Roosevelt's 4x100 relay on the award stand at Hayward Field on Saturday, May 25. (Photo Doug Binder)

Roosevelt’s 4×100 relay on the award stand at Hayward Field on Saturday, May 25. (Photo Doug Binder)

I know we are bearing down on the really big track and field events at Hayward Field — Pre followed by NCAAs.

But I wanted to take a moment to recognize the Roosevelt High 4×100 relay team, which won the first of two sections and finished in eighth place and scored a point at the OSAA Class 5A meet on Saturday.

Because when Anthony Sylvester, James Schell-Buchanan, Damilia Spires and Billy Nelson got their medals on the award stand, they looked like they didn’t know what to do. Face this way for those cameras. Then turn around? Where are we supposed to stand?

The rest of the teams bunched tightly on their squares of plywood. The Roughriders, well, you can sort of forgive a school that’s never been in this situation before.

That’s right. The last time a Roosevelt relay team placed at the state track meet was 54 years ago. It was a 4×220, which is an event that was scrapped long ago.

Fortunately, all four guys on Roosevelt’s 4×100 are eligible to come back next year. And the expectation is that Roosevelt is going to continue to make noise at the state championships.

Many of  you know that Roosevelt — that old public school in North Portland that was nearly closed a few years back — got a major facility upgrade thanks to a committed effort by Michael Bergmann, Rich Recker and an army of other alums, volunteers and donors. The football field has been in place for a couple of seasons already and the track facility was used for the first time this spring.

It’s the best track in the city.

But Roosevelt doesn’t have the best track program. Never has, really.

I did the research today and here’s what I found:

On Saturday, the Roosevelt boys scored their first point at the state championship meet since Khino Brackeen was eighth in the high jump in 2006.

Before that, the last time Roosevelt scored was 1986 when Curtis Wilson scored two points in the 400 meters.

Roosevelt scored at seven state meets in the previous 26 years before that — four times in the javelin, twice in the long jump and once in the 880.

Back in 1959, Roosevelt placed fourth in the team standings with 26 points. And some of those points came in a relay.

Of course, the guys on the award stand didn’t know that. They wanted to do a little better than eighth.

But this also could be the start of something positive for a school that has for too long been neglected.

“(The new track) is getting more people out to run,” Spires said. “Last year we didn’t have too many people because the track wasn’t so good to run on. So this year we made improvement and made it to state.”

And these guys will remember what it was like on the podium. They will recruit more of their friends to come out for the team. The Riders will be back.

“People will see that we’re making more improvement for the school and actually care,” Spires said. “I think it could make parents change their minds about where to send their child to school.”

In other words, the Roosevelt neighborhood will retain its kids. At least, that’s the hope.

 

Berny Wagner was one of the unwavering people who believed that track and field could return to Oregon State. Thankfully, he lived to see it happen …

Here is an email from current Oregon State coach Kelly Sullivan on the passing of Coach Wagner:

Last night (Monday evening) – Legendary OSU Track and Field coach – and leader in our sport – Berny Wagner quietly passed away just moments after spending time with his daughter Erica, son Jeff, son in law Rollie and former OSU high jump great and current HJ coach, John Radetich. I copied below an email that John had sent to me just a couple of hours prior to his passing.

I will send out more updates when they come – but in the meantime – I wanted to send this out so folks were aware. In the past few weeks dozens upon dozens of former student-athletes, coaching colleagues and family friends either made the trek to Corvallis to visit Berny in person or to send letters and emails to him and his family. To say that Berny had an everlasting affect on thousands upon thousands would be an understatement – but to also say that others over the years had not done the same for him and his family would be similar. Way to many things to say and write at this time – but from a personal stand point – The existence of OSU track and field and the Whyte Track and Field Center would not be a reality if not for his persistent desires for them to be back at OSU and the legacy that he and his athletes and staff left during their time here at OSU. I am personally sorry to all those who competed and worked with Berny for your loss. He truly was an exceptional individual and one that only comes around once in a life time. I can also attest to the fact that his family is incredible – they have been by his side at every turn and it has been inspiring to watch. How he loved his family – Plus he had an incredible recall with lasting memories and such a rich passion for life and our sport. God Bless to them all…..as we know Berny will be tremendously missed but a person like him will never be forgotten! ks

 

You know it’s a new day at the Oregon state high school championships when a smattering of folks in Beaver gear gravitate toward the discus ring next to Hayward Field to watch one of the new recruits.

Melissa Ausman of Nyssa is the best discus thrower in the state this year — by far — and she is going to Oregon State in the fall.

Last Thursday, she threw a new PR of 149-6 to win the Class 2A title. The disc come off her hand with velocity and flies like a frisbee. With a little more height, on her best attempts, she could be soon looking at 160 feet.

I asked her how it felt to be one of the first field event athletes to sign on with Oregon State, which could soon start competing  in every event (at least on the women’s side).

