Track Town, USA

Track Town, USA

Track Town, USA, a popular nickname for Eugene, Oregon, is widely known as the mecca for the sport of track and field in the United States. The home of the University of Oregon (UO), Eugene is considered by some to be the capital of the running world. Eugene's Track Town moniker derives from the dynastic track and field legacy established by the university's long time track coach, Bill Bowerman, beginning in 1949, and to the many legendary UO track athletes of the Bowerman era, most notably Steve Prefontaine.

The US Olympic track and field trials, after a 28 year absence from Eugene, returned to Track Town in 2008, from June 27 to July 6. The trials were held at the University of Oregon’s venerable Hayward Field -- a venue that has long been associated with Eugene’s reputation for track and field excellence.

In 2010, the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships will also return to Hayward Field, for the tenth time. Numerous premier track and running events also take place in Track Town, ranging from the Prefontaine Classic to the upstart Eugene Marathon.

Athletics venues

Hayward Field

The University of Oregon's historic Hayward Field has hosted four Olympic track and field trials, nine NCAA track championships and six USA Track and Field Championships, the most of any venue in recent history in each category. Hayward Field is the most famous and storied track and field facility in the country, and its knowledgeable, attentive and loud track fans are hailed as among the finest anywhere in the world.

Each spring the Oregon Ducks track team hosts some of the nation's most popular meets at Hayward Field, including the Oregon Preview in March, the Pepsi Team Invitational and Oregon Invitational in April, and the Oregon Twilight meet in May.

Running trails

European-style wood chip trails can be found throughout Eugene. Most well known among these is Pre's Trail, situated along the Willamette River in Alton Baker Park just north of downtown Eugene. Upon returning to Eugene from competition in Europe, Pre lobbied for creation of such trails in and around town; the day after his premature demise in an auto accident, Eugene city officials voted to make his wish come true. In addition to the many miles of soft, wood chip trails in Eugene, there are many more miles of concrete and asphalt trails providing recreation to walkers, runners, roller-bladers and bicyclists.

The running boom

The American 'running boom' emerged in Eugene during the 1960s when University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman introduced jogging to the local populace after a trip to New Zealand, where the concept was introduced to him by Arthur Lydiard. Bowerman's Ducks served as coaches and mentors to local running neophytes, who flocked to Hayward Field by the thousands to emulate their role models. The explosion of popularity led Bowerman to write a short book, "Jogging", which sold over a million copies.

Legends and stars

University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman set the stage for Eugene's historic status as America's running mecca. His teams regularly competed before sold out crowds at Hayward Field. Over the course of Bowerman's 24 years as the UO Ducks head coach, his teams won four NCAA men's track titles between 1962 and 1970, which subsequently led to Hayward Field's regular selection as the site for numerous national championship and Olympic Trials. His athletes won 24 individual NCAA titles, along the way recording sixteen sub-4 minute miles, and setting thirteen world and 22 American records. The 1962 team is considered one of the best collegiate teams ever assembled.

Steve Prefontaine, a native of Coos Bay, has remained Oregon's favorite track son for over three decades since his ascent to the highest level of long distance running competition. Prefontaine captivated fans in Eugene, and across Oregon and the entire US with his pursuit of greatness. Pre won three NCAA titles in cross country between 1970 and 1973, and four NCAA track titles during the same time span. He also held every American record from the 2000m up through the 10K at once, before his tragic death in an auto accident at the age of 24 on May 30, 1975.

Other track stars and Olympians who came out of coach Bill Bowerman's UO stable include Alberto Salazar, Mary Decker Slaney, Lance Deal and Bill McChesney. One of the Olympians produced by UO, Bill Dellinger, succeeded Bowerman as the Ducks' head coach.

The most recent ascent of a new track star in Eugene has been the rise of Nick Symmonds, of Oregon Track Club Elite, who was victorious at the 2007 US Indoor Track and Field Championships and 2007 Prefontaine Classic in the 800 meters, in a time of 1:48.73 and 1:44.54, respectively.


Eugene hosts numerous track and running events, ranging from high school and college cross country running meets, to world class track meets and local fun runs that take place at a variety of quality venues.

Olympic Track and Field Trials

In June and July 2008, Eugene will host the US Olympic Track & Field Trials, the fourth time Eugene has hosted the event. Eugene previously hosted the event in 1972, 1976 and 1980. The trials determine which American track athletes will participate at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

Eugene won the bid to host the upcoming trials in October, 2005, after the competition was narrowed down to Eugene and Sacramento, California, which hosted the two most recent trials in 2000 and 2004.

In preparation for the Trials, Hayward Field will have new lights, a video scoreboard and expanded seating capacity.

The Trials were expected to attract about 17,000 people per day while injecting $16 to $18 million into the local economy.

The Trials attracted crowds of over 20,000 on every day and over 21,000 on the final day of competition.

Prefontaine Classic

As an International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Level 1 meet, the Prefontaine Classic brings the world's best track talent to Hayward Field. The first annual Prefontaine Classic took place in 1974 . Nike has been the title sponsor since 1978 .

The Pre Classic is sometimes held on the same weekend as the Oregon State High School Championships and NCAA Championships, creating a triple header sometimes referred to as the best eight days of track and field in the US.

External links

* [] - 'Eugene 08 - Hayward Field'
* [] - 'Track Town, USA', (December 18, 2003)
* [] - 'On the Fast Track to Beijing', Jessica Mozo, "Images of Eugene"
* [] - 'Oregon Track Club, Eugene, Oregon'
* [] - 'Track Town Reborn', Lillian Dunlap
* [] - '2008 Olympic Track and Field Trials', University of Oregon:* [] - 'About Track Town USA—Where Your Soul Meets the Track Program, 2007 Program Dates: June 5-June 11', University of Oregon
* [] - '2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field', USA Track & Field

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