I've seen a lot of crazy things over my years of coaching. Things that happen only once in a lifetime. Those events which cause you to do a double-take and ask yourself - did I really just see that?
No, the picture above has not been altered. That is how she crossed the finish line! I was working with the timing company when we got this incredible picture. About five meters before the finish she caught her spikes (don't ask me how) on the track and spun around, crossing the line facing the wrong direction. And if you are wondering...her time was 8.83. Yes, that's part of the torso!
Here are a few others I saw in person!
At Simpson College in 1979, I had an athlete lose the conference title in the 200m because an opponent drifted into Jean's lane 3 at the mid-point of the corner, blocking her final 150 meters. From my perspective I couldn't understand why Jean wasn't running harder, but she indicated it was fear of being DQ'ed for leaving her lane to overtake a sprinter who should have been in lane 4. Ultimately, Jean got the win but it wasn't without a few gray hairs.
In the late 80's I watched an Illinois pole vaulter in Austin TX take-off, swing upside down, and then pike over the bar, only to have his shorts billow as he dropped, the pole slipping into the gap. Fortunately, it didn't catch anything (whew!) and he only had to deal with the embarrassment of sliding the fiberglass pole back through his shorts as he laid on the pit. But he must have breathed a sigh of relief!
At the 1999 Big Ten indoor meet I sat in the stands during the award presentation for the women's 4 x 400, watching the Ohio State foursome receive 1st place medals - even though they never finished the race.
It seems an impossible feat, but when an official stepped onto the track and unwittingly knocked over the Buckeye anchor only 20 meters from the finish line, everyone was dumbfounded. Thank goodness the meet referee had common sense and awarded the obvious victory to the OSU foursome. But who says it's the first one across the line who wins?
But wait, there's more.
Did you know that if a 35# weight breaks in the air the throw isn't marked, but if it breaks on the ground it is? I've seen both happen.
I've watched a 4x800 meter relay runner hand off to the wrong team. Yup. Drake Relays. It was a Nebraska team.
A bit more disturbing but true, a male distance runner with an "equipment failure" on the inner-lining of his shorts during a 5K race. I probably would have dropped out...
At the Chicagoland Championships my javelin thrower caught a crosswind just as he planted the left foot to throw, the rear of the implement twisting behind his head. Rather than stop, he continued to pull the arm forward, the javelin connecting with the back of his noggin, knocking him to the ground like a sack of potatoes. Fortunately all he got was a goose-egg. It was hard to suppress my smile.
Scouts honor. These are all true. So if the story your coach tells seems a little fishy, you might be surprised.
Enjoy this story? Be sure to check out the rest of the website where you can purchase my books, "A Golden Era" and "A Long Road Ahead" which tell the stories of the high school and college running careers of a father in the 70s and his son in the 2000s.