“I’m honored to be one of the first to get started with the program again,” Ausman said. “I’m excited to get in there and train, and improve from where I am now in my college career, and get to a spot in the future where I can win some titles (for the Beavers).”

That’s a refreshing attitude she’s taking to Corvallis.

But her story is one that can soon be replicated over and over. As a sophomore, Ausman began to consider her college options and was disappointed to learn that Oregon State didn’t have any throwers. After all, it was her favorite university. It has been her family’s favorite for years.

Since her sophomore year, the tide has changed at Oregon State. A new track has been built. And there is a ring and a sector there with Ausman’s name on it. (Only four OSU women have ever thrown farther than she has).

Other up-and-coming track and field athletes fanned out across the state, and beyond, in burgs like Nyssa, are going to take notice of new opportunities at Oregon State.

And it’s an opportunity for Oregon State, too, to restock a program with athletes who want to win.

Ausman said she is planning to compete at this weekend’s BorderDuel meet, which is primarily a post-season meet for Oregon and Washington athletes but is open to high school athletes from other states as well. This year, most of the meet is being held at Wilsonville High School. As of Monday night, she’s not on the entry list.

Thanks to South Eugene’s Erin Clark and her impressive run in the 3,000 meters last week, an all-time state high school best was erased for the 17th year in a row.

Oregon’s records have gotten to be pretty good and it’s not easy to break any of them. When you have a decade like Oregon high schools have had — national record-breakers Tommy Skipper, Galen Rupp, Rachel Yurkovich and Sam-Ryan-Haley Crouser — its easy to see why the state has a strong reputation in an assortment of events.

This has become the year of girls distance running in Oregon, with Clark, Maggie Schmaedick, Ella Donaghu and Paige Rice leading the way. Clark’s teammate, Sara Tsai, has missed the season with illness or she would be part of this mix too.

The point is, none of Oregon’s all-time bests were broken in 1996.

But from 1997 forward, there has been at least one record broken (not to mention a bunch of national records) every single season.

The state meet begins Thursday in Eugene, a new six-class format that will stretch over three days at Hayward Field. As usual, it will be a spectacle. But the forecast also calls for rain, which has a tendency to hinder some performances. We’ll see.

Fortunately for Oregon’s streak, Clark has already bagged a big one in the girls 3,000 meters.

Here is a list of how the all-time best list has been shaped since 1996:

2013 — Erin Clark, girls 3,000 (31-year old record); UPDATE (5/25): Rachel Proteau, girls high jump
2012 — Haley Crouser, girls javelin (7-year old national record)
2011 — Ryan Crouser, boys discus and shot put (13-year-old record); Thomas Tyner, boys 100 (4-year-old record); Aloha boys 4×100 relay; Greg Skipper, boys hammer
2010 — Sam Crouser, boys javelin (22-year-old record) and boys discus (25-year-old record)
2009 — Laura Bobek, girls discus (5-year-old record)
2008 — Elijah Greer, boys 800 (5-year-old record)
2007 — Ryan Bailey, boys 100 (22-year-old record) and 200 (5-year-old record); McKay boys 4×100 (19-year-old record)
2006 — Bianca Mathabane, girls 100 hurdles (28-year old record)
2005 — Rachel Yurkovich, girls javelin (5-year-old record); Stephanie Horton, girls shot put (17-year old record); Sara Callier, girls triple jump (13-year-old record); Nate Anderson, boys 400 (19-year-old record)
2004 — Galen Rupp, boys 1,500 (16-year-old record) and 3,000 (35-year-old record); Emilee Strot, girls discus (28-year-old record)
2003 — Tommy Skipper, boys pole vault (18-year-old record); Michael McGrath, boys 800 (11-year-old record); Benson girls 4×100 relay; Benson girls 4×400 relay
2002 — Jordan Kent, boys 200 (17-year-old record); Benson girls 4×100 relay (11-year-old record); Benson girls 4×400 relay
2001 — Janelle Joy, girls 300 hurdles (21-year old record); Jordan Kent, boys long jump; Benson girls 4×400 relay (7-year-old record)
2000 — Ryan Brown, boys long jump (23-year-old record); Katy Polansky, girls javelin (new implement)
1999 – Sarah Sasaki, girls pole vault
1998 — Chris Sprague, boys shot put
1997 — Rian Ingram, boys shot put (22-year-old record); Sasha Spencer, girls 400 (13-year-old record); Damien Olson, boys high jump (4-year-old record)

First, a personal aside …

Last December, after the Nike Cross Nationals event at Portland Meadows, I was working on meet coverage for Armorytrack.com when I high-tailed it over to Nike to meet up with Alberto Salazar and Mary Cain.

Cain placed second that day, running on her toes in the mud against a very tough Sarah Baxter.

Salazar told me that evening that he thought Mary’s workouts were going exceptionally well and he predicted that she would run 4:04 and possibly make the U.S. World Championships team in the 1,500 meters.

