Monday, December 03, 2007

Castro Valley girls at NTN by coach Peter Brewer

I was able to take 5 of my top 6 girls to Portland for the NTN. I had registered them for the Open race, and after the long season and the State Meet we were hoping for just a road trip with a race, the Kenyans, and some shopping to go along with it all.

The trip, the hotel stay, the race, the shopping, and the college visit were all very nice. We had a great time being silly and driving around Portland to various sites and activities.

Portland apparently has only one major mall, the Lloyd Center, but it was enough for my girls to the point we visited it three times. The ice skating the last day was a high point. Evidently shopping, even just mall cruising, is enough for young women to occupy time. Meanwhile, I was trying to find a TV set to watch a football game.

The course and the races were excellent. Nike spared no expense for the race and the hoopla. Even though it was mud and slop and rain and snow flurries and cold cold cold, the excitement and the anticipation and the eagerness of the runners was pervasive and infectious. We were two starting boxes down from the Kenyans and we were able to get a photo together (see the picture above). And then we ran a pretty good race, good enough for 8th in a depleted field in the Open race. My top three girls ran times that would have held up for almost any other team in either race. Ikeep trying to tell them that we can run with anyone in the state, and maybe the country. Sure, we'll get beat, but no one team is so good that they couldn't use a few of us on their team too. (Our football team can't say that, nor can our basketball or baseball teams, but they sometimes act as if they could be starters on San Ramon Valley, or Foothill, or DeLaSalle's teams.)

However, there is a big fly in this ointment. The Nike people gave the 44 championship teams the royal treatment. They were flown in and housed and fed and transported in fine regal style. They were given individualized uniforms, team sweats, Nike garb,trinkets, and entertainment and hospitality and remarkable access to the Nike campus center. There were Nike officials, world class athletes, Olympians and all sorts of luminaries for these kids to meet and socialize with. They were even given hospital foot booties to place over their muddy shoes after the course runs on Friday so the shoes wouldn't muss the charter buses on the way back to the team hotel.

Not that I resent this treatment, nor do I wish to doanything but applaud NIke for putting out this lavish soiree on the part of the athletes. It is just that the participants in the Open section got almost no notice at all. After all, the only reason for the Open race is to give the Kenyans someone to beat in a race since they can't run in the championship race.

The Open race participants had to pay to register for the race, and had to pay their own transportation, lodging, and ground travel. I didn't get any confirmation information other than the credit card statement until the week we were to leave. We were not invited to any of the activities during the 4 days of events at the Nike campus. We did get a goodie bag comprised of a towel, a water bottle, a beanie, and a poncho. We were allowed the opportunity
to buy Nike gear if we wanted ($20 a t-shirt at the bottom end). And then it was nearly impossible to get close to the Kenyans to even chat without being made to feel like we were intruding.

But I don't want to gripe too much. The girls felt very good about their race, we had our own sent of activities and those were lots of fun, and the consensus is that this was a worthwhile road trip and we should do it again next year. Which we probably will.

I enjoy the idea of a national championship race, and the generosity of Nike in bringing it about. The chance for my girls' team to be part of a national top-level scene like that is remarkable, and well-worth the money. Something like this is exactly what is needed to make them all feel better about being runners, and reinvigorate them to be better runners.

Peter Brewer

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