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Thursday, 22 December 2016 17:03

Vin Lananna Takes Reins at USATF Featured

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Vin Lananna (left) with Nike founder Phil Knight at the USA Olympic Track & Field Trials in 2012 Vin Lananna (left) with Nike founder Phil Knight at the USA Olympic Track & Field Trials in 2012
By Elliott Denman
ORLANDO, FL – Vin Lananna, incoming president-elect of USA Track and Field, promises that “my action will match my words.”
At a moment in the sport’s history when optimism is often in short supply, Lananna’s emergence as the sport’s number one guy in the nation that continues to boast its national team is the number one in the world – Exhibit A, those 32 Rio medals - is very welcome news. He’s the right man in the right spot at the right time.
When the great Jackie Joyner-Kersee withdrew from the presidential race to succeed Stephanie Hightower, whose term limits were up, the position became Lananna’s by default. There would be no further need to continue the electioneering process taking place at the USATF Annual Meeting going on in the Orlando Hilton Hotel. The scheduled “Vote For Vin” reception instead became a victory celebration. Its reason no longer apropos, some of the would-be voting delegates simply wandered off to a nearby North Carolina Association promoting its candicacy to host the National Junior Olympics.
And so it became “Win With Vin” by total landslide – every last vote for the former Long Islander who rose to coaching eminence at Dartmouth, Stanford and Oregon – zero for Jackie.
Likely, JJK saw that the USATF president’s job was not going to be a very good fit. Or that challenging Vin was an impossibly uphill assignment. Certainly, she’s done all kinds of wonderful things since her retirement as the greatest woman athlete in her sport’s history – maybe the best in any sport’s history, maybe either gender’s best in history. Her heptathlon record scores remain far-far-far out of sight for normal humans.
Her various foundations benefiting the young people under their care continue to do marvelous work – but at this Annual Meeting there was just one person up to doing the work that would be needed to keep USATF and its varied constituencies heading in all the right directions.
That person is Vin.
How will he juggle all the big chores now on his plate? How will he keep everybody under the USATF umbrella – meaning the elite/Olympic level athletes, the kids, the masters, the road and cross country runners, the mountain runners, the racewalkers, the officials, the rules, law and legislation committee folks, the record-keepers, and a lot more – happy and smiling ?
Answer: with some degree of difficulty. But if anybody can do it, Vin can do it.
He’ll remain the chief of Tracktown USA, Eugene, Oregon, as his day job. And that, of course, means preparing for the 2020 Olympic Trials and the 2021 World Championships at a new and improved Hayward Field as primary tasks.
But if ever a man was cut out for this assignment he's the man.
He’d already earned straight A’s for the golden performance he delivered as head coach of Team USA’s men at the Rio Games. (With Connie Price-Smith doing similar feats of excellence heading up the Rio women’s team.) His management style has always stressed inclusivity – as opposed to those who insist on doing it all on their own and inevitably see their visions end up in disaster.
Vin is certain to surround himself with the best possible supporting cast and thus turn any remaining doubters out there into true believers. Typically, the push to make the 2021 World Championships a rousing success is well under way.
As its already-forming committee membership – some on the scene at the Annual Meeting – kept reminding and urging one and all: ”Learn how you can help Team USA shine in the eyes of the world.”
“Stop by the booth, get involved,” they urged.
Needless to say, many did. Ubetcha that Vin will get them all heading in his direction.
And he’ll even find a way to get all those purveyors of negativity – those convinced the flagship sport of the Olympic Games can never rise above its drug- and scandal-fueled recent past – to jump on his bandwagon. Somehow. And sometime soon.
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