The facilities for this year’s USATF Hershey Junior Olympics National Championships are stellar. Kansas University’s Rock Chalk Park is the best track facility I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. It gave me hope for a stellar Opening Ceremony for this year’s event. I wish I could say the organizing committee hit the mark, but they didn’t. We’ve been honored the past two years to watch our 14-year-old earn four All-American honors. The vast majority of the athletes who come to compete here do not earn medals. For them, the competition itself is the reward. And the opening ceremonies, for me, have always been a special moment, one that all athletes can share in equally.
This year, however, the entrance was cut short for most of the athletes, and the announcement of regions that the audience watching on USATF.TV enjoyed were not heard over the loudspeakers. Neither the live audience nor the athletes could feel that excitement. Despite having two amazing Olympic Gold Medalists as presenters, Carl Lewis and Ashton Eaton, this year’s Opening Ceremonies lacked the excitement of the last two years. While it was disappointing for those of us in the crowd, the kids experiencing it for the first time probably didn’t notice. My 16-year-old, competing for his first time, is just thrilled to be here… as he should be. I asked my experienced Junior Olympian what he thought about the ceremonies and he said, he enjoyed them, but wished they could have walked more than 50M into the stadium. I wished the same.
I hope this isn’t signaling the sunset on exciting opening ceremonies at future events. The kids deserve the pomp and circumstance. They’ve won the right to be celebrated by friends, family and the entire track and field community. I hope future ceremonies do more to accomplish that goal.
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