Athletes worry: Masters track reality show in jeopardy?
University of Nevada-Las Vegas played host over the weekend to a two-day masters meet — a preliminary event in the much-anticipated reality game show called “T.R.A.C.K. Live!” Although expertly run with USATF officials, auto-timing and all the trimmings, the event fell short of expectations, according to two athletes who took part. The bottom line: No-shows were many, and the dismal turnout could doom plans for a TV show with cash prizes going to the athletes’ high school alma maters.
Under the original plan, several hundred athletes from their 30s through 70s would compete at the Las Vegas meet, wearing the team uniforms of their original high schools. Then the best would advance to meets June 7, June 28 and July 19 in Fresno, California.
At the first Fresno meet, athletes would receive training from “superlative high school or college coaches.” The finalists would then go home and return for the late-June meet, where “former Olympians” would prepare them for their final events. The production company would pay their way.
Perhaps 300 athletes made inquiries about the show, athletes were told at Friday night’s orientation in Las Vegas. But come Saturday and Sunday, with highs sometimes topping 100, only about 60 athletes showed up, I was told. And perhaps half of those had no intention of continuing the TV-show process. They just wanted to compete in the meet.
One participant, M55 sprint legend Bill Collins, was present for the orientation but had to skip the meet, returning home to Houston to handle a family emergency.
Fresno high school teacher and filmmaker Julia Dudley Najieb, the moving force behind “T.R.A.C.K Live!” impressed athletes with her sincere drive to showcase masters track in a TV show. But entrants told me they weren’t sure the original concept could be brought off, given the turnout.
“If you got to the finish line, you qualify for the next phase of the show,” one athlete told me.
The Vegas meet was filmed with a big camera on a tripod and several handheld camcorders. My sources were amused at how any time an athlete suffered even the slightest injury, the handheld camera guys would rush to document the pain and suffering.
“Getting hurt will guarantee that you get on camera,” one source told me.
But the biggest pain and suffering may have been felt by the show’s producers.
“I don’t think they’re happy — let’s put it that way,” I was told. “It’s crash and burn.”
By all accounts, the meet was run professionally at a “beautiful facility” — despite the heat and cloudless skies, And the producers tried their best under the circumstances, even providing a travel agent to help athletes get discounts on air fare and lodging.
But except for the sprints, there were few competitive events. At least one hurdle race was run solo. Paul Babits and Kay Glynn reportedly jumped at or above their recent vault records, but no results have been provided yet.
I’ve written to Julia and other principals for comment. But I haven’t heard anything yet.
Athletes offered advice on how to resurrect “T.R.A.C.K Live!”: Perhaps hold a series of meets in different U.S. regions, suggested one.
“It’s back to the drawing boad,” one athlete told me. “They seem to be amenable to keeping it going.”
Well, let’s hope for the best.
Seeing our stars in a prime-time series of TV shows would be the best!