I don't know of any other events where people travel as much as an hour to sit in wind, rain, or cold--or all of those--to watch a preteen perform for 17 seconds. Because, although spring in Iowa can be beautiful, it's never on the nights that they schedule junior high track meets. Two weeks ago at a meet in Tipton, the wind was so bad that I walked at a slant for the next three days.
The most amazing thing to me, having taught junior high for many years, is that they get that many kids to listen for first and final calls, and for the most part, show up when and where they are supposed to run. The rest of the time, they are milling around like pigeons, sometimes wrapped in fleece blankets or old sleeping bags, hooked up to iPods.
Another thing with junior high is the range of sizes. It is not unusual to to see a kid a head and a half shorter than the one he (or she) is running next to. Some are so small that their names don't fit across the backs of their shirts.
Concessions have changed over the years. It used to be that local groups would fund-raise by selling really good pork sandwiches or some other specialty. The popcorn is still usually good but the prepackaged sandwiches leave a lot to be desired.
The crowd is pretty much families of the runners; not too many people go to these for the fun of it. And they are supportive of all the kids; the small seventh grade boy who finishes a lap behind in a distance race gets as much applause from the whole crowd as the winner.
Occasionally, though, there are spectators who need a good knock alongside the head. Last night there was a group of five people in the front row of one section whom I dubbed The Pig Family. This was not in reference to their size--they all appeared to be fit and fairly trim adults. But these bleachers had a very narrow walkway in front of the first row and in most sections people left the first row vacant to allow passage. Not the Pig Family. They planted themselves on that front bench and did not budge for anyone. I watched one elderly woman have to weasel through sideways rather than going back down the steps and up another set to join her family. The Pig Family held their spots and craned their necks to look around her as if she was the problem. Obviously, their mamas didn't teach them no junior high track meet manners.