It's approaching 50 years since Chicago has seen national caliber performances on any indoor track in the city, Tom O'Hara's 1964 World Record in the mile before a crowd of 18,324 at the old Chicago Stadium, the Loyola Rambler's 3:56.4 the first sub 4:00 mark in Illinois a memorable one.
The University of Chicago hosted numerous meets on their dirt 220 yard track in the late 60's and early 70's, Olympians like Rick Wohlhuter turning in a 1:49.4 on the dusty oval, Willy White a rare sub-7.0 in the women's 60yds, George Woods 65'11" in the shot, and Willie Davenport a 7.0 in the 60yd hurdles, most of these marks seen by fewer than five hundred fans.
Since those halcyon days national caliber performances have been a rare sight in the Windy City, the University of Chicago's 2nd floor track - the only indoor facility in the city for far too many years not attracting the elite athletes they once did.
But that has changed and great performances are back, last year's gallant efforts in the mile by Cole Hocker, Cooper Teare, and Morgan Beadlescomb the most exciting race I've seen in Chicago for a long time - Teare's 3:50.17 just missing an elusive American Record.
All of it is due to the state-of-the-art facility at Chicago's south side Gately Park, the 200-meter banked track amazingly fast, results posted on the big board in seconds, close seating on both sides of the oval, announcers doing a great job keeping spectators abreast of competitors in the fields.
Lat Friday night at the DePaul Invitational, Northwestern's Rachel McCardell ran a solo 4:40.76 in the mile at Gately, her performance #12 on the national collegiate rankings. A week earlier at the Badger meet, Wisconsin's Josie Schaefer hit a mark in the shot that is #2 on the TFRRS list, Tacoria Humphrey jumping 6' 0" in the HJ for the Illini putting her at #9.
Wait, there's more!
On Saturday afternoon I returned to the Gately facility to watch an attempt on the prep indoor record in the 2-mile at the Misfits Invite, Connor Burns passing the halfway point at 4:19 but fading the last two laps, Jackson Heidesch turning in an amazing 8:42.60 for the victory. Connor only ran an 8:48!
As good as this was, prep Andrew Regnier turned in a 1:17.62 in the 600m, the #1 time in the nation, while Tatum David put together an impressive mile/2-mile double with a 4:50.14/10:22.70 to win both girls races.
All in one weekend!
If you have the chance to get out to the facility please do, I expect we're going to see a lot of performances equal to those days of fifty years ago - and hopefully another World Record!