You would be hard-pressed to find someone who speaks the language of collegiate track, field and cross country with more eloquence than Mike Jay.
Name a high-profile event – U.S. Olympic Trials, U.S. national meets, NCAA championships, Drake Relays – and he’s been the public address announcer for it.
So, it was no surprise to find Jay hunkered down in a spartan trailer near the finish line of the NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet held Nov. 10 at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course in Verona.
It was an hour before the women’s 6K race would begin. After that, the assembled men’s teams would attack their 10k layout. The top two finishers would qualify for the NCAA meet scheduled for Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.
From his modest perch, Jay kept his audience up to date on the ebb and flow of the races. One of the many things he loves about the Zimmer facility, located adjacent to University Ridge Golf Course, is that he can see large chunks of the layout without stress.
More importantly, he said, fans stationed on the grassy berm that lines the final straightaway to the finish line, can see roughly 80 percent of the layout without having to move.
That was helpful to the estimated crowd of 1,300, many of whom came to cheer for the host Badgers. They saw senior Bob Liking win the men’s race and the UW men’s and women’s team finish second overall, earning them a crack at a national championship.
“I think it’s important that courses are fan-friendly,” Jay said, “so people that come to see somebody can actually see them as opposed to leaving, saying, ‘I came to see Johnny run and I saw him once.’”
The spectator experience is one of the reasons Jay believes the Zimmer course is the best layout for cross country in the U.S.
“Oh, yeah, absolutely,” he said. “No doubt in my mind.”