Brent Cottong tells rest of the story about USATF ‘Dream Day’ 400

Brent indeed looked great in his Sacto 400.

For the record, M45 Antoine Batiste didn’t take last (in 59.80) at the USATF nationals 400-meter exhibition in Sacramento (as I reported earlier, having transcribed the results ineptly). Now I’m proud to present the true seventh-place finisher: 60-year-old Brent Cottong, who indeed beat his age. (He ranks third in the world this season.) But Brent is the champion in my book for a 770-word letter he sent three days later. Many masters thank the starters and other officials at meet’s end. Brent went them a few steps better. He thanked the president of USATF. In a note shared with me, the longtime track coach wrote Vin Lananna: “That day was my personal dream come true.” He said “the post-race reception I received was overwhelming. It’s no exaggeration that 50 to 60 people literally left their seats to come talk to me. All offered their congratulations – ‘Good run,’ ‘Nice race,’ ‘You looked great’ – that kind of thing. Some even wanted to take their picture with me.” In a P.S., he also hailed new USATF masters invitational eventz czar Joy Upshaw, who had the wisdom to include Brent in the field with the M40 gents.

Here’s the letter Brent sent:

Re: “Dream Day” at the 2017 Outdoor Nationals

Dear Vin:

Thank you so very much for the opportunity this past Sunday. It was a grand honor to run in the Masters 400-meter exhibition race.

For me, it was an absolutely wonderful experience, with V.I.P. treatment from start to finish. The efficiency, organization and professionalism of the event were all very impressive — and I sincerely thank you again for the privilege to race. That day was my personal dream come true.

But, very surprising to me, it was the post-race experience that I would like to tell you about.

As preface, I am a decent age-group runner. In the company of good colleagues, I’ve run a good time in the 400m at under 60 seconds at 60 years old, but I’m no national leader, or multiple gold medal winner, or record holder. In the exhibition race this weekend, I was the oldest, the slowest and I finished last, so what came after was a complete surprise.

The post-race reception I received was overwhelming. It’s no exaggeration that 50 to 60 people literally left their seats to come talk to me. All offered their congratulations – “Good run,” “Nice race,” “You looked great” – that kind of thing. Some even wanted to take their picture with me.

But many wanted to know more. They asked me: What did I do for training? How exactly did I train? How often? How hard? What did I eat? How long had I done this? Was it hard work? Could they do this? How could they get started doing the same thing? Where could they find more Masters races? Was that my natural hair color? (Yes.) Did I use any product in my hair? (No.) And so on and so forth. (Strangely enough, there seemed to be as many questions about my hair as there were about my running!)

This went on for several hours, even after I’d changed into my street clothes. People came up to me on my way to the restrooms twice, and in the souvenir tent. This continued to happen way past the end of the meet, several times as I walked to my car. It even occurred hours later, in downtown Sacramento at dinner!

One woman said she was currently coaching track, had some prior injuries, though she had had a life-long desire to do a heptathlon. She said after watching me run, she was inspired to now go do it. One man (and I hesitate to tell you this) said “…the crowd was cheering louder for the two Masters races then they were cheering for the well-known athletes…”! He wanted to see more Masters races featured.

One man, more than slightly overweight, said he saw me and he wanted to start doing sit-ups right then during the race – such was the power of seeing people like me in a competition like that. One group of men (all in their mid-sixties) said that “I represented them” and they felt like I was “running for them.”

Believe me – I never entered the race with the intent of representing anyone, but I felt honored someone would feel that way. They, too, took several photos.

Now, remember I’d gone from finishing in last place to celebrity status in the span of minutes, so this was all very strange, all very new to me and also very euphoric at the same time. My jaws were tired from the ridiculous, non-stop, ear-to-ear grin, but I couldn’t help it – I was really happy!

Later, after my ego had somewhat returned to normal, I realized, OK, I’m not a superstar. So I surmised the reason I got a lot of attention was because I am just a normal guy, albeit one who can run pretty fast. And because I’m normal, I’m approachable and my running abilities (I’m guessing) were viewed as attainable and desirable and therefore of keen interest to many in/near my age. Now that’s something I would be really proud of – motivating others to exercise and get into this great sport.

In summary, I am very grateful to have been granted this experience by USATF. If asked, I would not hesitate to fly anywhere to do it again!

In Sport

Brent Cottong
Pole Vault & Sprints Coach

PS: Many thanks and kudos, and maybe an award must be given to Joy Upshaw for her dedication and hard work for the sport we all love. Joy was so organized and motivating for the exhibition race. She also talked me into going to my first World Championships in Lyon, France – another fantastic (and patriotic) experience.

