Story written by Eric.
When was the last time you made a re-discovery of something you knew was right under your nose, but had never really taken a peek to see it take off and flourish?
A recent jaunt over to Trackshark.com, a site created and run by Tom Borish - a man who sped to 21,29/47,22 sprint bests as a collegian, was more than a mild surprise to me during the NCAA Track and Field Indoor Championships.
I've always associated Trackshark as a specific niche market for collegians, so naturally I migrated there to search for information leading up to the two-day meet in Fayetteville.
What I got sucked into when I arrived was an entire new world of fandom which I had never before been part of in the several championship seasons I'd spent perusing other websites and bulletin boards.
The posters there were passionate. That's a great start when attempts to create synergy between what they have and what I had to bring. They were also possessed an incredible sense of knowledge and understanding, as the folks whom they were discussing were in fact their own peers.
Finally, one stark difference between my engagement with folks there and anywhere else on the internet is that looking in on the NCAA Indoor Championships felt like I had joined one huge, global party and everyone was celebrating great things happening in the sport.
Have you ever had one of those spectactor moments when the x's and o's were all perfectly aligned and information and results were published instantaneously through a live blog with scores of participants?
I experienced that at Trackshark thanks to a commitment Borish made to keep his faithful informed, involved and in complete touch with the throws, jumps, vaults and times young adults were achieving at the Randal Tyson Indoor Track Center.
Track & Field News, the "Bible of the Sport", had the only live journalist on-site providing up-to-date information via a blog which Dave Johnson was able to submit a total of 10 times each of the two days he was there.
The coverage was excellent. Splits, lanes, names and times were all accounted for from one event to the next, and the results were put up timely.
Track & Field News prided itself on being the only source actually on site watching the events unfold, and certainly they had every right to feel proud of that fact.
However, insofar as the NCAA permitted the events to be broadcast live through a link on the host university's sports site, anyone and everyone watching from around the world - including yours truly at god-awful times of the night - had an opportunity to update anyone else caught outside of the meet and away from a clear video stream.
Trackshark and Track & Field News, two successful and incredibly strong sites rich with information, commentary and expertise, provided an incredibly wealthy experience for any fan who happened to switch between the sites in search of the latest on Bianca Knight, Leonel Manzano, Scott Sellers or anyone else wearing university colours and ready to put their best foot forward on the national stage.
Track & Field News had an entire message board dedicated to meet.
Each event contested - heats and finals - had its own thread, and each thread was updated immediately after the main moderator there received the results from Johnson.
Their pre-meet form charts provided fans an opportunity to learn who was picked to finish in which spots, and the information proved to be useful where I lacked certain thoroughness on given athletes.
Garry Hill, the print magasine's Editor and a Chief Officer, was able to successfully flip-flop between heats and finals and keep fans updated on the turn of events by appropriately labelling thread titles and providing concluded events with a designated symbol easy to identify them as being such.
The service was greatly appreciated, and the fans on the site were also a top-notch, highly knowledgeable group who stated afterward that they appreciated the efforts and long hours put in by Hill, Johnson and any associates who were helping to bring the meet "live" through written words.
Trackshark also had one page which it dedicated to the meet, but went a step ahead of Track & Field News by having the story of the meet unfold in a live blog which posters took advantage of participating in once Borish let loose when the meet got underway.
Track & Field News migrated its board into the Current Events forum, and, unfortunately, I believe they lost out in being able to continually tell a story as it happened from the first event to the last.
One can search on the forum for keywords or take the time to attempt to look for the symbols used to signify finals had been contested, but the entire NCAA event seems to have disappeared as quickly as it arrived.
Trackshark's NCAA page is still active, though it takes two efforts to get to it.
Nevertheless, Borish's two blogs serve the public well insofar as one gets a feel of the meet through his own description of the events, and one captures the mood and feel of the atmosphere by reading comments others were making as the events were underway.
I spoke at the beginning of today's entry of being more than surprised at Trackshark when I payed them a visit about 10 days ago for the first time in perhaps two years. I've been there in the past to peruse week-end results and to search for photos following big meets, but hadn't taken a look at their message board after having been loyal to mainly one on the internet the past four years.
If you're a fan of the sport, and have a moment or two available to read about the collegiate scene, do take a gander over to the forums and lurk for a while; you don't have to jump straight in and put in your two cents, but you can find some very interesting and fascinating gems written by athletes and fans alike.
A place like Track & Field News can benefit from having more senior athletes take time to contribute a few topics of interest to the message boards, as it would help their subscribers and board contributors feel an even closer one-ness with the folks whom they discuss but rarely meet.
Allen Johnson made a few comments on a thread written about him before jetting off to Valencia to eventually win a silver medal in the 60m hurdles at the IAAF World Indoor Championships, and Brandon Couts has been another US star who has frequented the message boards.
I'm sure more would come if word got out that folks really wanted to hear what they had to say - something they begin doing as high schoolers at Dyestat, and continue to do as collegians at Trackshark.
USA-based Dyestat, a site which has a majority handle on the high school scene, has a strong mix of contributions from stars-on-the-rise as it does from fans who enjoy watching them compete.
Mixing stars together with their fans on an anonymous message board can lend great support to the sport, as fans can gain a deeper, more satisfying understanding of the people who are competing on their television sets and at stadiums near them between January and September year-in and year-out.
Mixing together people's experience gained from participating in an event and keeping it in one spot to live on past its shelf-life also has its benefits.
Perhaps sites can learn a valuable lesson from one another's strengths and apply that to their own the next time a championship comes around.
In the meantime, I'll continue enjoying all I can from any place where discussion is good, people feel like home and everything track, some things field and a little of mustard in between is what's on tap for the evening.
Trackshark's two-day blog was a great asset to the NCAA championship experience. The blog, put together and moderated by Tom Borish, was a timely and lively event-by-event coverage piece which allowed fans from around the world to chip in during the height of the meet and discuss ups-and-downs with others in a live environment.