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A Message from the President/Chair

An "Official" Thank-You

We all know that USA Track & Field exists because of the efforts of many types of contributors. But it is all too rare that we are in the same place, at the same time.
Three times per year, all the many constituencies of USA Track & Field do come together in a single location. At our Annual Meeting, membership, athletes, coaches, volunteers, agents, officials and staff convene to meet and strategize. It’s an important gathering, but only the administrators are truly in their element.
At the USA Indoor and Outdoor Championships, it’s a different story. As we saw in Albuquerque, athletes are there to compete, coaches to coach, volunteers to volunteer, officials to officiate, and so on down the line. Even our Board of Directors takes the opportunity to get down to business and meet in person. The USATF New Mexico association and the city of Albuquerque were gracious hosts for the second straight year.
Of course, the athletes are the stars of the show. Even in a so-called “off” year for indoor track, we still saw American records by Jillian Camarena-Williams in the women’s shot put and Jenn Suhr in the women’s vault, a surprising victory by Janay DeLoach in the women’s long jump, a meet record by Natasha Hastings in the women’s 400, a middle-distance double by Jenny Simpson and another great duel between Bernard Lagat and Galen Rupp in the men’s 3,000 meters.
But our veteran athletes, especially, will tell you that the people who really make the show run once the meet has begun are the Officials. When we are watching a meet in an arena or on television, officials are almost invisible, in spite of their red blazers or colorful polo shirts. But for the athletes, the opposite is true. They know the officials by their first names – especially field-event athletes, who can spend more than an hour interacting with their event officials at every meet. Watch closely next time and you’ll see throwers and jumpers shaking hands with officials at the end of competition. They are all on a first-name basis.
For running events, you’d better believe that athletes know officials as well. Even when I was an athlete, all those years ago, we knew exactly which starters were quick with the gun and who would hold us in the blocks.
In Albuquerque, I spent some time in the athlete warm-up and clerking areas. It’s where athletes, coaches, agents, official and shoe company reps can most often be found mingling. I saw warm welcomes between people who see each other a few times a year, at meets just like this one. I saw longtime official Karen Krsak greet a retired athlete and refer to him as her son. For his part, he called her his mother.  She even took the opportunity to chastise me for not getting permission from my track Mom and Dad (she and her husband, official Len Krsak) to marry again. That is the spirit that sustains the sport.
Why do officials do it? Why do they fly across the country, often on their own dime, for little more than a new shirt and, if they are lucky, a hotel room? Like the rest of us, they love track and field and want to be of service to our great sport.  And they’re not out there only for the professional meets. These are the same people who officiate local youth, high school, college, all-comers and masters meets as well.
As an organization, we cannot take them for granted; we must remember to applaud their commitment to helping all of our athletes achieve some level of success.  The average age of our officials isn’t getting any younger. One of our strategic priorities should be focused on how we can attract new officials to fill in for those who retire. Additionally, we must make sure new officials are mentored and encouraged to achieve certification through USATF, to guarantee that we maintain the quality and expertise that exist in our officials’ ranks today.  And we must ensure they are diverse – geographically, in terms of their event specialties, even in their demographics.
Most of all, like our athletes, we all must remember to thank them.
So to all of our dedicated officials, let me say to you what we can’t possibly say enough:
Thank you!
Yours in Track & Field,

Stephanie Hightower

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