Official results from Sacto nationals:

Women 400 Meter Dash MASTERS
Name Year Team Finals
1 Angee Henry Unattached 57.11
2 LaTisha Staten Unattached 59.65
3 Erika Pierce Unattached 1:00.79
4 Cynthia McNamee S W Sprinters 1:00.82
5 Andrea Collier Unattached 1:04.35
6 Evelyn Konrad Mass Velocity 1:05.00
7 Chris Gentile Jane’s Elite 1:05.43
8 Jennifer Patenge Unattached 1:08.97

Men 400 Meter Dash MASTERS
Name Year Team Finals
1 Antwon Dussett S W Sprinters 49.01
2 Lee Bridges Explosion T C 51.81
3 Jason Rhodes SoCal TC 53.56
4 Peter Haack Unattached 53.67
5 David Cahill G B T C 54.07
6 Terry Parks SoCal TC 56.40
7 Brent Cottong Houston Elite 59.80

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June 30, 2017

12 Responses

  1. Peter L. Taylor - July 1, 2017

    I really enjoyed reading Brent’s letter (see above). And yes, I did enjoy Brent’s visit to the announcer’s booth on May 20 in Grass Valley, California, where I was announcing the Sierra Gold meet.

    As part of my comments on Brent at Grass Valley I did say that he was either the youngest- (or among the very youngest-) looking 60-year-old in America, and I will stand by that. He and Bob Lida (80) are certainly in the top 1/1000 of the top 1% of their respective ages in looking young.

    More important, “running your age” used to be an elusive goal in the 400 in masters T&F; if memory serves, Rudy Valentine of the New York area was the first to do it (or perhaps the first to be publicly praised for doing it). I see that Brent ran 59.80 at age 60, which is absolutely fabulous.

  2. Peter L. Taylor - July 1, 2017

    And congratulations to Antwon Dussett for running 49.01; I’d put him in the Masters Hall of Fame right now for all that he’s done over the years, even though he’s still early on his trip through the M40 division.

    Great job by the women; I’ve announced all but the top two. Congratulations to Angee and LaTisha, even though I don’t know you, and congratulations to a superb all-arounder, Erika Pierce, for your fine race in finishing third. Yes, Erika, I’ve always enjoyed announcing you and talking to you afterward.

  3. Bill Collins - July 1, 2017

    Brent, the entire Houston Elite family are so proud of you. You have always and will continue to be a champion in our eyes. What a great run with the younger guys, we look forward to seeing you soon.
    Congratulations to all the runners that put on wonderful show at the open nationals.

  4. tb - July 1, 2017

    Another name attempting the Sacramento/Baton Rouge double: Walter Dix.

  5. Matt - July 1, 2017

    Brent is a class act. I enjoy racing against him in the 400, even though I’m 14 years younger and he always beats me.

    And his hair IS great.

  6. Michael D Walker - July 1, 2017

    I agree with Brent’s comments that the USATF should include more masters events. The Paris DL meet which was on NBC sports today includes masters events in their program as do many meets in Europe. It might help improve attendance and boost interest in continuing with track & field.

  7. Alan Kolling - July 1, 2017

    Not sure which “paper results” Ken referred to above as erring. The official results which I sent approximately 40 minutes after the races ended clearly showed Brent in 7th place. Those results were immediately emailed to Joy for distribution to the athletes, male and female, and I sent them shortly afterwards to Ken and Amanda as well. At the Portland Indoor Nationals, since the athletes warmed down right next to my work station, I was able to print individual copies of all the results and handed them out to athletes myself. Not much more I can do than that.

  8. Ken Stone - July 1, 2017

    Ah so, Alan. I guess I mistranscribed them. My apologies!

  9. Larry Lettieri - July 1, 2017

    Well, now I know why you weren’t at the June 22 Los Gatos all-comers, Brent. Good show, buddy! And kudos to Joy for all her efforts on behalf of us masters. It’s an honor to call both Brent and Joy my friends.

  10. B Beller - July 2, 2017

    Great performance and even better letter. Thanks for your eloquence Brent!

  11. Matt B. - July 3, 2017

    Is 49 at 49 the youngest to run one’s age in the 400?
    Seems like 70 at 70 for women might be possible.

  12. Peter Chen - July 8, 2017

    Great race Brent!!! Way to represent the Peninsula! Hope to see you at Los Gatos one of these Thursday’s.

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