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In the winter before the Olympics, six indoor track meets.

The resonating thumps of footsteps on plywood tracks will soon echo in six sports arenas in the West: the indoor track season begins January 20 in Los Angeles. It's a great opportunity to see some of the world's best men and women athletes as they tune up for the Olympic Games this coming summer.

Indoor meets have a special intimacy because all the field events take place within the confines of 10- or 11-laps-to-the-mile tracks. You'll find a delightful, circus-like atmosphere. Massive shot-putters prowl the sidelines awaiting their turns in the ring; attenuated high jumpers focus trance-like on bars spanning hard-to-believe heights; and long jumpers measure their steps toward the sand-filled landing pits. The pole vault, short sprint, and hurdle events also take place in this center stage. (For sprints and hurdles, one end of the oval track is cleared away to make a slow down area.)

Throughout the course of the meets, runners circle or streak by the ongoing infield events. The ends of the straightaways bank gently, then steeply, so centrifugal force will hold competitors in their lanes. The narrow tracks make passing difficult and exciting--there's lots of jostling, and occasionally a fall. The sounds of the runners and the cheers of the crowd add to the excitement. During longer events, like the mile run, the crowds clap in rhythm with the swift strides of the runners.

Not all the competitors are world class; you'll also see high school, college, masters, and even Special Olympic events. Growing in popularity are the Corporate Relays, in which teams of men and women representing area businesses run short relays.

Although most of the meets are held at night, some developmental events for younger athletes start earlier in the day. And though the events are tightly scheduled, some (like the high jump and pole vault) will run long into the night when competition is close.

Because meets take place in buildings that hold basketball games, like the Forum in Los Angeles and the Cow Palace in San Francisco, there are no really bad seats, but don't take just any seat that's available. Seats down low and close to the track provide close-up views of runners and some infield events, but you may not have a clear view of the finish line. Seats a little above floor level give better overall perspectives--something to consider if you're a first-time spectator trying to sort out all the action. Where the meets will be

Here are dates and locations for this year's indoor track meets. You can order tickets ($6 to $14 each) through Ticketron or by calling the telephone numbers given here. Los Angeles, January 20. The Sunkist Invitational, Los Angeles Sports Arena, 3939 S. Figueroa Street; (212) 748-6131. Albuquerque, February 3. The Jaycee Invitational, Tingley Coliseum, New Mexico State Fairgrounds; (505) 345-3301. Los Angeles, February 10. The Los Angeles Times--United Airlines Indoor Games, The Forum 3900 W. Manchester, Inglewood; (213) 674-6000. San Diego, February 17. The Michelob Invitational, San Diego Sports Arena, 3500 Sports Arena Boulevard; (619) 224-4171. Portland, February 18. The Oregon Indoor Meet, Portland Memorial Coliseum, 1401 N. Wheeler Avenue; (503) 239-4422. San Francisco, March 2. The Footlocker Track Clasic, the Cow Palace, Geneva Avenue, Daly City, California; (415) 469-6065.
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Date:Jan 1, 1984
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