Cain just shrugged her shoulders. She had already learned to trust her new coach and was enjoying every moment of his counsel.

Then I had the privilege of watching Mary run some of her workouts at the Armory in New York City, where I worked daily for four months. I pitched in and held the stopwatch once or twice. I met her dad, Charlie, and tried to impress upon him how many parallels there were between his daughter and another high school runner Alberto coached — Galen Rupp.

Every race Mary ran indoors was more sensational than the previous. Alberto said in December that he thought she would break a record every time she stepped on the track. And she has more or less done that.

Last weekend, of course, she ran a stunning 4:04.62 1,500 meters at the Oxy High Performance meet in Los Angeles — 10 seconds faster than any other high school girl ever has.

The first time I saw Mary run was at the New Balance Outdoor Championships in 2011. She was  freshman then, still running relays for her high school. But the star power was almost blinding even then.

Mary Cain has been compared to Mary Decker (Slaney) many times in recent months.

I don’t think it’s quite accurate.

Mary Cain is more like the female version of Jim Ryun, Gerry Lindgren and Steve Prefontaine (for different reasons) all rolled into one.

And I say that because she is more than her phenomenal talent. She has a captivating personality that is going to turn U.S. track and field on its head in the near future. She’s humble and friendly and just as gobsmacked as everyone else when she crosses the finish line and looks at the clock.

So … today’s big news for running fans locally (how many people are going to go zooming up Interstate-5 after the NCAA Championships to see her in Portland?)… straight from the press release:

Prep sensation commits to run PTF on June 8

 PORTLAND — May 21, 2013 - No U.S. track and field athlete has captured attention and inspired fans quite like 17-year old New Yorker Mary Cain. The prep star has not only propelled herself into the elite ranks of U.S. middle distance running, but has shown up time and again to prove she’s a legitimate contender to make the U.S. roster for this year’s IAAF World Track and Field Championships in Moscow.

With the Portland Track Festival less than three weeks away, the staff of the Portland Track Festival has a firm commitment from Cain, who is scheduled to run the Team Athena 5,000m on June 8.

After her record setting performance at the Oxy High Performance Invitational, where she finished second in a World Championship ‘A’ standard qualifying time of4:04.62, along with her 2:01.68 800m fourth place finish at Re:RUN San Diego, Cain now sets her sights on running against the best in the world at the Pre Classic onJune 1. After Pre, the focus turns to Portland, where she’ll take on the 5,000m distance for the first time on the track.

“The question of who could be the most exciting athlete addition to the Portland Track Festival came up at a recent planning meeting. Mary Cain was definitely a pick in this fantasy track draft. Starting back during indoor, discussion of Cain’s most recent race often served as an opening to actual planning at these meetings. It only seemed fitting that word of Cain’s plan to compete in the Team Athena 5k came just days after her 4:04 Oxy 1500.  As a race organizer I am honored to have Mary Cain compete. As a track fan, I really can’t wait to be trackside while she does,” says Team Athena President Laura Devine.

From the organizers of the Portland Track Festival:

PORTLAND, May 15, 2013 - The depth and talent that’s shown up in 2013 at the U.S. high school level is making this outdoor track and field season one to remember. Few athletes have had the type of spring Niwot High School (Colo.) junior Elise Cranny has had, running a US#2 1,500 meters time of 4:15.07 at the Payton Jordan Invitational in April, which ranks her as the third best prep ever over the distance.

The Portland Track Festival is pleased to announce the addition of Cranny to the women’s 1,500 field, contested under the lights at Lewis and Clark College on June 8. Cranny, who also ranks US#6 for 800, will test her talent against some of the best professional middle distance talent in the country, as she looks to set another big personal best.

“It’s hard to imagine that Elise Cranny was a 5:02 miler last spring. Now, just a year later, she has run the third fastest high school 1,500 meters of all time and we’re excited to watch her join our elite field and take aim at the national record,” Portland Track Festival Director Craig Rice said.

In addition to Cranny, a trio of prep talent from Washington State will be competing in the women’s events. Camas sophomore Alexa Efraimson, who currently ranks US#3 in the 1,500 with 4:19.54, will compete in the women’s 1,500 and look to push the 4:15 barrier.

Future University of Washington teammates Katie Knight (North Central of Spokane) and Amy-Eloise Neale ( Glacier Peak of Snohomish) will contest separate events, with Knight entered in the women’s 5,000, while Neale looks to qualify for the Great Britain Junior National Team in either the 1,500 or 3k steeplechase.

“Amy-Eloise Neale and Katie Knight have been the face of Washington state’s distance dynasty since they were freshman. The PTF will be their last high school race together, but we’ll also be seeing the ascendance of their successor, Alexa Efraimson, who will carry the Washington state tradition into the future,” Rice said.

The sixth annual Portland Track Festival is set to take place on Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8 at Lewis and Clark College in Portland. The distance-only event hosts a collection of races, giving America’s best distance runners the opportunity to run fast and compete towards the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

For more information on the Portland Track Festival, please visit: www.portlandtrackfestival.com.

