• Photo for Inaugural Pride Track and Field Meet
    Photo Credit: Ramon Burgos-Ruiz Courtesy of Pride Track & Field Meet

Inaugural Pride Track and Field Meet

By Damin Esper

Athletes of all levels came from across the country to San Francisco State University on July 7, 2007 to compete in the inaugural Pride Track and Field Meet, the first gay and lesbian track and field meet of its kind.

Over 120 competitors ran, jump, and threw their way through a day packed with events ranging from the 100-meter dash and 400-meter relay to the pole vault and long jump. With strong competition results and the obvious enjoyment of participants and spectators alike, the meet was a successful first for what will hopefully become an ongoing yearly competition.

Age-Class World Record Set
Marie-Louise Michelsohn, 65, set an age-group world record in the 5,000 meters at 20 minutes, 27.07 seconds in the cool morning air. And the meet closed late in the afternoon with a “Fun Run” relay with teams dressed—or undressed—in costumes ranging from the Village People to underwear.

“It was kind of like a vacation and a track meet,” said Eric Reid, 34, of Team Philadelphia.

The San Francisco Track and Field Club hosted the first Pride Track and Field meet with the hope that it could eventually become like the IGLA yearly international swimming and aquatics meet—a chance for gay and lesbian athletes to compete in the years between the Gay Games and Out Games.

Standing on the straightaway after the meet, host committee president Andrew Bundy said that upon initial reflection, he was very pleased with the event.

“This is awesome,” Bundy said. “This is what track and field can do.

“We're going to give it a week or two,” he added. “Once the dust has settled, we're going to decide what we liked and what we didn't like.”

Competition Meets Camaraderie
There was plenty to like from a competitive standpoint. Bundy noted that the city of San Francisco doesn't have as many masters meets (with events broken down by age group) as other cities, so the Pride meet offered quality competition not often seen in the Bay Area. Among the meet highlights:

  1. Adarian Barr moved into sixth place on the world list for men's 40-44 triple jump with a leap of 42 feet, 7 ½ inches.
  2. Bruce McBarnette cleared 6-1 ½ in the men's 45-49 high jump. He has his sights set at the age group world record of 6-7.
  3. Antonette Carter, who grew up in the area and competed for nearby Cal, jumped 19-7 ¾ in the women's 18-29 long jump and ran the women's 100 in 11.81. She recently competed at the overall U.S. nationals in Indianapolis in the 100, 200 and long jump.
  4. Paul Sinatra cleared 15-9 in the men's 45-49 pole vault.
  5. Carrie Johnson threw the hammer 206-7 in the women's 18-29 competition. She recently placed fourth at the nationals.
But the big mark came from Michelsohn, who flew in from Stony Brook, New York, to go for the 5,000-meter record. Michelsohn is straight, but she has competed at meets put on by the New York Front Runners and enjoys the atmosphere at the club's meets. She also has family in the Bay Area.

“The people who ran the meet set a very relaxed and good tone,” she said. “I felt I could do my best. The Front Runners club in New York runs an indoor meet that is a favorite meet of mine. I've run PRs there. I've done really well.

“When I saw the Pride Meet I said, 'Oh my goodness. It would be that same good atmosphere.'”

First-Time Glitches Don't Dampen Meet Spirit
However, the Pride Meet, as a first-year event, didn't anticipate everything that was necessary for a run at a record. Distance runners require that a rail be installed on a track for a record to be legitimate. San Francisco State has a rail, but pulls it off the track after the season so the field can be used for graduation. When Michelsohn arrived, she discovered the rail was stored just off the track.

“As soon as that happened, I had a panic attack because (San Francisco State coach) Terry (Burke) said it's going to take an hour to put the rail up,” Bundy said.

Fortunately, Burke was on site and the two of them recruited enough people to put the rail up in 30 minutes.

“I said to them that I feel bad to be such a problem,” Michelsohn said. “They said, 'Don't feel bad, there might be other records.' They were absolutely as gracious as could be. I am so grateful to them. Their spirit is wonderful, it's all anybody could hope for.”

That spirit was appreciated by all. Michele Freeman, 52, of Long Beach, Calif., has been to two Gay Games.

“[I really enjoyed] the fun, the camaraderie,” she said, mentioning that she ran into a man she ran a co-ed relay with at the Gay Games in Sydney.

Ben Hall, 45, of Team Indiana, came out with some of his teammates.

“We were at Gay Games in Chicago and we met some of the guys from San Francisco,” he said. “They invited us to come out.”

He nodded in the direction of the costume- and underwear-clad competitors at the Fun Run and added, “Where else can you see a relay like that? Not many people can do that.”

Joe Ingersoll, 24, of Team Philadelphia, said the meet provided a healthier alternative for gays and lesbians.

“It gets everybody out of the clubs and the bars and it's something to meet new people,” he said.

Like many first-time LGBT sporting events, the majority of this year's Pride Track and Field competitors hailed from the meet's home state of California. However, 30 percent came from outside of California, and a few even came from the UK. Key cities represented outside of the Bay Area included Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

Want to see another Pride Track and Field Meet next year? Visit the official Pride Track and Field Meet web site below and send an email voicing your support and commitment to helping the event grow.

Pride Track and Field Meet Quick Links
  1. Pride Track and Field Meet Official Site
  2. Pride Track and Field Meet Photo Gallery
  3. Official Results from the Event