Sterling Newman Catholic star Nick Rude leads his team to the 1A 4x100 relay state title
2013 - this was my freshman year
at Chicago Lane Tech and my third month of photographing for MileSplit Illinois. This is where it would all evolve into my life-long passion and career.
All of 15-years-old then, I had only heard of the legendary O'Brien Field before making my premiere trek to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston in late May. I was traveling with my high school's team, and I had my first double bypass burger (click the hyperlinks to see what culinary atrocity only a ravenous teenager could stomach) at the Stadium Grill in Mattoon, Illinois. The excitement was electric, and the finals for the state series had yet to begin.
It was this weekend when I was introduced and quickly adapted, to the rain and storms that frequent the humid midwestern town at that time of year. I recall parts of the track having standing water on it, creating slippery situations for the athletes. Time felt as if it stood as officials swept the amounting puddles into the infield and off of the blue oval.
Now, if it is not clear by my build and the events chosen in my previous columns, I am a distance runner and fanatic through and through. That being said, I have an even stronger appreciation for sprints. I can hardly boogie up the stairs after turning off the lights to avoid the childhood monsters, let alone perform the breakneck speeds while exchanging a baton.
That being said, my first time witnessing the feats at the Big Blue Oval truly taught me an appreciation for the sport of track and field that would push me to come back again and again for years to come. The emotions, the sounds, the smells (well, the smells of the food... not the sweat) - it felt like a movie.
As the rain fluctuated throughout the day, the 4x100 competitors gathered for their race. To start was the 1A competition. Foolishly then, I had my camera on "sport mode" as I was still learning the craft of photojournalism. I was using my mom's telephoto lens and a hodgepodge of subpar rain gear. I just remember feeling invigorated by the setting, being the youngest photographer among the pool of journalists crowded at the southwest corner of the track. This competition was going to be something big.
The athletes got in their positions. The gun went off. Racers sped from their blocks and into their exchanges. The first to cross the line was Sterling (Newman Central Catholic). The look on the competitors' faces was raw excitement and I felt that energy coursing through me as I snapped the shutter on my rinky-dink, now-archaic (and now-waterlogged... but that's a different story) DSLR camera.
Newman Catholic would go on to win the 1A competition that weekend with 41 points. I'll leave the recapping up to Tony Jones with this throwback to the weekend.
I think back to this moment quite frequently. I truly believe that this race and this minute of anticipation, racing, and celebration are a huge reason why I became so passionate about photojournalism early on. I could not wait to get home that day to edit the photos. I remember sitting in my bed and blasting "Otis" by Jay-Z and Kanye West as I excitedly flipped through the images from my first rainy state series in Charleston. I still feel this way after an assignment.
In the seven years since this incredible performance by Sterling's 4x100 relay team, I have documented rock stars, four presidents, tense moments of every emotion, you name it. Yet these all are incomparable to that amazing race. There is something about the raw sentiments at O'Brien Field on a humid weekend in Charleston, Illinois where these rock stars get their own stage and put on an inspiring show. I am particularly disappointed that this season ended so abruptly, but I know the future is bright.