Your First Time...Cheering at the Track
Listen up fellow Fan Girls and Boys, Passively Interested Spectators, and Curious Fence Sitters! This is a big week in Track and Field… USA Outdoor Championships! Where all the best Americans who write “Professional Runner” on their 1040 tax forms (and some undergrads) line up to fight for the right to be called #1 in their event.
If you’re stuck somewhere other than Sacramento, hopefully you at least have a computer. You’re reading this, so I guess you probably do. USATF.tv will be broadcasting live HERE – and if you get in trouble for hogging all the office bandwidth NBC Sports and Universal will be airing some coverage on regular non-internet tv. Good luck.
But, if you are heading up to Sac-town, live anywhere in the vicinity of Northern California , or have a private jet at your disposal, I suggest you get your butt in those stands ASAP. Excitement awaits, and I’m here as the Evolving Fangirl to help out my fellow rookie T&F fans who might be a little nervous about their First Time.
The stands at a track meet can be an intimidating place for a virgi… I mean the newbie fan. I remember my first meet, the 2012 Olympic Trials at Hayward Field (talk about setting the bar high!) We walked in and amidst the buzzing chaos I felt a little… lost. Should I pretend to study the program they handed out at the gate – the one that I took only because the three people in front of me did? Take a lap of the stadium to scout out the food options? Get out my cowbell and announce my arrival?
(In case you bail early on the rest of this post, I’d like to state the answer to that is NO.)
Sparkle Tankini Jungle Chicken was there for my first time! Bonus tip: take your group pics and selfies between races, not during.
Once we found our seats in the bleachers everyone seemed completely focused on the three ring circus in front of us. The high jump pad crashed, sand flew in the triple jump pit, and hurdles were being set up all at once. Just when I found a place to look, the stands erupted in applause. Wait, what the heck did I miss?! A single file line of fit bodies in spandex carrying backpacks marched into the stadium and headed towards the far corner where the hurdle start was. Ah, yes, let’s clap for them.
That game of monkey-see, monkey-do carried me through the rest of the meet. Clap? Clap. Cheer? Cheer. Gasp? Dramatically gasp two seconds after cue once everyone else has already gone quiet. (dangit, what happened??)
Luckily, it’s pretty easy to be a “surface level” track fan. You don’t need to know the season bests and alma maters of every entrant of every event like the dude in front of us did to appreciate a come-from-behind win, the scare of a stumble, or the grueling expression of runner wringing out every last bit in the final meters.
So if you’ve been avoiding the stands at the oval for fear of looking like an imposter or total dweeb, get over it. It’s easy to blend in with the crowd, and track nerds (loving sentiment, promise) are in general very nice people. But if you’re still wary, I’ve put together a few entry-level Track Fan Personalities you can adopt for the big day, ordered up in levels of commitment required:
1) The Enthusiastic Clapper
Take your quiet golf clap to a level just under high school cheerleader tryouts each time the race passes in front of the stands. Polite yet effective, very small margin for error.
2) Woo! Girl
Thanks to Robin and How I Met Your Mother, we know the Woo! Girls are hard-to-ignore. This simple and universal exclamation of excitement is best used in conjunction with the Enthusiastic Clapper approach.
3) Sponsor/Club Groupie
Sponsored athletes wear unique “kits” (race outfits) – Brooks Viziglow Green and Black, New Balance orangey coral bottoms, Oiselle Strappy Bras, etc. This makes them easy to spot, and therefore easy to cheer without having to worry about flubbing a name. “C’mon, NJNY!!” “Look at the Brooks Beasts working together!”
4) Name Dropper
Most meets post heat sheets online before the big day (hint: this weekend’s), giving you a great opportunity to rehearse your cheers. Browse the list for names you recognize, ones that are fun to say, or that your finger chose during close-your-eyes-and-point, and become that athlete’s biggest fan during their race. “Here we go, ___!” “Looking good, ___!” Just make sure you don’t get your heats mixed up and end up yelling for someone that’s still off warming up somewhere.
(Bonus points awarded for custom fan tees.)
Which Fangirl are you going to be? If you’re tuning in from home like me you can be 5) Crazy Yelling at the Computer Girl.
The fun runs all weekend! (see what I did there?) Keep an eye on #USAoutdoors, #birdsac, @oiselle, @oiselle_team, and @flotrack for up-to-the-minute Twitter coverage, and don’t miss Dr Lesko’s preview HERE.