One cold night forty years ago, when I was 17, I boarded a bus with other Upstate NY track athletes bound for a meet in NYC. I didn’t know much about where we were going, but I could see everyone was excited to compete at the venue we were headed to called “The Armory” on 168th St., in New York City.
The place was a busy scene compared to my high school meets. Kids and spectators crowded the indoor track area and I recall it smelled of sweat, old athletic wear and grease. There were athletes from all over and a sprinkling of college recruiters. But, what struck me most was we high jumped on a polished wood floor. Yes, a wood floor.
I didn't wear spikes to jump in 1977, not many of us did back then. So, the fact it was a wood floor didn't change how I jumped at the time. I was just glad we weren't jumping into tires or mattresses -- we did that a lot in those days. It was an exciting night and felt like the "big leagues" for a girl from more rural upstate.
As readers know, I stopped track and field when I graduated from high school in 1978. Since my 2014 return to this sport I love, I’ve always wanted to go back to The Armory. Long before I arrived that night in my 1970's track shorts, the Armory had a storied history filled with famous track faces and face-offs. Not only has the place had myriad iterations since I was there, (for a while it was even used as a homeless shelter) it’s now been beautifully renovated and is considered one of the USA’s premier indoor track venues.
Last month, I went back! I competed at the December 2017 NYRR Indoor Sprint Night at The Armory. On a family visit to NYC, I dragged my husband and two sons up to 168th street using the 20-minute ride from midtown to regal them with stories about the last time I was there. As they took their seats in the balcony, I took in the atmosphere. Talented runners and jumpers from various states and countries were there. It was being broadcast live, complete with a guy in a booth above the stadium running commentary. I high jumped and long jumped. Yes, I was rusty as I haven’t hit a mat since August, but, I was there. I jumped. I competed. I went baaaack.
The crowds were thinner than the last time, but, for me, it was just as exciting as it was in 1977. There weren’t any college recruiters this time, but in the corners of the building, at the edge of the modern renovated mondo track, I could see peaking out, a little bit of wood floor. 😊
For more about the history of The Armory, see this link:
Someone told me (@kav0267) the only way to do hurdles at my age is to be fearless. "If you try it and you are afraid, forget the idea,” he said. Third day at it, first time actually over a hurdle, and I focused on being fearless. Working at it. #fearlessover50 #thinkingpentathlon #newevent #hurdler @usatfmasterstrack
Julia Curran-Villarreal is a three-time USA W55 national masters high jump champion. After a 35-year break from her favorite high school sport of track & field, Julia returned to competition in 2013 at the age of 53. Follow her journey on @juliajumping on Instagram and @juliacurran on Twitter.