Why I am supporting Stephanie Hightower for USATF President, by Larry Eder


The most important convention, perhaps in the history of USA Track & Field began this morning in Reno, Nevada. I am not in Reno, Nevada, but in the snow covered city of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, where I live and work.

As the group publisher of Shooting Star Media, Inc. and the President of the Running Network, LLC, I have been fortunate enough to see many of the great moments in our sport around the world. As a former athlete, coach, I have always been a track fan. My agenda, which sounds simple, is this: I love our sport of athletics, from prep track & field to local road races and the big city marathons. Each year, I visit most of the major marathons, most domestic major indoor and outdoor track meets and the major trade gatherings. That is part of my job.

Representing print and web media in this day and age is problematic at best: I am trying to fine tune print media as well as take advantage of the changes in digital and electronic offerings to promote our sport, and in the end, make money for our businesses. Yes, I make my living from the sport I love. And, I find myself very fortunate in that regard.

In my journeys, I have come across a group of men and women who, while approaching their jobs differently than I do, love the sport and want to see it prosper. Whether these people are coaches, athletes, agents, officials or sports politicians, they share a common goal-how do we grow our sport, how do we clean up our sport, and how do we modernize our sport in order that we can capture the hearts and minds of a global audience that is fascinated with sport, but disgusted with the level of depravity in our treatment of supposed sport heroes and the activities that are paraded around in the media?

In our recent election in the United States, I stayed up until three in the morning watching the returns. I had text messages from Slovenia, friends in Asia and family on the West coast. While I supported Mr. Obama, I did not think that Mr. McCain was an evil man-his approach was just not my cup of tea. In Mr. Obama, I saw a man of intellect, a man not ashamed to have gotten A's in college, and a man who will use that intellect to deal with the very large and complex problems we have in our world today. I am tired of how modern media seems to applaud mediocrity.

I look at our athletes today, from Sanya Richards, Kara Goucher and Allyson Felix to Chris Solinsky, Adam Nelson and Kerron Clement. Articulate, confident athletes who are good with the media, great role models and who see their roles as athletes as much differnent than athletes of a generation ago.

Just before I wrote this piece, I watched a BBC video of Michael Johnson. One of the things I really like about Mr. Johnson is his ability to communicate his ideas in an articulate and relaxed manner. He was speaking about the problems with athletics in the UK, and he did not mince words. Complicated issues need to be embraced and recognized before they can be solved.

In supporting a candidate for President of USA Track & Field, I have wracked my brain for several months. I know Bob Bowman personally, and I know he is energized to run for this office. Dee Jensen, a well respected coach and official, would be a fine president of USA Track and Field. Both of the above candidates are very good people and should be recognized for their desire to make the sport better.

In my mind, that is not enough. I have known of Stephanie HIghtower for twenty-five years. Her era was my era in terms of competing. I remember seeing her in meets in college and post college.

I have also watched her develop as a sports politician, mentored by one of my favorite people in sport, Dr. Evie Dennis. I like Dr. Dennis because no matter what question I ask her, she gives me an honest answer. I found that quite unusual many times in this sport.

Stephanie Hightower is an able politician, Thank God. Politics is not a bad thing. In her hometown of Columbus, she worked with the board of education to help develop some strong funding programs for kids in her city.

I have come to know her personally over the past three or four years. I have watched her sitting down with young athletes, men and women, discussing the sport, making sure that they were okay and had what they needed to compete. I have also watched her get very concerned when situations occurred that did not help the athlete or help the sport. Stephanie knows how to communicate her disapproval. In our world that is a good thing.

I do not believe that her detractors are racists. But, I do believe that there is something with Stephanie being a women, and a women who will give you her opinion. Does she know how to hold her own with a group of track coaches? Yes. Does she know how to comport herself with officials from international sport? Yes. Is she fun to watch a track meet with? Of course. Someone who is comfortable in her own skin, as Stephanie is, does not mean one is hypocritical. It means someone has taken a bit of time to develop as an adult. Those are good attributes.

Then, there is the prurient interests. From the first day Stephanie mentioned that she might run for President, I heard one of the following : a) Stephanie does not know that a track meet has events longer than the 100 meter hurdles, b) Stephanie can not work with a CEO, c) and then when those fail, there is always some mention of a personal life.

Stephanie Hightower in my mind, is a former athlete, who has worked very hard to get where she is in our sport. She is at home with athletes from throws, sprints distances and jumps. She respects the importance of officials and coaches. But, most importantly, she loves this sport and will fight for it.

While I am supporting the changes Doug Logan is bringing to USA Track & Field, I do believe that in electing Stephanie Hightower as President, Logan will not only have a sounding board but also an ally in marketing our sport. Remember, Logan was able to make these changes with the support of the board in its present form. To my best recollection, Stephanie Hightower was part of that process.

I also want USATF to play well with the USOC. I also want USATF to beg to differ with our friends in the USOC for the good of the sport. We need a strong President. Stephanie Hightower will be a strong and thoughtful president.

Bill Roe did a great job as President in working with Craig Masback and he has done a fine job, in a difficult situation, in working with Doug Logan. Three very different people, who acted like adults and worked together for the common good. What a concept!

We are at a cross roads in our sport. A critical juncture. In my considered opinion, Stephanie Hightower is the best of our three candidates for USATF President. She will give the job, a complicated and problematic one at best, the concern and thought needed to help lead USA Track & Field to its next stage. And she can and will complement the work of Doug Logan as he continues to address the many challenges facing our sport.

I ask you to cast your vote for Stephanie Hightower.

Thanks for considering my thoughts...

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