The Thrill is Still There

By Sal Citarella

I’ve been watching the Indoor Nationals on TV, along with my Best Bud, Jack Daniel’s, and it still gets to me.

Indoor track is special; it’s personal, intimate and immediate. The sound of the crowd, the smell of Atomic Balm, the many-colored sweats flashing up and down the corridors behind the seats.

Even though I only ran indoors in high school back in the dark ages, long before the 168th Street Armory became famous through the efforts of my old teammate, Norb Sander, it still reverberates in my bones. First time I ran the 880 relay in the Armory, a competing runner got his stick between my legs and it scissored right out of his grasp. I’ll take any advantage offered to me. I got to run in Madison Square Garden not on merit but because the Catholic High School AA meet was held prior to the K of C college meet.

The NY metropolitan area was not known as a football power house, but both my HS and my college competed well in the less glamorous world of running. Maybe shoveling snow off the “indoor” track had training value?

I still can’t watch it on TV and not feel the excitement of the tight turns on a banked eleven-lap track or a flat eight-lap track. Position was everything, along with elbows. And stick passing! If only my next leg hadn’t gone out too soon, he wouldn’t have had to come to a stop. In my mind, that’s the only thing that cost us a win.

Being a steady second stringer, I was intimately familiar with the experience of tying up. Now, I watch for this as the runners approach their personal limits and vicariously feel their pain. Watch the faces; watch the arms. See the grimaces, the flailing. We called it “The rig.”

Perhaps this is why Quentin Cassidy spoke to me so eloquently. Because in my own small way, I have been there and done that.

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