The Drake Relays bring thousands of people out to watch a track meet. America’s Athletic Classic, they call it. The aroma of turkey legs and popcorn. The white tents lining the entrance to the big blue track. The bang of the starting gun and the roar of applause. It all smells, looks and sounds just like I remember.
But it’s different now. Amidst the thousands of fans, the big blue oval feels a little empty. I miss my dad. I feel his absence more this time of year than at any other, even three years later. The Relays were our thing. It is hard to do our thing when it’s just me.
Our place was The Big Blue Oval. Whether rain, snow or sun, the last weekend in April, dad and I would be together at The Drake Relays. As a kid, he’d take me down on the field and help me get autographs of all the professional runners. When competing in high school and college, my name always followed the intro, “The daughter of the Iowa State Coach, Steve Lynn.” He joked that soon he’d be known as “Erica’s father.”
Then I grew up and became a coach. Dad sat next to me with his video camera, taking splits, and encouraging me that my girls would do great. After their race, he’d always give me his, ‘I’m proud of you hug.’ The one where he reached one arm around, grabbed my shoulder, pulled me in closer and then patted me on the back. We often imagined what fun it would be when my kids were big enough to run at The Relays. “It’ll be here before you know it,” he’d say.
At our last Relays together, I remember so clearly siting in the stands as my dad had, by no surprise, found someone he knew to talk to. As I sat back while he conversed, I got lost in thinking about dad, his career, and that someday he would probably be recognized for all he accomplished. In that moment, I remember feeling excitement for that day to come. My dad was the most humble man, well maybe aside from his father (my grandpa), that I have ever known. Even at the end of his career, he never made it about himself.
Tomorrow, my family and dad’s track family, get to celebrate for him. He is being honored into the Drake Relays Hall of Fame. When my mom got the phone call she was told, “This wasn’t a gift. Steve earned this honor.”
I am so proud of my dad. He worked so hard. He coached with such passion and love. There is just something gratifying in knowing others know what you know about someone you love so deeply. I am happy all his athletes and coaches get to re-live something they did together. There are so many great memories. I am honored to once again be ‘The daughter of Coach Steve Lynn.”
While I am so incredibly happy for my dad, and so thankful for this honor, I can’t help but go back to that day in the stands longing for this moment. I really wanted him to enjoy this recognition. I wanted him to re-live those moments. I wanted to hear the stories he would tell (because he had quite a few). Man, if I could hear just one more of his stories…
My dad, Coach Lynn, loved the sport of track and field. He loved that The Drake Relays celebrated not just the sport but the kids who ran, jumped and threw. Because he loved it, I love it. While that void will always linger, I am happy that this year we get to celebrate him at the place he loved so much.
Congrats, Dad! I am so proud of you!