From all reports, “Oppenheimer” is a box office smash success, bringing vast crowds back to the cinema nearest you after the long pandemic had nearly put the whole film industry on life support.

And, by the way, it’s shining the global spotlight on the State of New Mexico – which, as its license plates forever tell you, is “The Land of Enchantment.”

“Oppenheimer” is, of course, a very heavy hitter, reminding every moviegoer that no less than the future of all humanity may have been at stake as those mushroom clouds were raised over the New Mexico desert.

Chase Ealey defends her shot put title from Eugene, World Athletics Championships.
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

Moving along to far lighter fare here’s telling you that a lot of New Mexico-style heavy-hitting was also going on at the 19th World Championships of Track and Field last week at Budapest’s National Athletics Stadium.

Totally “enchanting” were the New Mexico-themed paths that first took Josh Kerr and then Chase Ealey to the top of the podium in the historic Hungarian capital city. They may have represented different nations in Budapest, but they surely brought shared glory back to N.M.

Josh Kerr, photo by Kevin Morris

Kerr, the bewhiskered, sunglassed Scotsman who’d been an NCAA champion at the University of New Mexico, stunned heavily favored Jakob Ingebrigtsen of Norway, battling gustily through the concluding meters, 3:29.38 to 3:29.65, to take the World 1500 crown on Wednesday, August 23.

He’d tell the media: “I needed every single ounce that I had today.”

“I threw everything I had at that last 50. I don’t think there was anyone in the world that was going to want that more than me today.

Chase Ealey, W shot put,
World Athletics Championships
Budapest, Hungary
August 19-27, 2023, photo by Kevin Morris

“Those last moments of the race will be engraved on my brain for a very long time. I knew I had him with about 50 meters to go. I ran that last lap as well as I could, and today it was all heart, all guts, and remembering all the really hard yards (and meters) it took me to get here.”

Soccer-wise, Scotland competes as its own World Cup entity – which is something of a contentious issue down in London.

But Kerr’s crown was very big news up in Edinburgh and, of course,/of course, in Albuquerque (where he’d excelled as a UNM varsity Lobo from 2015-18.)

Fellow Scot Jake Wightman had stunned Ingebrigtsen in the World 1500 final last year in Oregon, and Kerr thus staged a repeat, as his blazing drive over the final meters brought him home narrowly on top.

Josh Kerr, 2023 Budapest 1,500 world champion, photo by Getty Images for World Athletics

The shocked expression on Ingebrigtsen’s face told a lot of this story.

So did his partially unzipped uniform top – which now read “No Way.”

The “R” was gone from view, and so was his plan to atone for his 2022 loss to Wightman at Hayward Field. (But Ingebrigtsen did make amends on the Worlds’ second Sunday, taking his second straight 5,000-meter title.)
No less a personage than Lord Sebastian Coe – the two-time Olympic champion and multiple world record-smasher, now president of World Athletics, the sport’s global governing body – came down from the stands to offer his warmest congrats…and the gold medal.

Chase Ealey, July 17, 2022, photo by Jeff Benjamin

It was Ealey’s turn to strike gold on Saturday, August 26, claiming her second consecutive World shot put crown with a heave of 20.43 meters/ 67 feet and half an inch, besting Canada’s Sarah Mitton by all of 35 centimeters/14 inches.

She called her big win “ even more satisfying than last year because I’ve struggled to get my technique sorted and get everything right this year.

“So, for it to come together at the right time is perfect.”

It had been a long journey from her Los Alamos High School days.

She was a varsity volleyball-basketball-track athlete, excelling in the shot put and javelin throw, but her exploits on the track may surprise you.

She was a three-time state 100-meter champion (best time 12.35) and a key to a pair of state 4×100 relay titles.

Chase Ealey, Women’s shot put, USATF Outdoor Track and Field Championships held at Hayward Field, University of Oregon, June 23-26, 2022, photo by Kevin Morris

For New Mexico, the fifth largest USA state size-wise (trailing only Alaska, Texas, California, and Montana) but only 36th of 50 population-wise, this 1-2 Kerr-Ealey slam was a clearcut case of punching way over its weight.

Kerr’s gold represented just one of the two won by Team Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the nine-day festival staged at the National Athletics Center Stadium, perched on a bank of the famed Danube River.

Josh Kerr wins 1,500m photo by Getty Images for British Athletics

Ealey’s gold was one of 12 amassed by Team USA, which totally dominated the meet and its 49-total title possibilities. When the curtain closed on the Worlds Sunday night, 39 nations had gained places in the medals standings.

But Kerr’s crown was very big news up in Edinburgh and, of course,/of course, in Albuquerque (where he’d excelled as a UNM varsity Lobo from 2015-18.)

Britain’s role in worldwide mile/1500-meter racing annals is historical, legendary, and golden. From Sydney Wooderson to Roger Bannister to Derek Ibbotson to Seb Coe to Steve Ovett to Steve Cram to Peter Elliott, and many more, GBers had ruled the event’s waves for years and years.

Now, Kerr adds to that tradition while bringing further luster, as well, to New Mexico’s role in track history.

USA Olympians Earlene Brown and Maren Seidler, both National Track and Field Hall of Famers, had been pioneering luminaries in their nation’s women’s shot-putting history. Michelle Carter, too, who’d won a stunning SP gold at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Chase Ealey, photo by Kevin Morris

After striking world gold in Oregon a year ago, Ealey’s name now surely ranks close to the pinnacle of the USA SP charts.

Her Budapest dominance was clear-cut.
Surely clearcut, too, is her hometown’s role in the nuclear events of the 1940s.

Los Alamos, of course, will forever be recognized as “Atomic City.”

Its Bradbury Science Museum is a major tourist destination and tells much of the Oppenheimer-led Manhattan Project era story.

For more “enchanting” viewing, though, visitors might ask Chase Ealey for a look at her two World Championships gold medals.