Margaret Sturza officiates jumps at World Athletics Championships
When the best of the best came to Eugene for the World Athletics Championships last month, the World Athletics Championships needed the best of the best to officiate the proceedings.
That's why the organizers tabbed Margaret Sturza of Madras to help judge the horizontal jumps during the world championships July 15-24 at Hayward Field.
Sturza, a former athletic director and volleyball coach at Madras High School, had already judged at the Oregon high school state championships and the NCAA Division I Championships earlier this year. In between, she was named an Official of the Year by the Oregon Athletic Coaches Association.
This time around, she was back at the University of Oregon to watch the world's top athletes go for the gold.
"It was pretty awesome to be around," Sturza said of the world championships, which were set in the heart of the college campus. "Walking down the street or walking around campus, all the different languages being spoken, all the different uniforms. It was pretty cool."
"When you're at the worlds, with all the different countries, it's pretty darn amazing."
As is her usual charge, Sturza judged the long jump and triple jump events at the World Athletics Championships — though the experience was different from any she'd had before.
"They run, they jump and we measure," said Sturza of the officials' typical role, "but the way that we measured was a little different than normal."
"We didn't have anybody on the board," she continued. "We had two people in the pit, and you had someone recording on paper just in case the computer went down. Then, you had somebody doing the wind gauge and the timing, and then a flight coordinator keeping the athletes in order. Then, you had the board judge and the pit judge clear up in the booth upstairs."
Normally, the judges at the board and the pit communicate directly with other officials to tell them when to rake the sand and clear the runway. At the World Athletics Championships, however, the remote judges communicated via a blue light in the pit.
"When the blue light came on, that told us that upstairs, they had the measurement. Then, we could rake."
Regardless of those technical oddities, Sturza had a great time watching the athletes do their best. For her, the most impressive performance at the jumping pits came from Venezuela's gold medal winner, Yulimar Rojas, who set the top mark in the world this season in the triple jump, registering a leap of 15.47 meters (50.75 feet). Then again, it was hard for her to single out just one jumper.
"Every jump was so amazing," Sturza gushed. "You didn't have anybody that was subpar. They were all right in there."
The feat that really knocked her socks off, though, came from Swedish pole vaulter Armand Duplantis, who broke his own world record by jumping 6.21 meters (20 feet, 4.5 inches).
"The last night, getting to watch Duplantis," Sturza recounted, "I was across the track, but watching him jump 20 feet, four and (a half) inches. Holy cow. Pretty amazing."
Even when world records weren't falling, the action was still sweeping Sturza off her feet. One day, she worked at a water station during the marathon, and the runners blew her away.
"The thing that amazed me was how fast they were running for 26 miles. It was amazing."
But it wasn't just new world records and breathtaking performances that made it a memorable weekend for Sturza.
The officials all arrived a few days before the event started, and for the horizontal jump crew, it was a reunion of sorts. There are not that many world-class officials in these events, so the small group that makes up this shortlist have come to know each other well. This cadre of National Technical Officials — NTOs — come from all over the country, including California, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and, of course, Oregon.
"All of the officials in the horizontal jump group have worked together, either at world juniors, Olympic trials, NCAAs — we've all worked together, so that's fun," said Sturza.
The two other officials in their party, the International Technical Officials, hailed from Brazil and Mauritius.
"They were very nice people," Sturza said of the ITOs. "They just travel around the world doing this."
All the officials stayed in Carson Hall at the University of Oregon and fought off their stir-craziness until the athletes arrived and the festivities began. Once the competition started, Sturza says the area around the dorms could be compared to a small-scale Athletes' Village, like at the Olympics.
"We were all very close, walking back and forth to the venue," she explained. "The athletes had a great big area at night. They had bands playing, dancing, music. It was very festive."
While the two-week trip included a day off that turned into a jut out to the coast, where Sturza and a fellow official enjoyed lunch at Moe's and some saltwater taffy, it also featured a lot of late dinners. Most nights, the final events weren't done until well past 9:30 p.m. So, when all was said and done, Sturza came back from the trip to Hayward Field — her third in as many months — ready for a break.
She is enjoying the rest for now, but don't worry — the reigning OACA Official of the Year will be back on the volleyball courts in just a few weeks' time.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.