TrackFocus has started a new section of the site where we are hosting and organizing High School All-Time Performance Lists. We’d love to have participation from every high school in Oregon and around the country. This will be a great chance to compare your high school to your rivals and learn about some great performances from the past.

Contact us at info@trackfocus.com if you’d like instructions on how to add your school’s all-time performance list to TrackFocus.

UPDATE: Realizing that some schools already have lists on athletic.net (and good for them for doing that), this project may be a slow-mover and something we work on over the summer.

Some people don’t like Ndamukong Suh. They think he’s a bad guy, a dirty player, a hot head.

Whatever. Whether he has cultivated a dont-mess-with-me persona, or maybe has a legitimate nasty streak, I no longer really care.

Last week, Suh ponied up $250,000 to cap the fund-raising effort to refurbish the bowl at Grant Park. New turf field. New track. (Thankfully, Nike helped, too.)

I don’t expect you to understand what that means if you’re not from Northeast Portland or have never been there.

But I grew up there. And let me tell you something: The Grant Bowl is hallowed ground that has been neglected for too long. A new turf field on the surface where Suh and Andre Broadous played, where former Grant quarterback legends George Shaw and June Junes worked out, is fantastic.

For decades, Grant has waged one of the most severe facilities disadvantages in Oregon. When I was going to school there, we played our home games downtown at Civic Stadium. It was no wonder that basketball was king.

But I’m especially happy for the Grant High track and field program. Not too many people realize that Suh is the school record holder in the shot put and the 2005 state champion.

Grant track and field is special to me and thousands of other athletes — exceptional and ordinary (like I was) — who put our sweat into that track and found out where our limits were.

Of course, these acres of ground were carefully tended and managed for nearly three decades by Mark Cotton — my coach. I can’t imagine a more perfect leader of teenagers presiding over a more diverse segment of wannabe track athletes. He taught us sportsmanship, respect, grace and responsibility.

And when I was his teacher’s aide, I learned to love track statistics. And I kept the Top 10 lists for his record book and I learned to tell a good mark from a bad one.

After I graduated the track was named for Mr. Cotton and then later his son Greg came along and presided over the track program for more than a decade.

The program that they built and cared for is one of the essential handful of great high school track legacies in this state. South Eugene probably has a more robust Top-10 list, and maybe Jesuit has caught up by now too.

This heart-of-Portland neighborhood school had a triple jump champion named Terrell Brandon (also an NBA all-star). And a couple of high jumpers named Mark Radford and Richard Hollis. And I was fortunate enough to see some of the other legends (including Brandon), like Bill Shepherd and Brian England and Rick Mestler and K.K. Waller.

And in the last decade, the girls 800-meter runners have been tremendous, with nine girls running 2:17 or better and four state titles.

It’s sort of shameful that the Cotton Invitational had to be held at Marshall High School this year because the track was deemed dangerous.

Thankfully, Suh and a lot of other supportive people in the community recognize how valuable this place is and the problem is being addressed.

And hopefully very soon — the great Donaghu sisters, Piper and Ella, and freshman long jumper Harrison Schrage — will be able to hold court in the bowl once again.

A couple of weeks back, in small room on the bottom floor of the Oregon state capitol building, there was a press conference to announce that Eugene had been awarded the 2016 Olympic Trials.

And up there at the lectern, introducing everybody — Andrew Wheating, Vin Lananna, Max Seigel, Gov. John Kitzhaber, etc. — was a white-haired Oregon state senator named Peter Courtney. He is the President of the Senate.

Sen. Courtney launched into a history of Oregon’s long association with track and field with details of Forrest Smithson’s 1908 Olympic gold medal in the hurdles and A.C. Gilbert’s 1912 gold in the pole vault, etc.

And then, he said: “I would love to see, before I die, a co-ed relay at the Olympics.”

Cue the crickets. Nobody said a thing and everybody behind Courtney smiled and waited for him to say something else.

A co-ed relay. Two men, two women, competing together for the same prize.

Isn’t it about time that track and field offered something new?

Courtney told me last Friday that when he has mentioned this idea before it’ usually met with rolling eyes and a shrug of the shoulders.

I asked the senator where he came by the idea of a co-ed relay and he told me that his two sons had competed in track and field for Blanchet Catholic, a little school in Salem, Ore. And every year they competed in the Co-Ed Relays at Regis High School in nearby Stayton, Ore.

Regis is a small Catholic school that has kicked off the outdoor season every March with a meet of co-ed relays — sprint medleys, shuttle hurdles, 4x8s, 4x2s — as a fun way to get thing started. It’s a way for brothers and sisters to be on the same team in a no-pressure situation.

Now, take that idea and step it up the ladder a few rungs.

It’s the Olympic Games. And it’s a 4×400. And Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards are on the same team with Tony McQuay and LaShawn Merritt.

