Back on Track – Eugene Weekly

As I climbed about 20 rows to get to my seat, I started to worry about wasting a lot of money on bad seats. I sit down in my seat and look around. In fact, those nosebleed seats might be the best place in the house with a view of the hills and the treeline of Eugene.

My bird’s eye view ended up being the perfect place to witness the return of the Prefontaine Classic, which returned to a new Hayward Field on August 20-21 after spending 2019 at Stanford when Eugene did not have an athletics venue. , then canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The 2021 Préfontaine Classic was quite a homecoming. In two days, the athletes broke several records and it looked like they had had a lot of fun doing it.

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Hayward Field at night

Photo by Todd Cooper

The Prefontaine Classic is the second major track and field event to be held at the new Hayward Field, a $ 270 million venue paid for by Nike’s Phil Knight. And for two days, the event made sure you didn’t forget who paid for the venue.

On the first night, between the long distance events, former Olympic and Olympic track and field athletes – including those who competed in Tokyo 2020 – were presented, dressed in green and yellow t-shirts. Phil ”. To me, some athletes seemed uncomfortable wearing the shirts and expressing the feeling that Knight is saving the sport from athletics.

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Ashton eaton

Photo by Todd Cooper

But after two days at Hayward Field, it’s hard to feel cynical about the facility. At night, its futuristic energy comes out. Although the Friday night events started late in the evening at 9 p.m., the lights were shining brightly on the athletic fields. And with the soft British accent of host Katharine Merry and the low rumble of bass and drums of the songs played during the events, Hayward felt like he could belong to the Star wars galaxy, especially with the silver wraparound roof that isolates the field from road traffic.

The new Hayward gives riders a head start on world records. During the races, a light runs along the track, informing the runners of the world record pace for this event. And maybe that fueled some of the Prefontaine Classic records. At the end of the competition, the athletes broke nine Prefontaine Classic records, eight Hayward Field records, two US records, as well as new records for the Diamond League elite track and field.

The Prefontaine Classic was not sold out – there were plenty of open seats throughout the venue, which isn’t a bad thing considering the rise in COVID cases and the fact that vaccinations and masks weren’t not necessary – but fans in the audience were lively for the events, especially for Sha’Carri Richardson, who ran the 100m. Richardson dazzled the athletic world with his performance at the Olympic Trials in the United States, which quickly sparked a conversation about whether athletes should be allowed to use cannabis products after failing a drug test.

As Richardson lined up, the audience cheered her on, indicating that she really has become a household athletic name. But when the tee shot was fired, Richardson fell to last place, with Elaine Thompson-Herah (Jamaica) winning at 10.54 seconds, setting a competition record and just 0.05 seconds from being a world record.

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Elaine Thompson-Herah finishes first in the 100m.

Photo by Todd Cooper

After Richardson’s 100m performance, she retired from the 200m. But in a post-race interview, she told reporters, “It’s a race. I haven’t finished. You know what I’m capable of. Count me if you want,” he said. she said, “Congratulations to the winners, but they haven’t finished seeing me yet. Period.”

Another audience favorite was Ryan Crouser from Boring, Oregon. He easily won the shot put event, continuing his trend to dominate the event in 2021, which began when he broke the world record at the US Trials and then won the gold medal in Tokyo.

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Ryan Crouser throwing during the shot put.

Photo by Todd Cooper

The Prefontaine Classic is Crouser’s second appearance at the new Hayward, and on August 21 it did more than break records. At the end of the Préfontaine Classic, he told announcer Merry on the field that he had broken some of the concrete in the shot put pit.

While the University of Oregon will likely continue to overwhelmingly support its football program, the Prefontaine Classic is a reminder that athletics can be fun to watch. Sure, some athletes had daring, record-breaking performances, but others had fun, like Craig Engels (USA), who decided to celebrate a little earlier by waving to the audience on the last row. right-hand side of the one-mile event on August 20. Geordie Beamish (Australia) accelerated and passed Engels, winning the event.

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Geordie Beamish steals first in men’s mile on August 20

Photo by Todd Cooper

In the post-run field interview, Merry asked Beamish about Engels’ early celebrations. “I wasn’t going to let him get away with this,” Beamish said with a laugh.

Towards the end of the Prefontaine Classic all I could think of was the Eugene 2022 Marathon, which will end at Hayward Field. I got butterflies in my stomach as I imagined myself finishing on the new track at Hayward Field – but you won’t see me wearing a “Thank you, Phil” t-shirt after the marathon.

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Marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge after being presented on August 21

Photo by Todd Cooper


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