Cheering on cross-country's best

November 06, 2013 09:02 am

A source asked me recently how much any of our staff knew about a certain topic. I said, “I don’t know, our job is to write other people’s stories with accuracy.”

I’ve thought a lot about that in the subsequent weeks. What topic do I know about experientially of which I write? Well, it’s a short list. Forest fires and running. For the rest I have to keep my ears peeled and ask for clarification of jargon, initials and terminology.

Using the Associated Press style, reporters are supposed to spell out initialized titles. Yet, journalists do suffer from using terms that no one outside the newsroom would understand, including foreign correspondents who work from home.

When I found out that this year’s cross country state meet was Nov. 2, I quickly called my dad, a former runner and coach, and asked him to clear his schedule. He and I would go to Eugene to watch the meet and cheer on David Ribich of Enterprise to victory. That was my plan, anyway, and thank you, David, for making it all work out.

I worked with David’s parents on a fire crew well before he and his sister were born. I ran into his mother at a meeting shortly after becoming a reporter and we rekindled our friendship. Once a month or so we get together for chips, salsa and war stories — reliving the days of wearing yellow shirts and green pants and long hours of sucking smoke.

Firefighting is rife with jargon and initials as is the greater natural resource world. One friend likes to joke that the federal government even has a Department of Acronyms. Sometimes you wonder…

And so does running. I had to wait my turn behind TV reporters, Oregon State Athletic Association announcers and bigger papers to get my turn to interview David. By the time I did, I struggled to find different questions to ask. I had heard him say of his closest opponent, “I dropped him on the hill.” I smiled. In racing, “dropping” means leaving your opponent(s) behind…I tried to go more philosophic to get him to think outside the course.

Cross country is an acquired taste, especially for the spectator. I’ve been to the state meet a couple other times to watch a Lakeview girl take the top honors in the same division that Enterprise and Union race. This year I was a reporter, though, and was greeted with a small slip of paper with “media” printed on it. Each time I went through a restricted gate I had to dig through my pockets full of notebooks, pens and the like to present it. Not as sexy as the green laminate the other reporters had, but just as useful.

The Athletic Association runs a tight ship and the races, awards and interviews move along at an efficient pace. While I ran around interviewing Enterprise and Union coaches and runners, Dad hung by the concession stand, a big fan of the hot dog.

We wrapped it up and headed to the Sixth Street Grill in downtown Eugene for lunch and a couple Black Butte porters. Behind me on the wall was a black and white photo of Steve Prefontaine and Bill Bowerman — a classic depiction of runner and coach, the two most iconic figures in Oregon running.

It was a mostly perfect day.