Woodstock resident Karnell Vickers got a chance to run alongside some of the fastest athletes in the country last week at the U.S. track and field championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
Each year, one masters event is included as an exhibition. With the 50-and-older 200-meter dash included this year, Vickers, the 2017 national champion in the event, was an obvious entrant.
“It was really interesting to run with the Olympians and see what they look like at these big meets,” Vickers said. “You can’t really get that atmosphere anywhere else. You’re out there with some of the best athletes in the world. I like to think of them as my counterparts in a younger age group. If you love track, you know who everyone is. It was just an honor to be included. It was humbling.”
While nearly all the athletes at the meet could be considered among the world’s best, Vickers was comfortably the best in his event. As the top seed, he finished the masters 200 in 24.69 seconds, beating out David Pitts by .14 seconds and winning against what he admitted was not the deepest field.
“I did not have anyone to really push me in that race,” Vickers said. “My top competition just went to nationals in Iowa and worlds in Canada. The Nos. 2 and 3 guys didn’t make it to this meet. It had the top two guys in the 55-and-older in the race, though, so I can see what some of the upcoming standards are looking like.”
While the event was not the most challenging he had ever competed in, Vickers still enjoyed the experience. He said he did not have a chance to talk to too many of the top athletes as they prepared for their own events.
He did have a chance to talk to athletes outside the meet, though, and he said the chance to talk about the 400 hurdles with four-time Olympic medalist Angelo Taylor was a highlight of his trip.
“You can exchange some things, but not really at the track meet,” Vickers said. “Those are the kinds of things you can share when you meet them at the airport or bump into them at the hotel. You get to talk to them a little bit them.”
The 53-year-old Vickers was kept from the world and national championships this year because of work and home responsibilities, but he said he is ready to get back onto the competitive masters circuit soon.
He was at the top of his game before taking his recent hiatus, but he said the introduction of younger athletes into his 50-55 age bracket will push him to continue to improve.
“You have to keep pushing,” Vickers said. “You see the younger guys coming up to compete with some pretty good times. It takes a lot of training, but I want to show I can still be the best.”