To say Terry Yeast was in shock would be an understatement.
The Harrodsburg native and former track and field coach thought he would take a shot and apply to be an umpire for the U.S. Olympic track and field trials in Oregon.
He never thought he would get the call on his first try, but his wish came true and he has spent the last week at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., watching the next group of Olympians compete for the honor of representing their country at the London games.
“I had been doing a few national-level events over the last few years, so last fall I applied for the event,”¿Yeast said during an off day Tuesday. “And Mr. (Gordon)¿Bocock called me with the good news in December to let me know I had been selected.”
He was thrilled to be selected as an official for the trials, but then he realized the enormity of what he was responsible for, and where he was when he arrived for the trials, which started June 21 and ends Sunday.
“It’s quite overwhelming. The first day you walk into the stadium and see all these people (in the stands) and all these world-class athletes and knowing you may determine, based on what you see or don’t see, if they move on,” he said. “It was a little scary in the beginning, especially when it’s my first time at an event of this caliber.”
Yeast has been an umpire in the running events at the trails, stationed in the final turn on events that go all the way around the track, and near the starting line for the events on the straightaway.
“So I’m literally right there. You get to see Tyson Gay lined up in the blocks, it’s pretty amazing,” he said. “In the 400 (meters), I was in the last turn and (winner) LaShawn Merritt was just flying.”
Of course, Yeast knows he can’t just get caught being a spectator and risk missing a violation.
“We’re human, of course, and I have to remember what we’re here for, but it is difficult,” he said. “I almost got caught up in watching the decathlon (where Ashton Eaton set a world record). When he was coming down the homestretch and knowing he was going to break a world record, I had to remember there were still people behind him. But it was exciting to get to witness a world record.”
Yeast typically officiates between five and nine events per day. His work leaves little time to actually watch the events, but he sneaks some in when he can.
“We officiate every event. But there have been times, like (Monday) where I was stationed during the distance events. I get to see some field events going on when they’re not doing running events, so I’ve seen some great competition,”¿he said. “I was stationed by the high jump pit and I got to see five guys clear 7 feet, 5 inches.”
The downside, if there is one for Yeast, is that heavy rains soaked the area for several days, but Yeast could not leave his post.
“We got soaked about three days,” he said. “You just have to stand there and deal with it.”
Officiating is a volunteer activity, and Yeast has had to pay his own expenses. But it was worth every penny, and he would do it again in a heartbeat.
“Absolutely. This is definitely my hobby, officiating, and I love the sport period, and I’ve always dreamed of officiating in the Olympics, and I hope some day that comes true,” he said. “I’m hoping in the next eight to 12 years, then come back to the U.S.
“You pay your own way for the privilege of doing it, and it is well worth it.”