Budapest, Day 2 -Jim’s Spier Blog

by Jim Spier

Budapest 2023 – Day 2

Today is St. Stephen’s day, the biggest holiday in Hungary.  It celebrates the founding of Hungary.  Almost everything shuts down.

I didn’t realize how much until I started my usual journey from my apartment to the stadium.  I went to the Tram stop and waited and waited and waited.  I checked the schedule and it said they were supposed to run every 10 minutes, even on Sundays and holidays.  But … nothing.

So I walked about a mile to the nearest subway, got off at the Fovam stop, and picked up the tram there with no issues.

At the stadium I hooked up with friend Tracy Sundlun and we basically spent the morning together, enjoying the meet.  And wondering how Britton Wilson and Bryce Deadmon couldn’t make it out of the first round of the 400 meters, among other things.  We are spoiled by timing companies like Athletic Timing and Flash Results who seem to have the results posted within seconds.  Here, it might take minutes; maybe it’s because they want to be absolutely certain of the results.

We were also joined by Jamie Kempton and Larry Beckerle, two (now retired) legendary coaches (Nanuet and Suffern) from Rockland County, NY.  It was really good to spend time with them.  Our shared experiences go back 50 years or more.  I also saw Oregon-based photographer Kim Spir, and New York based photographers Errol Anderson and Victor Sailor.  Both Errol and Victor are retired New York City firemen.

I decided to go back to the apartment after the morning session.  I knew the #2 tram was a crapshoot at this point.  So I got on a #2 that said it only goes to Mauritius.  I looked on my map and Mauritius is one stop after Fovam.  And I knew how to get home from there.

I got off and picked up a Gyro for lunch from the “Greek Street Food” restaurant.  I spent about an hour working, then back the track.

I walked to my tram stop.  There were tents with refreshments set up along the tracks to help celebrate the holiday.  And there was a rope across the tracks that a tram would have to break in order to function.  A good guess would be  that this tram wasn’t running any more today.

This was a national holiday, as I mentioned.  This would be a challenge.  Let me just get a Bolt, I thought.. I connected to Bolt nicely.  When I selected the location, it said, “All taxis are busy”.  So it was another mile walk to the subway station, to the tram connection, to the stadium.  And, again, we’re packed in like sardines.

It was another great celebration of track and field that night.  It began with 3 semi finals of the 100 meters.  Any one of the semis, especially the first one, could have been the final.  Seven of the eight finalists were under 10.00.  And the eighth was at 10.01.

The long jump was one by Serbian Ivana Vuleta at 23-05 (how can anyone jump that far?).  That was a world leader.  The irrepressible Tara Davis-Woodhull (U of Georgia/Agoura, CA), winner of several NSAF indoor and outdoor championships, was second at 22-09.  She was leading after the first round.  Then Vuleta jumped 23-01.5 in round 2, improving to 23-05 in Round 5.

Cory Mc Gee (U of Florida/Pass Christian, MS) was the only American to make it through to the final in the 1500 meters.  She is one of those rare athletes who has been consistently good since the 7th grade with few, if any, injuries.  Her best NSAF performance was 4th place in the 2010 NSAF NBNO Mile

On the men’s side, two Americans, Jared Nuguse (Notre Dame/Dupont, Louisville, KY)  and Cole Hocker (Oregon/Cathedral, Indianapolis, IN), made it through to the finals.  Jared never competed post-season in high school.  Cole anchored his high school team to a win in the Distance Medley relay at the 2019 NSAF NBNO.

In the men’s hammer, Canadian Ethan Katzberg surprised everyone with a win.  It was a national record of 266-08. Hometown favorite, Bence Halasz of Hungary finished third.  His countrymates were certainly happy with a bronze medal.  The Hungarians were not predicted to medal in any event in this meet, and Katzberg was predicted to finish no better than 6th.  I’m sure glad we don’t run fantasy track meet and are able to enjoy the real thing.

In the men’s 10,000, American Woody Kincaird was with the pack for 22 laps.  Then I looked up and six Africans separated themselves from everyone else in s matter of seconds.  Ugandan Joshua Chiptegei was the winner in a tactical race, with Kincaid finishing 11th.

Anna Hall (Florida/Valor Christian, Highlands Ranch, CO)  is close to the NSAF’s heart.  She was on one of the teams we brought to Cuba; we added her to the Javelin Project group and, of course, supported her to the NSAF’s indoor and outdoor meets.  We share a special bond with this special athlete. 

Coming into the final event, the 800 meters, Anna was second to Katrina Johnson-Thompson of Great Britain 5667 to 5710.  That’s 43 points.  At 13 points per second, Anna had to be Katrina by 4 seconds to be the champion.  Anna’s best in the 800 was 2:03; Katrina’s 2:07.  That’s the margin Anna had to beat Katrina by.

I have never seen Anna so serious.  She knew what was on the line.  She went out really hard, running under 59 seconds for the first 400 meters.  Katrina was back but not losing any ground.  She was about 3 seconds behind at 400 meters and the same at 500 meters.  Anna continued to push, finishing the 2:04.09 a championship record for the Heptathlon 800m.  Katrina was right with her, knowing what she had to do, running 2:05.63, a two second PR.  That gave her the win.

Anna laid on the ground well after all the other heptathletes had recovered.  It was a combination of exhaustion and disappointment.  Anna had literally given her all. She and Katrina embraced, both on the ground, for several seconds.  They both had great respect for what they had just accomplished.  We had learned later that Anna had been injured in July and was recovering.  That, of course, is not an excuse, nor would Anna want it to be.  It was truly a great competition.

The last event was one of the most exciting in track and field.  The 100 meter final.  Would Noah Lyles (TC Williams, Alexanria, VA) continue his winning streak?  He did, and in big fashion, running 9.83, equaling the world lead.  Three guys behind him ran 9.88, with Letsile Tebogo (Botswana) second (national record) and Zharnel Hughes (Great Britain) third.  Oblique Seville of Jamaican was 4th with the same time as the silver and bronze medalists, but he will go home empty handed.  (Remember when breaking 10 flat was really good?) 

(In 2013, an unknown 17 year old shows up in Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico for the NSAF Caribbean Scholastic Invitational.  He wins the 100 in 10.52.  It was Zharnel Hughes from the island of Anguilla, population 15,000.  Great Britain thought it would be a good idea to bring him to that island and now they have a bronze medalist.  In 2015 we brought Noah Lyles to Cuba to compete against the Cubans and other Caribbean athletes.  In 1991 or thereabouts, the Bermudan Sports Federation contracted with the NSAF to bring a dozen athletes to Bermuda to compete in a mee there.  One of the athletes was Keisha Caine of Washington, DC.  Keisha Caine is Noah Lyles’ mom).

Another great night of track and field.  Again I have to battle 35,000 people on the trams and subways.  They are really jam packed.  I decided to go an alternate route via Tram 24, where I would pick up a subway at the end of the tram’s line.  I literally could not move for a half hour.  Besides that, I was staring at the armpit of the guy next to me.  There was no escape.  Besides the body odor, he had bad breath as well, a double whammy.   In the words of Larry David, it was an “olfactory nightmare”.  But I made it off the tram, got on the subway, and back home at 9:30pm, took a shower and brushed my teeth..

My brother arrives tomorrow. I’ll meet him at the airport and we’ll go to the evening session tomorrow (no morning session on Monday), beginning at 6:40pm.  Finals tomorrow are in the Women’s 100m, Men’s 110m Hurdles, Men’s Triple Jump and Men’s Discus Throw.

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