“The idea appeals to me,” Courtney said. “I think the crowds would absolutely go crazy for it.”

Courtney goes further because he’s spent some time thinking this through.

“You know that the guys on that team are going to run til they drop dead,” he said. “And the women don’t want to get shown up by the men. It’s human nature.”

So if you’re taking an objective look at track and field and wondering how it might regain even a little bit of its popularity, a co-ed relay is an interesting idea.

Remember, figure skating dominates the TV ratings during the Winter Olympics. Pairs figure skating and ice dancing are immensely popular with TV viewers.

Would a co-ed relay do the same? An interesting wrinkle to this whole idea is the strategy that comes into play. Again, let’s say it’s a 4×400 and every group gets to decide how to set the lineup.

Of course, this isn’t going to happen at the Olympics, or the Penn Relays, any time soon.

The idea has to be tested at the high school level and then it has to catch on like wildfire to get anyone at the NCAA or USATF or IAAF to notice. Even then, those organizations don’t always have a strong track record for putting the spectator first.

It needs a lot more places like Regis (which, incidentally, is hosting an invitational this week on its newly refurbished track).
Regis coach Mike Bauer is in his 40th year coaching. He isn’t pushing co-ed relays on anybody, but he can also see a potential appeal in them.

“They were fun and the kids enjoyed them,” Bauer said. “That being said, there are a lot of traditionalists in track that would probably be resistant to change. There is no reason not to have a coed relay event or two to spice up a track meet.”

Track and field has not always led the charge when it comes to gender equality. As recently as 1972, the first year the Olympic trials came to Eugene, the men and women were separated and qualified at different meets. Women weren’t allowed to run an Olympic marathon until 1984.

And in some states to this very day, girls run shorter distances than boys in high school cross country meets.

A co-ed relay might generate new interest if nothing else.

Courtney’s idea is not so half-baked. If the powers that govern the sport stopped rolling their eyes at him and gave it a try, they might find that the white-haired state senator from Oregon is right.

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Photos Courtesy of TracktownPhoto.com

Here it is Tuesday and we’re still processing all that happened in track and field over the weekend. It was a massive weekend that produced an endless stream of results.

Here is a look at Five Things that stood out as they relate to track and field in Oregon:

  1. Jordan Hasay at Stanford. The charismatic face of the women’s track and field program at the University of Oregon (along with English Gardner and a few others) appears to have found her event. In her second attempt at the 10,000 meters, Hasay smashed the Pac-12 Conference record by clocking 32:06.64. That didn’t gain her an IAAF A or B standard, but it is a big step forward for her in that event. It’s also further evidence that a Triple Crown could be in the cards in June.
  2. The Penn Relays Carnival is one of the true spectacles of the sport that persists year after year. On the East coast, “Penn” is the be-all, end-all of outdoor track meets for hundreds of thousands of high school track athletes (I would say “tens of thousands” but I don’t think I’m exaggerating here). This year the weather cooperated and a small contingent of athletes from Oregon ties made a splash. Phyllis Francis is one of those East coasters who understand what it means. She split 49.9 to lead the Oregon women to a Penn Relays 4×400 record. That’s stunning. And it also means everyone gets a watch. And the school gets a wheel. Plus, Ryan Bailey made another appearance for the U.S. in the 4×100, which was good to see.
  3. The Centennial Invitational, in some ways, is sort of the local high school version of the Penn Relays. It’s got a long history. It’s where the season is shaped for hundreds of Oregon high school athletes. And it’s got an old-school feel that stands up to the test of time. Haley Crouser threw her javelin 171-11 there on Saturday to bolster her U.S. No. 1 ranking and twin sisters Kerissa and Venessa D’Arpino of North Valley High School (Grants Pass) showed that they might be the best 1-2 sprint punch in state history. And then, Grant freshman Ella Donaghu ran 3,000 meters in 9:43 by herself.
  4. The Drake Relays is good too and I think it’s actually not a bad thing to be on the same weekend as Penn. They are both gigantic meets and I think they sort of complement each other. Neither one of them could meet the demand of the entire country. Yes, they are somewhat regional events at their core. And they sort of operate in tandem, even though there isn’t much that binds them, so that they push track onto more newspapers on the same weekend. Jenny Simpson’s great performance in the 1,500 meters was news-worthy, but I think it’s worth paying attention to 16-year-old Mary Cain, who broke her own 1,500 meters record by running 4:10.77. She’s coached by an Oregonian, so we’re going to claim her.
  5. The Eugene Marathon. As if there wasn’t enough going on, 9,000 people participated in the fast-growing Eugene Marathon. David Laney, who prepped at Central Catholic and then became a lot better at Southern Oregon, won the men’s race in 2:22:34. Congratulations to him. The University of Oregon’s Ben DeJarnette entered the half and finished third in 1:07:24. Former University of Willamette runner Jordyn Smith won the women’s 5K in 17:23.

