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Great to be back at track

Since moving to the Valley in January, I had yet to cover a track and field meet in person. So, last Saturday I decided to make the short trip to Smiths Station High School.

There, many of our local teams were competing at the Panther Invitational. Beulah, LaFayette, Lanett and Valley had a sizeable presence.

Although the weather conditions were less than ideal — it was rainy and windy — I found it refreshing to be back in my element.

Track and field is one of my two favorite sports to cover. The other is cross-country. Yes, there is a difference.

I enjoy writing about both sports because of the connection I have to them. I ran cross-country and track and field from eighth grade through my sophomore year in college. As a result, I am acquainted with the amount of work required to excel.

Distance runners log countless miles and endure painful interval workouts. Sprinters sharpen their speed and fine-tune their form relentlessly. Field event specialists hone their approaches and critique their technique with meticulousness.

This prep work is completed away from the spotlight. Too often, the performances are as well.

Cross-country and track and field rarely receive the media attention of higher-profile sports. That bothered me, especially when I was in high school.

I knew that I worked just as hard — if not harder — than the local football standouts who appeared in the paper more frequently than I did, even as my achievements stacked up comparably.

I set out to remedy this disparity when I entered the sports journalism world four years ago.

At my former job in Birmingham, I covered high school cross-country and track and field events on an almost weekly basis. Many Saturdays were spent trekking around the state in an effort to chronicle the next personal record.

The athletes I wrote about deserved the coverage, and it was well-received.

While the demands of my current position do not grant me the liberty to attend as many meets as I did formerly, I believe that local sprinters, hurdlers, high jumpers, long jumpers and distance runners merit attention.

Saturday may have been the first track and field meet I attended since moving to the Valley. Certainly, it will not be my last.

Sam Chandler is the sports editor at The Valley Times-News. He can be reached by phone at 334-644-8106 or by email at sam.chandler@valleytimes-news.com.