The last chance to see the CU track team compete at home this year – Boulder Daily Camera

The last chance to see the CU track team compete at home this year  Boulder Daily Camera

It was mid-afternoon last Saturday afternoon, and the Indoor Practice Facility on the University of Colorado campus was buzzing with activity. The Potts Invitational was taking place; the Boulder Creek Path was peppered with teams warming up, spectators and athletes came in and out of the facility, and the track was full of light from the large, cathedral-like north-facing window.

Mike Sandrock / On Running

On the track, CU All American Avery McMullen and fellow combined events athlete Jada Green skimmed over the hurdles on their way to placing 1-2 in the 60-meter hurdles. The several heats of the 200-meters saw multiple athletes blasting around the track, leaning into the curve like NASCAR racers. The mile saw professional runner Sam Parsons of Adidas TinMan Elite run a facility record of 4 minutes, 00.8 seconds, the fastest electronically timed mile in state history and oh-so-close to the magical 4-minute mile.

Forget about Coach Prime; the excitement for some local sports fans is on the track, which is sure to continue, with a larger crowd, at the final home indoor meet of the year, the Jan. 27 Colorado Invitational (www.cubuffs.com) This will be the last time to see the track team compete at home this year, as the spring outdoor meets at Potts Field will not be held, because the track is getting renovated in preparation for CU hosting the 2024 Pac-12 Championships. (Now that will be a meet to see.)

“I love these meets,” said Karen Lechman, the track and field teams’ director of operations since nearly the last century, adding that roughly 600 tickets were sold for the Potts Invitational, including some to kids getting autographs from nearly anyone wearing a singlet. That youthful energy extended throughout the facility. Some past CU stars showed up to spectate, Olympians like Joe Klecker and his On Athletic Club coach, Dathan Ritzenhein. I noticed 91-year Don Hayes in his front-row bleacher seat, getting a bit excited for the 800 meters, where several Buffs turned in solid early-season clockings.

Standing in the middle of it all, overseeing the action, was — well, why don’t we call him “Coach Polymath.” That would be Colorado head coach Mark Wetmore, who, in between taking split times, talked with some of his athletes before and after their races.

Combined events athlete Nick Bianco sprints during his pole vault at the Potts Invitational. Bianco and his CU teammates host their final home meet of the season Jan. 27 at the Indoor Practice Facility. (Dave Albo / Lane1Photos)

“My advice is to come early, to get a good spot,” Wetmore said of the Jan. 27 Colorado Invitational, referencing the lack of permanent seating at the Indoor Practice Facility. The Colorado Invite is a one-day meet (typically field events are held the day before the track races), meaning fans will get a chance to see CU’s throws and jump athletes in action. It will also be the first track race of the season for Charlie Sweeney, Bailey Hertenstein and the other varsity distance runners, and four invitational miles are set for the end of the meet, including the Boulder Road Runners Masters Mile.

One of the Colorado Invitational highlights could come from Gya’ni Sami trying to break her school record in the women’s weight throw, and there will likely be another battle over the hurdles between talented teammates McMullen and Green, with the school record of 8.28 seconds possibly falling.

“We feed off each other,” Green said afterwards, sitting with McMullen and talking with their coach, Lindsey Malone. “Lindsey has a vision for everyone. She sees the big picture.”

“It feels great to run in here,” McMullen added.  “We get a lot of support.”

To help fans with the big picture, throws coach Casey Malone suggested going onto the track website https://tfrrs.org/ in order to ”familiarize yourself with the event, what are good marks, what are the top marks in the nation and how what you’ll be watching stacks up. It adds some depth to what you are seeing and lets you put it into context. That is what we do.”

With a one-day meet, visiting athletes from all the events will be watching and waiting at the track, lending a festive atmosphere as they cheer on their teammates. Malone has been in track and field for decades, competing in the Olympic Games and many national championships before turning to coaching. “It never grows old,” he said.” It is still fun.”