There was something altogether refreshing about watching the Women of Oregon State track stick around to the end of the High Performance Meet on Friday to take down flags, put away all the cones and makers, and pick up trash.

The first wave of athletes to compete on Oregon State’s new track is sincerely thankful for what they have. They made a presentation to Jim Whyte and his wife at Friday’s meet in a heartfelt gesture of gratitude.

Kinsey Gomez is one of those athletes. The sophomore gave the meet its highlight by running a PR of 4:26.89 while freshman Emily Weber ran 4:29.46.

Gomez’s time moves her to No. 3 all-time at Oregon State.

“It’s such an incredible feeling racing on your own track,” she said. “It’s been such a journey to get where we are.”

Where the Beavers are is only about half way from where they intend to go. Phase II of the construction project will bring the bleachers and other amenities that are truly needed to host quality meets. Fortunately, administrators’ feet are being held to the fire. In order for Oregon State to host the 2015 Pac-12 Championships, there can be no more foot-dragging.

The words of Gomez, and her teammates, ought to keep the wheels turning.

“I feel like even the aura of the team is different (than last year),” she said. “Everyone is more focused. It’s like we have an eyes-on-the-prize mentality. We have the track and we are looking for that championship that is down the road.”

In the meantime, there are a group of women who have witnessed Laura Carlyle have success at Oregon State and want to emulate her. (Carlyle advanced to the NCAA Championships last year in the 1,500 and set school records at 1,500 and 5,000 meters). Carlyle is still at OSU as a volunteer assistant and attempting to launch a pro track career.

“Laura has been such a pioneer for this program and set the bar so high,” Gomez said. “We all want to be the next Laura Carlyle.”

Oregon State’s volunteer high jump coach, John Radetich, likes to begin every meet with the bar set to the world record height of 8 feet, ½ inch.

It’s a preposterously high bar, but one that gives every high jumper a perspective on what’s humanly possible.

At Oregon State, which hosted its second home track meet on the new Jim Whyte Track and Field Center, the bar is constantly being nudged upward a fraction of an inch at a time. And there is still a long way to go.

The women’s team is putting entrants into more events this spring, mostly in jumps and throws. And as a group of middle and long distance runners, there is a growing sense of depth and progress. They are punching holes in the school’s Top 10 list with each and every date on the calendar.

But I was interested to hear from Oregon sophomore Sam Crouser. His family roots extend into the bedrock of Oregon State’s track and field past. He is also a budding superstar, following in the home-grown vein of Tommy Skipper, Galen Rupp, Ashton Eaton, Elijah Greer, etc. In other words, he is track and field royalty.

Sam isn’t afraid to say what he really thinks of something. I once sat in his backyard and he showed me the medal he won from Pan Am Juniors. He said it was “chintzy” compared to the one his cousin Ryan had won at World Youth that same summer.

So I asked him what he thought of his first experience competing at Oregon State (he won the discus with a PR throw of 179 feet) and the word he was looking for … wasn’t “chintzy.”

“It’s a work in progress, but the track and stuff looks good and everything is really nice,” Sam said. “With some stands and everything (else), it could look really good.”

Again, this is Sam Crouser. He doesn’t praise everything. I think the people who know him best would back me up on this.

I asked him what he thought, as a native Oregonian, of Oregon State making progress to bring back track and field.

“I think it’s actually really good,” the Olympic Trials runner-up in the javelin said. “Maybe we could have a rivalry someday, but just so we can have this cross-town (rivalry) feeling. Oregon in general is so good at producing (athletes), but having this thing that’s ‘cross-town,’ these two really good schools that compete against each other, I think it’s really good for the state.”

Sam might not even realize how much his words mean to Oregon State. They are validation. And they nudged that bar another fraction of an inch.

Also, I asked him about his current season and he sounded happy with it. He expects to be in contention for the NCAA javelin title and has been working on the “rhythm and feel” that he has honed over the last decade as part of the Crouser clan. Without getting to metaphysical, rhythm and feel is as important on the javelin runway as any of the chain of events that occur prior and during a throw.

It’s something the best throwers understand.

“I’m getting consistent with my rhythm,” Sam said. “Now that I’ve got the runway worked out a little bit I’ll go back to technical stuff and put it together.”

Sam stays in contact with the discus by practicing it once a week or so, which is important because spinning in a ring requires rhythm and feel, too.

He’s healthy and feeling good and glad to have witnessed the Oregon program restocked with throwers, such as Ryan Hunter-Simms. There was once a fear that Sam might come to Oregon and not have any training partners.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” he said. “Before, there was throwing at Oregon, but it was a while ago. It went stagnant for a decade or so. Now we’re back and we’re part of the team. We’re a piece of the team again, where we can score points, we can contribute, and be a weapon on the team.”

Queen Harrison, right, beat hometown hero Lolo Jones and ran a world-leading time in the hurdles.

Queen Harrison, right, beat hometown hero Lolo Jones and ran a world-leading time in the hurdles.

