by Bernadette O'Neill
Large track meets, like the Nike National meets, are so heavily populated with staff, athletes, coaches and fans, the people who keep things running behind the scenes are sometimes overlooked. One group of workers that too frequently doesn't get the recognition they deserve is the registration crew. They get no pay, their hours are long, they stand most of the time, and after awhile even the best Chick-Fil-A sandwiches can start to get tiring.
No, I didn't work the registration crew this year but I certainly know what it's like. The registration table is where I first worked as a part of Nike Indoor Nationals at Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex in Landover, Maryland as a Sophomore in high school. I remember being awed the first time I worked in registration by the number of athletes and work to be done at a meet of this stature. Tensions were frequently high as athletes hurried to get ready for their races and coaches and parents came to pick up their registration packets. Frequently if there was any kind of misunderstanding, or problem the registration crew was the first to be accused and sometimes yelled at.
This year's registration crew at Nike Indoor nationals consisted of about 20 young men and women from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland. Their names are as unique as their personalities and their work ethic is to be admired. Some of the crew I met had names like Dexter, Sheantel, Opelumi and Juanita. Despite having a somewhat modest and stressful job, everyone seemed to love working at the registration desk, just as I did when I was there.
Derrick Williams Jr., a sixteen year old who attends and runs track at Eleanor Roosevelt high school said he especially enjoyed "the perks" of working the table, such as free shirts and food, but that he did find some people especially frustrating.
"At times is can be stressful because people don't follow the rules and then they get an attitude with you when you tell them." Williams said.
A fellow worker and runner, Thair Walker, 14, nodded in agreement and added that even though he did have to deal with "angry people" at times he also got to meet some interesting people and eat some good food.
"The food has been great. Quizno's was delightful." Walker said.
Walker said that the hardest part of the job was having to check in early. "Getting into the swing of things and finding all the athlete's names was hard. And by the time it's twelve, it feels like it's eight o'clock at night."
Michael McLendon, the oldest of the crew at 17, said it was fun and helped him gain work experience.
"It has given me the experience of having a job in a way, working the long hours, you have a lot of responsibility, keeping track of everyone's envelopes and making sure everyone gets the right bib numbers."
As a former fellow worker, I couldn't agree more. So next time you're at a meet, make sure to pay attention to the people working to keep things running smoothly, handing you your packet, or food, or simply giving you directions.