At most meets the last race means it is the end of the experience except for the drive or flight home but this was not the case with Brooks. The racing action may have been completed but numerous athletes hung around the Dempsey & even congregated in small groups. The sight of a camera called for immediate posing, which seemingly was an attempt to make the event last longer, as much as preserve memories.
The Brooks staff had created huge eight foot posters, which included the names of all the early entrants. These posters became collector’s items, when many young runners decided that they wanted to take them home as souvenirs. The Brooks staff had anticipated much prior to the event but this came as a surprise. Staff members none-the-less aided in the trophy collection and even Ohioan Hannah Neczypor, who was a late entrant & therefore whose name was not on the poster, still wanted one and happily posed with her prize. Seeing Hannah brought us a bit of a sense of déjà vu, because she was from the same school (North Royalton), which was the high school home of an old friend and rival of our former runners.
The Brooks company had chartered at least four buses to transport the athletes, parents, coaches & staff from the hotel to the track and they awaited the runners after the meet, so that the athletes could return to the hotel to relax, shower and change but they were also used a few hours later to shuttle everyone to the evening’s award ceremony. The ceremony was unique in many ways, for Brooks had booked Seattle’s EMP (Experience Music Project) for the evening. The building literally was in the shadow of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, so seeing even that was a part of the overall weekend of sights and memories. The center was patterned after Cleveland’s Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and there was a full floor of rock memorabilia for everyone to peruse if interested and more than a fair number of them indeed did. The were guitars and other instruments on display as well as records and gear and we ran into Indiana’s Chris Walden, an old friend of sorts after two years of Foot Locker, and we had a pleasant chat. Deserea Bryant and a few other sprinters (note video) also took advantage of the collection and, if you preferred science fiction over music there was a display of Battlestar Galactica memorabilia. This for sure was not your average awards assembly.
Naturally there was plenty of food and lemonade for the dinner, which preceded the awards ceremony. Each newly crowned champion received their award before their peers and various guests: 60 Meter Champions Damiere Byrd & Deserea Bryant, 60 Hurdles Champions Torrey Campbell & Kendell Williams, Arman Hall & Courtney Okoio for the 400 Meter, 800 Meter champions Keffri Neal & Shelby Houlihan, Tow Milers Ammar Moussa & Wesley Frazier plud Milers Jantzen Oshier & Ajee Wilson. Still there were special awards as well. Awards were given for the Most Inspirational Performance and Demetrius Lindo (he won the second heat of the 60M Dash) and Deserea Bryant (60 Meter Dash) received those awards. Brooks is undertaking a campaign and slogan of “Run Happy” and an award celebrating that spirit went to Erin Finn, whose vibrant personality & attitude was in evidence all weekend. The CEO of Brooks was on hand & happily kept his remarks sharp but on point.
The majority of the evening was given over to a karaoke session, which allowed for dancing as well, and was immensely popular. We captured two of the ‘performances’ in hopes of depicting just a bit of this very special evening of festivity. Track meets can sometimes seem as if there is a distinct split between sprinters and distance runners but that certainly was not the case this evening. The Brooks people managed to create a wonderful sense of shared camaraderie unlike anything I have ever witnessed in the sport. Molly Grabill could be seen dancing as the newly minted Brooks PR (my term) Singers were performing their version of “My Girl” – the Temptations would have been proud! Allison Woodward was but one of many, who got up and had fun on stage in another song and, of course, there was Damiere Byrd’s never to be forgotten rendition of Cyndy Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”. It was an evening of merriment even if the earlier race had not gone as hoped. Chris Walden shared the sentiment in the understanding that all runners will have off-days, but he was going to have a good time. Chelsey Sveinsson stated that she had been a bit concerned prior to the weekend, because of her return to racing after injury, yet she was glad that she had been a part of this. It seemed that no matter how one’s race had gone that this was a special and happy event. Even Catrina McAlister, who was sick all weekend, enjoyed the festivities, although probably no one took advantage of the evening as the male sprinters. To state that a good time had been achieved by all would be an understatement and the folks of Brooks should be applauded for their efforts. This was a joyous celebration of our sport and we look forward to its being continued into the future.