BY MIKE MAHON for TrackFocus

DES MOINES, IOWA – Olympians continued their assault on producing world bests during the early outdoor track and field campaign with six more top marks established Saturday pushing the total to 11 during 104th running of the Drake Relays.

Thirteen Drake Relays records were set during the four-day meet which enjoyed its 48th consecutive sellout crowd for the Saturday session with 14,504 fans.
 
Queen Harrison stole the show in a London Games Rematch women’s invitational 100 hurdle field that featured five Olympians including 2012 gold medalist Dawn Harper and 2012 bronze medalist Kellie Wells along with hometown hero Lolo Jones who was fourth in the 2012 Olympics.
 
“I felt like it was a really great time, especially early in the season and such a loaded field, “Harrison said. “I was a little nervous in the beginning, but I showed that my training is going well and I’m confident in switching to just hurdles this year.
 
Running out of lane two, Harrison used a great sprint after the last hurdle to out-lean Harper at the finish line posting  the fastest time in the world with a 12.71 second clocking. In fact, the race produced the top four fastest times in the world with Harper timed in 12.74, Wells 12.78 and Jones in 12.79. Read More
BY MIKE MAHON for TrackFocus
DES MOINES, IOWA — In a span of 75 minutes four world leading marks were set to highlight Friday’s action at the 104th running of the Drake Relays.
 
A near capacity crowd at Drake Stadium was treated to a Friday night set aside for seven London Games Rematches that pitted 2012 Olympic medalists and finalists against each other during the 104th running of the Drake Relays.
 
And the Olympians didn’t disappoint with world leading marks set in the women’s pole vault, women’s long jump as well as the top two times in the world in the women’s 1,500 and men’s 400 hurdles

Iowa native Jenny Simpson delighted the crowd in winning the London Games Rematch in the women’s 1500. Simpson ran 4:03.85 to log the fastest time in the world this year while breaking the Drake Relays invitational record of  4:05.13 by Suzy Favor Hamilton back in 2000. That time also had been the Drake Stadium record. 

“That (record) was what the fist pumping was for at the end,” Simpson said. “I have a lot of family here, a lot of history here. My grandpa was a Drake graduate so the first thing I thought was I get to have my name on the stadium. I really didn’t think I was ready to run below the 4:05 mark this early in the season but I’m really excited to have done it.”

The previous world best this year was 4:04.86 by Brenda Martinez at the Mt. SAC Relays.

It also the third straight victory in the Drake Relays invitational 1500 for Simpson, who was born in Webster City.  Read More

For the first time since 1987, Oregon will send a group of its track athletes to a meet in Corvallis

Oregon State continues to move back into the game as a player in track and field and Friday’s High Performance Meet at the new Whyte Track and Field Center could be the start of an important annual event.

Best of all for spectators, the fields are strong (and include some well-known names such as Sam Crouser, Lauryn Newson, Izaic Yorks) and the price of admission is free.

“As a staff and as a program we are absolutely thrilled to be putting on this meet and have the level interest we have received from those that are attending,” Oregon State head coach Kelly Sullivan said in university release. “The quality of the meet surpasses, in this first year, what we could have ever dreamed and we are looking forward to putting on an amazing event. We see this developing into a traditional high-performance type of meet that will draw from all over the Northwest and possibly around the country in the future.”

The meet begins at 3 p.m. with the javelin followed by the high jump, shot put, long jump and triple jump. Field events will wrap up around 5:45 p.m. with the discus. Events on the track begin at 5:15 p.m. and will include the 100, 400, 1,500, 3,000 steeplechase, 200, 800 and 5,000. The pole vault and hurdles will not be contested because the infrastructure needed for those events has not been completed. A full schedule can be found below.

Temporary stands have been put in place to accommodate expected crowds, but fans wishing to attend are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs. Free all-day parking is available in the gravel lot by the track. Spaces adjacent to Reser Stadium will also be free beginning at 5 p.m. The Whyte Track and Field Center entrance is located east of the 26th and Western intersection, between the Hilton Garden Inn and the OSU Softball Complex.

This Friday’s edition of action just south of Western Boulevard will boast over 240 entries, including high school and collegiate All-Americans, Olympic Trials qualifiers, plus collegiate teams from Oregon, Portland, Seattle, Western Oregon and Concordia (Ore.), in addition to numerous open, elite, club and collegiate redshirts.

This release comes directly from PTF meet management:

The Portland Track Festival is proud to announce the addition of elite boys and elite girls mile races to this year’s schedule.

Both the top boys and girls mile races will be contested under the lights on Saturday, June 8, included in the elite portion of the event. With a rabbit for each race, adrenaline-pumping music playing and an amazing field of competition, the Portland Track Festival provides a rare opportunity for the best prep milers to compete in.

“As we increase our support for the best professional distance runners in the United States, it only makes sense for us to do the same for the best high school runners,” says Portland Track Festival marketing director Scott Bush.

