Construction projects at Oregon State and Roosevelt High School are the next steps in developing an infrastructure to support track and field in Oregon.
In the wake of staging a second successful Olympic trials in Eugene and medals at the Olympics for homegrown athletes Ashton Eaton, Galen Rupp and Ryan Bailey — the new facilities come with timing on their side. There is tangible momentum for the sport in the state and it’s not all focused on Eugene.
At Roosevelt, which is smack dab in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Portland, there is renewed excitement about starting a youth track club. That makes a lot of sense because the facility has been well-conceived and well-constructed (with a nod to Anderson Construction, which donated time and materials). When it’s finally done, it will be better than any track in the city. Better than Lincoln. Better than Duniway. Better than Grant. Better than Fernhill Park. (Lewis & Clark, honestly, is comparable).
If the University of Portland fully embraces it, and becomes a partner, it will help the Pilots recruit better and compete better. They won’t have to rent the track at Willamette University (in Salem) to host their conference championship. It could even help Portland State, on the other side of the river, if the Vikings decide they want to hold a meet there.
There could be elite high school invitationals at Roosevelt. (How about an all-city championships, or relays?).
And distance carnivals. How great would it be to see Rupp, or Dathan Ritzenhein, or Shalane Flanagan, or Evan Jager, or Matt Tegenkamp, or Chris Solinsky, or Lopez Lomong, or Kara Goucher, or German Fernandez, or Matthew Centrowitz, or Andrew Wheating, or Lauren Fleshman, or Sally Kipyego, or Mo Farah — race in North Portland?
At Roosevelt, the vision is that sport can help this neighborhood become a thriving, healthy community. It’s part of a larger framework of support at the school that is best described as social justice.
In Corvallis, coach Kelly Sullivan has finally, after eight years on the job, finally conducted a practice on the Oregon State track. That’s big, not only for him, but for the state and for the Pac-12 Conference, and yes, for the University of Oregon, too.
Oregon State’s Whyte Track and Field Complex (I’m not sure if my Fosbury Field suggestion ever got wings) will be dedicated next week (Sept. 14) and many of the school’s former stars will be in attendance. It’s got nine 48-inch lanes, a turf field and adjoining areas for throwing onto grass. Phase II will complete the grandstand and facade and make it one of the best facilities on the West Coast.
Look, it’s not Hayward Field. Nothing is. But Oregon State will very soon become a viable option for very good track and field athletes, men and women. Six years ago, Ashton Eaton went to Oregon partly because it was his one single option for big-time track in the state. Is it impossible for Oregon State to find and nurture an athlete like that at some point in the near future?
Oregon has been a monopoly for far too long. Eugene is the track capital of the United States. The Track Town community and the support that exists there is the engine that drives track in the state. It’s why recruits from every corner of the country pay attention and are eager to be Ducks. But that enthusiasm can be expanded to other places, and Corvallis can be rekindled. There is already lore to tap into there. Dick Fosbury happened there. Sam Bell and Dale Story, too. Berny Wagner. And Karl Van Calcar. And Joni Huntley.
Scholarships, some of them invested on Oregon high school athletes, helps grow the sport. Another Division I program provides another pathway for fans to engage the sport, and for athletes to make news and inspire kids. More interest, and the prospect of a rivalry, helps Oregon, too.