The Loss For The “Kids”

A quick remembrance of the man who rebuilt the Armory, where Heps just had a mega-successful Indoor Championship. Dr. Norbert Sander passed away unexpectedly today.

Doc had a vision more than a quarter-century ago that others struggled to share. The Armory and its surrounding Washington Heights neighborhood had fallen on hard times. Both had become dangerous places.

For three years Doc approached city officials about bringing the Armory back as a place for track & field and just before his final term as mayor ended, David Dinkins gave him the keys and wished him luck. What happened next was a transformation of both the facility and the neighborhood. There is no place like it in track and field. Super fast. Super clean. Super loud.

Six years ago now, Doc hired myself and the amazing Dipen Shah to oversee the Armory’s digital and video platforms. I did it for two seasons, which included the debut of the Millrose Games at the Armory after 99 seasons of being held midtown. Among my best memories of Doc came when the staff would be deliberating a thorny or complex issue. At those moments, when the best path forward was unclear, he would revisit the mission statement and ask what would most benefit the kids. The paths frequently became much clearer.

So it wasn’t surprising when I saw him for the first time in a few years — at the Columbia East-West Challenge in February — that his first question for me wasn’t about myself or track. His first question was: “How are things going with those kids in New Haven?”

Always the kids. And those kids in New York City lost someone who was uniquely devoted to them today. RIP, Doc Sander. Your broad legacy will be generational.

UPDATE: There is a great Runners World story on Dr. Sander that recently posted. In it, Columbia graduate and 17-time sub-four runner Kyle Merber said, “What made Norb unique was his genuine interest in the professional side of the sport and the youth development. He did a great job of connecting the athletes of today with the athletes of tomorrow. He was really, really kind, a genuine person, who was constantly following the sport. If I had a good race, he knew about it.”

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