Dave Hunter's column will begin to set the stage, we hope that you enjoy!
A Daily Journal from the U.S. Olympic Trials/ Track & Field
The Cathedral: Nothing Compares to Hayward Field,
by Dave Hunter
Highlights from Hayward
As soon as you walk into Hayward Field, you know you are on holy ground. The pristine track, the unmistakable roofline, the manicured yellow chrysanthemums surrounding the steeplechase water jump, the statue of Bill Bowerman clutching his stopwatch next to what has come to be known as the Bowerman curve - all serve notice that this is a special place. Even the wood-chipped trail leading from the adjacent warm-up facility to the main track and field area is a reminder that this athletic venue is like no other. Don't be misled by the state-of-the-art multicolored electronic scoreboard; Hayward Field is old school all the way. Just as Wimbledon is to tennis or Augusta National is to golf, Hayward Field is the quintessential home of track and field.
Hayward Field developed its reputation the old-fashioned way... it earned it. On the eve of the United States Olympic Trials for Track and Field, the talk will focus upon Hayward Field and its hosting of the Olympic Trials in '72, '76, '80, and the triumphant return of the Trials to Hayward in 2008. Many consider the '72 U.S. Olympic Trials as the greatest track meet ever held on American soil - but a good number of knowledgeable track buffs might suggest that the '08 Trials comes close. Tyson Gay's runaway victory in the '08 Trials 100 meters - albeit slightly over the allowable wind limit - was, at 9.69w, not only the then-fastest American performance under all conditions, but also one of the 7 Olympic Trials records that were set at Hayward four years ago. And no one who was there in 2008 will ever forget the signature '08 Trials event: the electrifying final of the Men's 800 - when a desperate finish line dive by Christian Smith nipped Khadevis Robinson and allowed Smith to join Nick Symmonds and Andrew Wheating in an all-Oregon sweep of the Olympic team spots.
And while the many Olympic Trials records posted at Hayward Field would be sufficient justification for its position of track and field grandeur, the reputation of this venue goes deeper than that. Hayward Field has been the site of many American and world record marks posted by a number of elite track and field athletes who have made a pilgrimage to Eugene, Oregon to perform on this revered stage. From the record-setting performances of Steve Prefontaine and the world record 800 by Dave Wottle in the 1972 Olympic Trials to more recent stellar accomplishments such as Maria Mutola's 16th victory in the Prefontaine Classic and Brad Walker's still-standing American record in the pole vault, Hayward Field has hosted many of the greatest moments in track and field.
During the upcoming 10 days, the times and distances posted daily in Eugene will be well-reported by the squadron of media here to cover the Olympic Trials. But this daily column will attempt to go beyond the headlines and below the surface to chronicle the track and field exploits - and some of the back stories - of U.S. track & field athletes as they pursue their Olympic dreams.
It is true that the first members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team will be determined 100 miles away from Eugene, Oregon - during a special showcased hammer throw qualification: "Hammer Time" - on the Nike campus in Beaverton on Thursday. But the following morning, a 10-day final exam will begin for an additional 1,000+ hopeful United States Track and Field athletes. It will be another step in a journey they hope will take them all the way to the London Olympics later this summer. The anticipation for these Trials is palpable. For Eugene, Oregon, proud of its heritage as "Track Town U.S.A.", it is the perfect moment for this town and this special stadium to reaffirm its position of excellence as perhaps the greatest track and field venue in the world. For the carefully-prepared and finally-honed athletes who have dedicated their lives for this moment, it is their chance to fulfill lifelong dreams. And this drama all begins in earnest on Friday - in the cathedral of track and field.