American democracy at work.
The quadrennial cycle of electing the highest office in the land--and perhaps the most powerful person in the world--ought to be no lighthearted task. Yet the chaotic enthusiasm of these elections we have so ingrained into cultural phenomenology suggest that facetious narrative nevertheless. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the caucus system. More messy than the primary voting system, in which a simple party vote is taken to determine a nominee, the caucus system is a rather convoluted iteration of a town-hall style meeting possible. And in our great state of Utah, on March 22nd, the Democrats and the Republicans held their party caucuses in various locations across the state. In the last few days, our mailboxes, phone lines, emails, television sets--every possible line of communication--have been flooded with political paraphernalia and small-talk stamped with the names and faces of various political candidates. Even our seemingly irrelevant homeland has weathered invasions from Trump, Sanders, Cruz, and Kasich alike. The message that they sent was clear: Utah matters.
I had the privilege of attending what became a historic Utah Democratic caucus. Held in the Little Theater at Logan High School, close to 3000 voters shuffled through the cramped room, casting their ballots for the Democratic presidential nominee. And at 5:45, fifteen minutes before polls opened, a snake of a line had formed within the halls of the English building. Volunteers passed out Clinton stickers and Sanders stickers as they traversed the line as ballots were passed back. Officials pointed and attempted to direct the hectic scene that was unfolding. “Next!” they yelled as voter after voter stormed the entrance of the room, casting their ballots. Soon after the opening, the line became a massive arc stretching from the football field to the edge of the baseball field. Even more impressive was the fact that these caucus-goers represented only one of three Cache County caucus locations. Could citizens, newly motivated by this year’s political spectacle, be gathering en masse across the valley as well?
Eric Strand, Logan High’s head track coach, began his athletic journey at Campbell County High School in the oiling town of Gillette, Wyoming. He played football his freshman and sophomore years, with track in the spring, running mostly shorter distance sprint events.
When his junior year came around, he decided to join the cross-country team, and found his place among distance running, although track was where his real talent was, in the 800 meter run specifically. He won a 400 meter individual state championship while with the Camels, as well as three team championships, and recorded a personal 800 meter high school best of 1:52. He was also able to compete in two national-class meets.
His first coaching experience came when he was still at Campbell County. His coach founded a track camp for youth in elementary and middle school.
Coach Strand recalls, “I enjoyed teaching people something that I understood well and had a lot of experience doing.”
Immediately after high school, Strand attended Idaho State University in Pocatello for five years on a running scholarship. Strand took part in cross-country in the fall to stay in shape for the spring season. He didn’t run any faster than he did in high school until his sophomore year when he ran an 800 meter time of 1:50.19 at the 2010 SUU Invitational. Eric ended his collegiate career with an individual Big Sky Conference Championship in the 800 meter run and nine All-Conference awards.