For 59 years, the New Orleans Track Club (NOTC) has been a staple of the running community. With a Hall of Fame, dozens of past presidents, and hundreds of members it truly has the feel of a tried and true community that has grown from the ground up. On Saturday August 6th, many NOTC track members as well as other runners got together for a two mile race to celebrate the anniversary of the NOTC’s foundation. The out and back affair along the levy was a short but sweet event that put as much emphasis on good vibes as it did on the actual racing itself. It was the kind of event where you could grab a beer, sit down at any table, and listen to long time friends recount dozens of shared stories over the years.
One of the benefits of a shorter race is quick times and quicker finishes, of which there was no shortage at this race. The first female finisher, Jacki Meriwether, came in at a fast 14:42, an impressive time given the heat and humidity. By her own admission, Jacki signed up for the race alongside her husband because “we’re both 59, so we wanted the shirt,” she told us with a laugh. She took things out quickly, her only goal being “to run as fast as I could, since it was only two miles.” Jacki certainly achieved her goal, pulling away from the second place finisher Carrie Wyland late in the race to secure her victory and run through the ribbon. Jacki has been an athlete and a runner for over twenty years, and cited the strong sense of community and fun atmosphere that keeps her coming back to events like NOTC’s anniversary race. She also listed her husband as a large motivator for helping her stay active, who added on “I’ve just been trying to catch up to her.”
On the men’s side of things, Casey Hymel put in a dominant performance as he finished with a time of 11:01. He was 30 seconds ahead of second place finisher Matt Dalton whose performance was impressive in its own right. When asked about his race strategy, Casey told us “I wanted to go out in a good time and come back in even splits. I kinda had to change my strategy towards the end.” Casey was far from the only runner who was feeling the heat and humidity of a Louisiana summer, but he seemed to hold up against it better than most. Though he was fast out of the gate, he lengthened his lead on the back half of the race considerably. Though Casey ran in highschool, he’s only been back to serious running for four years now. A solo trainer, he initially started showing up to races to “see where [he] stacked up,” but was swept up into the community and now looks forward to events like this one to share his passion with others.
Casey attributed much of his success to his coach Mike Camber who we got to sit down with along with Gary Stanley. Both men are long time members of the community and have been involved with running in various capacities for much of their lives. Gary Stanley is well known for his 34 years of service as the head track and field coach of Louisiana Tech where his teams and athletes achieved success at the national level multiple times. The pair had so many stories to tell between the two of them about the NOTC that they had trouble deciding which ones to tell us about. Gary specifically recounted the way races used to be run, before they even had enough extra hands for a timer. They would start a watch and leave it on the start line. Whoever finished the race first would take on the task of hand timing for the rest of the athletes who came in. Seeing the chip timers, hundreds of runners, and resources that the club has access to now, it’s plain to see how far the NOTC has come. When you meet the people holding the community together, it isn’t hard to figure out why.
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