The overhead lights in the fieldhouse are off during the winter break. Only the dim winter light slips through its cathedral windows providing just enough luminance for a few athletes to work on their form with throws coach Casey Malone. It may be easier to reflect on it’s glory days in the quiet and darkness. The southern upper bleachers are pulling away from the wall and have been deemed unsafe while the hallowed names of NCAA All Americans and Olympians remain on the upper deck looking down on the field below. It’s three flat, narrow lanes, measuring a tight 200 meters around the fieldhouse have served many a runner over the years since it was built in 1936 but are now tired and worn.

Frank Shorter chose Boulder specifically, not only because of its altitude, but because CU’s Fieldhouse was the only indoor track in the region. He spent many a winter training there, rolling out hard workouts like 200m repeats preparing for the 1976 Olympics. The fieldhouse was open to the public back then. Amatuer and elite athetes alike flocked to the warmth of the gym in the cold winter days.

Coach Ric Rojas, winner of the first Bolder Boulder in 1979 recalls running his best session in the fieldhouse; 4×1 mile averaging 4:24 off of just 3 minutes rest in between.

Ric Rojas leading Frank Shorter in the Potts Invitational 2 mile.

Ric Rojas leads Frank Shorter and Stan Mavis in the Potts Invitational 2 mile circa 1980. Photo courtesy of Ric Rojas.

Rojas ran 8:56 for the win, but recounts that “Frank will forever hold the Fieldhouse record on 8:43 set sometime in the mid-seventies”.

In the other two years I ran in this meet, Ted Casteneda and Mark Scrutton won. It was brutal racing these guys in tight quarters, and sharp elbows would fly when you tried to pass. Frank actually had the sharpest elbows but Casteneda was by far the strongest runner. He literally elbowed me off the track under the south stands the year he won.

The Potts Meet would sell-out in the late 70’s, with some of the best local guys racing in the featured events such as the two-mile. – Ric Rojas

Mike Sandrock remembers those meets with a huge grin, “Afterwards it was the party of the year. Talk about a blowout, there would be hundreds of people.”

In complete contrast, the full state-of-the-art fieldhouse awaits its opening on the opposite side of Folsom Field. An indoor football field wrapped by a silver and gold 300 meter track, with gentler turns and 8 lanes on one straightaway for the sprinters. which looks to be perhaps the fastest sprint and mid-distance indoor tracks in the region despite being at altitude. The hope was that it would be complete for The Potts Indoor Invitational on January 15-16, but delays have set it back to February.

So Balch will host one last invitational. Field events are set for Friday the 15th and the running events are set for Saturday the 16th. An official schedule is not available at the time of posting.

Come out to the Potts Indoor Invitational and share in the history and celebrate its last hurrah.

Photos of CU’s Balch Fieldhouse

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Video of the 2013 Potts Indoor Invitational in the Balch Fieldhouse

  • georgezack

    I ran a 600 meter race there once in 1:29. I went out in the first 100 in
    13.x. I was rigging so bad in the last 100 … I remember a guy stuck his face
    into the lane as I was tying up and he said “relaz yo’ face man.” It was
    funny. Later on I heard him talking to one of his college team mates. His team
    mate got smoked in one of the heats and this guy said, “yuz were seeing nuthin’
    but ass cheeks in that heat.” It was a crack up.

    • That’s hilarious! Marty has a similar story when he was running the mile as a master. I remembered that advice each time i ran this summer.