State senior.  Photo by Dillon Vibes.

Erica Bougard, heptathlon, Mississippi State senior. Photo by Dillon Vibes.

 

I've been to track meets as an athlete, as a spectator and as a volunteer, but this was my first time working in the media tent. While sports reporting is not my preferred corner of the journalism world, being able to write, discuss, and observe track and field from a more critical perspective enhanced my concern and interest in important issues that aren't always apparent from the stadium. There's the touchy discussion about whether Nike keeps the sport afloat or smothers its growth and diversity through an exclusive, 23-year deal with USATF; campaigns against the International Olympic Committee's policies on an athlete's right to promote themselves during the Olympics; numerous disputes about logos; and of course doping.

But the most important takeaway: 10-hour days in the media tent require QUALITY snacks. If any apple-chip or fruit snack companies want to sponsor the SOJC Track Bureau during the next trials, let me know. Thankfully, Rule 40 doesn't apply to reporters, so we can give you shoutouts on social media.

Links to some of my stories below, plus my favorite intro I wrote from the week:

 

Hayward Field held its breath during each of her jumps. Mississippi's Brittney Reese stood at the top of the long jump runway, her mirrored glasses reflecting the sun back to the crowd. As her torso leaned back in preparation, she wiggled her fingers in an air guitar-like fashion—as if beckoning to the pit, willing some of what the athletes call that Hayward magic to rise to the surface of the sand.

She said she can feel it when there’s a big jump coming. Her blood gets running. She’s done it in practice. She wants to break the American and world records before she retires.

Before the third jump Saturday at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials, a tribute to long jump record-holder Jackie Joyner-Kersee flashed up on the video board. And with Joyner-Kersee watching, Reese soared. The crowd rose with her hands.

It was the longest jump in the world this year. It meant a Hayward field record, a meet record and a place on the Olympic team.

Read the rest of the story here.

Other good ones:
Immigrants represent USA at trials
Former long jumper going to Rio in 100 and 200m
All photos taken by fellow UO student Dillon Vibes, more here.