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Clevenger Blog: Track and Field in Birmingham

Sunday, March 17, 2013
by John Clevenger

Lipscomb senior track and field athlete John Clevenger will be writing a blog for the remainder of the year describing track meets and the happenings around the program. Clevenger is a native of Chattanooga, Tenn.

Most athletes would agree that being on an athletic team at Lipscomb is like being in your own elite social club. Practices are like pledging and competition is like formal events.
 
You develop a closer bond with the people on your team because you lift, run, sweat, win, and lose with them. Anybody can give you a summary of the game. They can tell you the score. They can give you a player-by-player stat recap. They can tell you who won and lost.

The things that they cannot tell you are what went on behind the scenes. These are the little secrets that form the foundation resulting in a team that is built to succeed.
 
This week the Lipscomb Track & Field team split up into two teams. One team (the middle distance group) flew out to Boulder, Colo., where they competed in the 800, 4x4 and 1500. The other group traveled down to Birmingham, Ala., for the second weekend in a row. I was a part of the second group. We ran, jumped, vaulted, and threw at Samford University in their Samford Multi and Invitational Meet. We did well as a team, and I feel that we were pleased with how the meet went.
 
It was difficult at times to focus on the meet. Everyone is technically on spring break. It was hard to focus on the events and competition when the dreams of being on the beach were just on the other side of the meet.
 
We were forced to find ways to entertain ourselves and keep morale for the Bisons up. I am going to tell all of you about how the track & field team finds ways to have some good old Lipscomb approved fun and love doing it.
 
When we first got to Samford, we found out the heptathlon had already started. This is a grueling event because it forces the entry to compete in seven events over the course of two days.
 
Unfortunately, our teammate Katie Collier had arrived late, and she had missed the first event, the 100-meter hurdles (one of her better events). But Katie is a singular fighting Bison.  She knew she was going to need to perform well in the remaining events to make up the points, and with the help of her team she did.
 
Here’s the thing about a collegiate track and field team: there’s like 80 of us. When you compete, you’ve got your own fan nation. We were stomping and cheering, hootin’ and hollerin’. Once the Track & Field Bisons start cheering we don’t let up until the last event is completed.
 
The last event of the first day was the long jump. We had three entries and the biggest cheering section at the meet. We had Caleb Love, Nelson Scott, and Jalen Thompson jumping. It was around 8:30 p.m. and the team hadn’t eaten since lunch. But if you were another team at the meet you wouldn’t have been able to tell that because we were having an absolute blast cheering for our teammates, and they all jumped really well. When they finished, we were done for the day.
 
Coach Luke Syverson had the bus driver take us to a shopping center in Birmingham for dinner. We were allowed to go to the restaurants that lined the parking lot of the mall. There were three options Olive Garden, California Pizza Kitchen and Ruby Tuesday’s. The team broke up into three groups. I chose to go with the Olive Garden crowd.
 
Logan Ray, another senior, and myself walked off early from the bus meeting because the speech about keeping up with receipts and the change hasn’t changed in four years. We’ve heard it, and we know what to keep up with.
 
 We also knew that we could better serve our team by going ahead to Olive Garden and getting in line because it was Friday night and we wanted a table for 26 people. We had already counted the Olive Garden crew and went on our way to make a reservation.
 
We were casually walking when we heard a stampede behind us. Next thing we knew, we were lying face down on the ground, having been trampled by five or so freshmen who thought that they needed to get their own small table in order to get food faster.
 
A little agitated by the immaturity of the freshmen, the senior in me wanted to tear into them with yelling and screaming. But the maturity that comes from being an upperclassman provided a better way to handle the situation.
 
When we arrived at Olive Garden, Logan and I, along with one of our captains Adam Austin (affectionately called Space), went to get in line for a table big enough for 26 people. They told us that it would take about 35-to-45 minutes for a table, so we went outside to relay the information to our group.
 
We told them about the wait time and that if people didn’t want to wait that long they could go to one of the other options. Well, that group of freshmen who sprinted to the restaurant started poking fun at the rest of the team saying that they only had to wait 10-to-15 minutes. The seniors then calmly and appropriately worked together to teach an important lesson to some of the freshman class.
 
Space said, “Hey, that’s cool. I’m glad you guys are getting a table that fast.”
 
To which Logan added, “Yeah, I don’t think I would want to sit in a separate group at a place as pricey as this.”
 
The freshmen were still laughing at their unknown failure.
“Yeah guys,” I added, “How much are you all expecting to pay? I mean, this is a pretty pricey sit-down and eat kind of place. I couldn’t imagine paying that much out of my own pocket when coach offered to get us dinner.”
 
That’s when the looks of concern and confusion began to creep into their eyes.
 
One freshman asked, “The team isn’t paying for dinner?”
 
I smiled as Space said, “ Oh, the team is paying for dinner, but you have to sit with the team.”
 
They began to panic.
 
“We are sitting with the team,” they said.   Yeah, all five of us are on the team. Why can’t the team pay for our table too? This isn’t fair!”
 
Logan calmly held up the buzzer that restaurants give you when you place a reservation and said, “This is for the team table, and we put in a reservation for 21 people.”
 
Space held up the money and said, “This is the team’s eating money. I’ve got to get a receipt and exact change to avoid an NCAA violation coming down on us.”
 
I added, “Yeah, two receipts just wouldn’t work out. There’s too much room for error. It’s probably safer for you all to just pay for yourselves.”
 
They looked so sad.
 
Space laughed and told them, “We’re just kidding. The reservation is for 26. You guys can sit with us.”
 
To which I clarified the lesson we were trying to teach, “But from now on, you guys need to know that if we rode here as a team, then we are going to sit together and eat together as a team.”
 
They got the message. They returned their buzzer and apologized to the maître d.
 
The food was delicious. Everyone ordered water to drink and pasta to eat, and everyone filled the air with stories and laughter. It was a fantastic time. When it was time to go, we paid our bill, got our receipt and change, and then we went on our way. Now, is when everyone started to just get goofy and have fun.
 
 As I mentioned earlier, the last event that we saw was the men’s long jump. We only sent one Bison to finals at this meet, and it was our sophomore,  Caleb Love. He had a huge personal best, and he was still riding that victory.

After we left the restaurant he was running around outside. He wasn’t really running from the group so much as just running with us. He was talking to one of our girl jumpers, a freshman named Bethany Imperial, when he ran face first into a stop sign.
 
It was almost cartoonish the way that his face stopped moving when it made contact with the sign but his feet kept going forward. He reached a parallel position to the ground and then he plummeted to it. He let out this muffled sound of sheer pain as he cupped his hands to his nose and mouth.
 
Everyone gathered around him and we were all genuinely worried about him. Bethany felt terrible and was about to cry when Caleb sat up and started laughing. He had meant to run into the sign, and had actually hit it with his hand. He wasn’t hurt. He was just pulling a prank on us. Bethany got a little mad that he had gotten her so worried, but she was mostly glad that he wasn’t hurt.
 
We got on the bus and continued to the hotel. Everyone got his or her rooming assignments, went upstairs, and turned-in for the night. We woke up the next morning and went straight to the track. The day started at 9:30 a.m. for the Bisons. We cheered louder than any other team all-day long until after our final thrower, Houston Ward, heaved his final shot put at 8:45 p.m.
 
We cheered for over 11 hours of events and competition. Lipscomb should be proud not only of the performances by the track team on the results sheets, but also by our attitudes and camaraderie off of the track as well.
 
As I said, it was a good meet for us, but there is always room to improve. We will keep training, competing, and in the end no matter what we will always give the glory to God. Win or lose, we are Bisons.