In 2009 and 2010, the Portland Track Festival hosted an elite boys mile race, which saw seven athletes break the 4:09 barrier, with such notable performances as current University of Oregon standout Mac Fleet running 4:02 and current pro athlete Robby Andrews running 4:03.

“We’ve had great success in the past hosting an elite prep mile and look to have even better results this time around,” Bush says. “The current depth and talent at the high school level is at an all-time high and we want to give these athletes an opportunity to run their very best.”

The sixth annual Portland Track Festival is set to take place on Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8 at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. The distance-only event hosts a collection of races, giving America’s best distance runners the opportunity to run fast and compete towards the U.S. Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

We’re privileged to have Mike Mahon covering the Drake Relays for TrackFocus this week

DES MOINES, IOWA — With the richest track and field purse offered in the United States this year as a reward, the premier middle distance races of the early outdoor season will take place this weekend during the 104th running of the Drake Relays.

Many of the runners who competed in the USA 1 Mile Road Race Championship Tuesday night, will hit the blue oval at Drake Stadium eyeing a top-three finish that plays $25,000 for the winner, $15,000 for runner-up and $10,000 for third place.

The women’s 1,500 and the men’s mile are part of 12 London Games Rematches that pit 2012 Olympic medalists and finalists against each other in a rematch of last summer’s Olympic competition.

During an 80-minute time span Friday night, starting at 6:30 pm Central time, ESPN3 will televise live the men’s invitational 400, 110 and 400 hurdles, along with the women’s 1,500.

There are also London Games rematches in the women’s pole vault, women’s long jump and men’s high jump Friday. Read More

We’re privileged to have Mike Mahon covering the Drake Relays for TrackFocus this week

RoadMile

DES MOINES, IOWA — Former Stanford NCAA All-American Garrett Heath and Kate Grace, a four-time All-American at Yale, surprised a strong field to win the respective men’s and women’s titles at the USA 1 Mile Road Race, hosted by the Grand Blue Mile, Tuesday night.

Despite sunny skies, it was a chilly and breezy championship with runners braving temperatures that reached a low of 40 degrees.

Still, new course records were set in the streets of downtown Des Moines with Heath posting a winning time of 4 minutes 2.79 seconds. Grace was clocked in 4:43.02.

The winners kept warm by wrapping the American flag around their shoulders following their victories. Read More

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Photos courtesy of TracktownPhoto.com

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Photos courtesy of TracktownPhoto.com

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Photos courtesy of TracktownPhoto.com

Words cannot express the unfathomable events that unfolded near the finish line in Boston today as thousands of people completed the life-affirming goal of finishing the world’s most esteemed marathon.

Jim and I express our deepest sympathies.

Lots of people from Oregon ran in it. Lots of people from everywhere run Boston.

Here is a short collection of what people are saying in the aftermath:

Statement from Vin Lananna, President of TrackTown USA:

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic events that occurred in Boston today, and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this horrible incident.”

A Tweet from sixth-place finisher Kara Goucher of Portland:

 

And from fourth-place finisher Shalane Flanagan of Portland:

 

And 10th-place finisher Craig Leon of Eugene:

 

And this, from Portland Track Festival organizer Craig Rice, and race finisher, from Facebook:

“There were two bombs that exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon at about the 5:00 (p.m.) mark. LeeAnn and I were at our hotel at the time and none of the people we know from Portland were in the area.”

Top American male finisher Jason Hartmann, a former Oregon Duck, talked to his hometown paper in Michigan afterward:

“This is such a fabulous event,” he said. “There have been 117 of these and this is really the only tragedy. It’s just so unfortunate because there have been 116 successful ones. I hope it doesn’t change the overall outlook. I hope for the sake of our sport and the city of Boston that this doesn’t change.”

“I don’t know if any amount of security is ever enough,” he said. “I mean, how can you totally prepare? I mean, you’re a little more nervous, but I won’t be deterred.

“But I will say just how quickly everyone reacted is really remarkable. The police, volunteers and medical staff. They were the heroes of the day.”

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Nike has created some custom uniforms as the pair competes in Monday’s Boston Marathon. At first, I thought it was a Patriot’s Day Red, White and Blue theme, but it appears to be orange and blue. (Thanks to those on reddit for pointing this out)

In 2008, the signature moment came in the men’s 800 when Nick Symmonds, Andrew Wheating and a diving Christian Smith lit a powder keg with their dramatic finish. (Honestly, that moment should be cast in bronze some day).

In 2012, it rained nearly every day of the Olympic track and field trials in Eugene, and still it was magical. Ashton Eaton broke the world record in the decathlon and you couldn’t tell where the raindrops ended and the teardrops began.

I understand that those two events don’t matter a whole lot to people living in Texas, or Florida, or California, where the largest chunks of high school participation and top-end college programs reside. There is something legitimate to the claim from people elsewhere that athletes with Oregon connections have a home-field advantage at the Trials. Read More