OUR VIEW: Oregon puts name on track map

By Observer editorial June 20, 2014 08:54 am
So, track and field does not capture the nation’s imagination the same as baseball, apple pie, talk show hosts ranting about the issue of the day or World Cup soccer.

Still, it’s a great honor for Eugene, the city with the strange name on the west side of Oregon, to host the NCAA Division 1 track championships each spring through 2021. 

Eugene joins elite company. Think Omaha, Neb., host to the College Baseball World Series, and Oklahoma City, Okla., host to the College Softball World Series.

Eugene, which bills itself as Track Town USA, has hosted the NCAA championships 12 times, including in 2013 in 2014. The reason is simple. Eugene has great facilities, knowledgeable fans and an efficient crew to run the meet. 

By all accounts, Eugene gives the student-athletes visiting from across the nation a first-rate experience.

Hayward Field, the first-class venue on the University of Oregon campus, is venerated in the same way in track circles that Fenway Park in Boston or Wrigley Field in Chicago are venerated in baseball, Churchill Downs is venerated in horse racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is venerated in car racing.

Like all of these venues, Hayward Field, built in 1919, has seen a lot of history. Recent examples include Galen Rupp’s American record in the 10,000-meter run at the Prefontaine Classic May 30 or Ashton Eaton’s 9,039 points in the decathlon at the 2012 Olympic Trials.

Many Northeast Oregon athletes have competed for state championships on the same venue where now some of the nation’s and world’s best are strutting their stuff. It should be a great honor, and inspiring, for top local athletes to show off their skills at Hayward Field. 

As they compete there, they may hear the echoes of past champions such as Steve Prefontaine, Mac Wilkins and Harry Jerome.

The venue has come a long way since a six-lane cinder track was first installed around the football field in 1921. With a giant state-of-the-art scoreboard, a track surface second to none and plans to increase fan capacity, Hayward Field has a lot of which to brag.

The state of Oregon can be proud that one of its venues is held in such high regard in the sports world. The NCAA track and field championships are a great way to showcase Oregon’s quality of life and natural beauty — the Oregon coast, the Willamette River, the Cascade mountain range and all of its volcanoes. 

Over the next seven years, the event will introduce Oregon to visitors and a television audience from across the country and around the world. They will see the coast, the mountains and first class track.

If a few of these star athletes, or even the couch potatoes watching the event at home on TV, decide to vacation here or move here, all the better.