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Lake Oswego man creates new track and field event

Growing up in Lower Manhattan, Albert Da Silva would often play tag games with his friends. As the kids would chase each other around the playground, they could never seem to catch Da Silva.

He wasn't the fastest, but he was the quickest.

While attending the University of Oregon and becoming a freelance writer, Da Silva began to wonder how quickness was measured. He knew track and field events crowned the fastest athletes, but quickness was a different story.

An idea began to form in his mind that would not go away. He wanted to create a new track and field event.

'Being quick is so vital in all popular sports, and it's just not something that's quantified in track and field,' Da Silva says. 'I kept thinking, 'Why? There must be a way to do it.''

With that in mind, Da Silva, who lives in Lake Oswego, got to work on creating such an event.

His initial idea incorporated his childhood game of tag. He called it supertag - a one-on-one game played on a field in a circle with a 20- yard radius.

However, Da Silva soon noticed that there were problems with this idea.

In particular, he was not sure it necessarily fit into the concept of track and field, which is a main concern for those involved in the sport.

'I like the idea of measuring quickness, but I think it just has to kind of flow with track and field,' Lincoln High track coach Forrest Sherman says. 'It would have to be a natural event - people can compete in it and feel good about competing in it and not feel like it's some kind of crazy obstacle course.'

With the idea of fitting his event into the current track and field setup, Da Silva eventually created what he calls the 60-meter zigzag.

The design Da Silva decided on can fit into four lanes on a standard track.

And while it is only 60 meters long, it involves much more than just sprinting in a straight line. Each lane consists of markers on the track that the competitors have to cut back and forth between.

'It is sort of like a sprint slalom,' Da Silva says. 'So it would be very fast, and it would involve cuts to the right and left and variations on how they would cut, so it's not just left-right, left-right.'

He estimates that 34 seconds would be a very good time in the event.

Along with being able to measure quickness, Da Silva notes that the event would be good for fans.

'At the higher-level heats, where the competition tightens, the runners will appear like synchronous blurs darting to the right and left, with slight variations in separation until the final stretch when one runner pulls ahead,' Da Silva says. 'I see the 60 Z as a very exciting event for spectators and competitors alike.'

With the understanding of how important quickness is to all athletes, Da Silva sees other advantages to his idea.

'An added benefit of the 60-meter zigzag is it provides a great training exercise for developing athletes, especially running backs, point guards and soccer players, to name a few,' he says.

Da Silva has loftier goals for his event than simply becoming a training exercise, however.

He hopes that someday the 60-meter zigzag will be an Olympic event.

Da Silva understands, however, that he is in the beginning stages and has a long way to go, with the Olympics a distant dream.

He has set the course up only once, when two teenage female soccer players ran it.

Da Silva hopes to start getting the word out on the event soon.

'You can start out small and local,' he says. 'The process would be having tournaments. Let's say, for example, a good fundraiser for Portland school sports. It could be a citywide tournament that would crown the quickest boy and girl in high school running.'

Da Silva works for Portland Community College as an instructional support tech on contract to the Londer Learning Center, an educational program in Multnomah County's Department of Community Justice.

He doesn't have a lot of track-and-field contacts and knows there is only so much he can do by himself.

He says that in order for his idea to succeed, he needs media and other companies to support the event.

It would be a long and difficult process to incorporate a new event into a sport with the tradition and organizational hierarchy of track and field. Is it even possible?

'I think there's lots of events that could be added that aren't in track and field right now - long-distance running and short-distance running,' Sherman says.

Sherman says he would need to be personally convinced the event would be beneficial to the sport before he supported the idea, however.

'I'm one of those people who needs to see it to really get a grasp of it as opposed to reading about it,' he says. 'If I was able to actually set up a drill, run through it, see it and feel it myself, then I would be able to make a decision on it either way, whether I thought it was good or bad.'

In Da Silva's mind, there is no doubt track needs the 60-meter zigzag.

In a few weeks, millions of people around the world will sit glued to their television sets, watching the world's fastest men and women compete for their countries in Beijing.

Da Silva will be watching the Olympics, too.

But he will be wondering: Who are the world's quickest athletes?