Last updated 7/27/2021 at Noon
The Olympic Trials last month in Eugene provided my first opportunity to see the new Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus, which replaced the old historic facility. I have to be honest, I felt a bit of ambivalence about the thought of entering the spaceship-like stadium in place of the wooden, green-painted East Grandstands that literally came to the edge of lane eight, close enough for athletes on their victory lap to high five adoring fans.
But once inside and sitting on my comfortable cushioned seat — one of 16,000 that will accommodate future fans at the 2022 World Championships along with the future NCAA, Olympic Trials, and Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meets — perspective changed.
The new Hayward Field is spectacular and the athletes vying for spots on the Olympic team broke it in well with outstanding performances. In the span of eight days, two world records were established, numerous world-leading marks recorded, and scintillatingly close contests for athletes vying to stamp their tickets to the Tokyo Olympics.
It was too bad the stands were nowhere close to capacity due to COVID protocols, but having 5,000-plus avid fans provided plenty of electricity. If the stadium had been full when U of O’s Cole Hocker, a 20-year-old sophomore, outkicked 2016 gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz, a former Duck, in the 1,500 final, the crowd’s roar would have rolled all the way to Sisters like a thunderstorm out of the west.
For anyone in Sisters Country who has never been to a high-level track-and-field meet, I encourage you to find a way to get to one.
Go and watch athletes like Ryan Crouser, the 2016 gold medalist in the shot put and native of Oregon propel a 16 pound metal sphere over 76 feet — further than anyone in history.
Witness 21-year-old Sydney McLaughlin blaze over hurdles for 400 meters at a speed faster than most humans can run that distance without hurdles — 51.9 seconds.
Be there to join a standing ovation for Deanna Price, who, after spinning like a dervish, sent the hammer nearly the length of a football field — and almost out of the field — for a world-leading mark and American record.
Even with Hayward Field only partially full, the energy and enthusiasm of the fans definitely made a difference to the athletes. It will be interesting to see how it will be for the Olympics in Tokyo with virtually no one on hand. I watched the opening ceremony and sensed that the athletes, though grateful and excited to have the Olympics happening, would have much preferred the applause of thousands as each nation was introduced.
Regardless, once the action begins, I am certain athletes will rise to the occasion and there will be amazing performances. There are at least 14 track-and-field athletes with ties to the state of Oregon, including current and former Ducks, Bowerman Running Club athletes, and Oregon Track Club members. Knowing a little about some of the athletes makes viewing more fun and interesting. A Google search of “Olympians with ties to Oregon” will provide a complete list of track-and-field athletes, as well as competitors in other sports.
Track-and-field competition gets underway on July 29 and continues through August 8. Even if you haven’t been a track-and-field fan in the past, take in some of the action. It might inspire you to trek to Hayward Field in the future for some live action.
According to NBC’s website, track and field will consist of a morning session on Peacock and primetime sessions on USA and NBC. Apparently USA and NBC will split the primetime events, with some airing across both networks at varying times.
The full morning and night sessions are also available to stream on NBCOlympics.com.