On Saturday, July 26th, San Francisco State University's Cox Stadium will host the second annual Pride Track and Field Meet
, and you might want to check it out. The Pride Meet draws gay athletes from far and wide, and also attracts local athletes who want a challenging and competitive meet. To find out about the history of the meet, and what to expect this year, we spoke to Andrew Bundy, the Pride Meet's founder and organizer.
Bundy organized the first Pride Meet in 2007 hot on the heels of the Gay Games VII in Chicago. It was Bundy's own participation in that Gay Games that led him to organize the meet. "I had been out of doing track until 2006," Bundy says, "when I discovered the San Francisco Track and Field Club [which hosts the Pride Meet]. I ended up training for and competing in the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago—and I was just blown away by the sheer number of people. In fact, slightly more athletes attend the Gay Games than the actual Olympics. It's a testament to the interest and need within the gay community to have an athletic outlet."
For Bundy, a track and field meet offers an opportunity for "a lot of people who never did track and field growing up—who were not confident, and didn't think they were good—but now have the confidence to win medals and run a race." The experience was so positive that Bundy decided to find a way to maintain the spirit of the games every year rather than every four years. So, in 2007, he organized the first Pride Track and Field Meet.
The first meet, so close after the Gay Games, generated significant interest in the LGBT community and attracted athletes from all over the United States. There were 120 competitors in 2007; this year, further out from the Gay Games, the meet's organizers are expecting around 100 competitors, with an emphasis shifting to more west coast athletes. Part of Bundy's intent as an organizer is, in fact, to provide a venue for both LGBT and local athletes to seriously compete. "There are relatively few opportunities for unsponsored, non-collegiate, and non-high school track and field athletes to compete in the Bay Area," Bundy says, "so we really wanted to provide that. And it was the true test of the meet, I think, that those athletes, many of whom were not LGBT, felt the meet was really competitive, and that they wanted to come back." So competitive was last year's meet, in fact, that a world record was set by Marie-Louise Michelsohn in the 5,000 meters for women age 65 to 69, and there were, as Bundy puts it, "a couple of close calls" in the high jump and pole vault.
The Pride Meet's competitiveness is a point of pride forBundy—and key to his hopes for the future of the meet. Bundy's model is International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics
, or IGLA. Founded in the late 1980s, IGLA was organized by LGBT swimming clubs on the west coast. Beginning with an annual swim meet, IGLA eventually became the governing body for gay aquatics worldwide; it also organizes the aquatics for the Gay Games. As Bundy explains, "Their aquatics event every year is now huge—but it started very modestly on the west coast and went on to become one of the major competitions for all kinds of athletes, gay and straight alike, on the circuit. We're trying to create the same kind of thing for track and field—an annual championship." In that vein, the Pride Meet includes a full slate of running, jumping, and throwing events, organized by age group and operating under Masters rules (whereby the equipment and expectations of events are adjusted for each age category). Because the meet is limited to one day, not all Olympic track and field events are included. The Decathlon and Heptathlon are not fielded, for instance. But the Pride Meet does include some additional attractions—like a one-mile race, which appeals to road-runners and running club members, but which is difficult to find in a competition framework. This is, again, part of the organizers' efforts to appeal to a broad swath of athletes—both local and national or international, and both LGBT and straight.
If you'd like to get involved in the Pride Meet, either as a competitor, a spectator, or a volunteer, opportunities abound. The first race goes off at Cox Stadium on the San Francisco State University campus at 9:00 AM on Saturday, July 26th. Admission is free to the public, and spectators are encouraged to come cheer the athletes on. Participants can see a list of events and register online
until July 20th, but should you miss that deadline, you can also register at the meet with a $10 late fee. And, finally, volunteers are very much needed, and should contact Volunteer Coordinator Johnie Kelly. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
It's worth signing up in some capacity—according to Bundy, the Pride Meet can be a pretty inspiring experience. "Last year we had a guy from the Middle East who came to compete," Bundy told us, "and he was just amazed that there was this place where gay athletes were comfortable to compete, and that rights had progressed to where you could even have an LGBT meet. And since we see this as providing a service to the LGBT community, that kind of thing is just great to hear."
Want to get a feel for the Pride Meet? Check out the photos of the inaugural event on the following pages, courtesy of PrideMeet.org.
Pride Meet 2008 Quick Links
Pride Meet Overview
Pride Meet Photo 2
Pride Meet Photo 3
Pride Meet Photo 4
Pride Meet Photo 5
Pride Meet Photo 6
Pride Meet Photo 7
Pride Meet Photo 8
Pride Meet Photo 9
Pride Meet Photo 10