Vin Lananna: the RBR Interview: Looking to Eugene 2012, by Larry Eder

Vin Lananna, 2008 US Olympic Trials, photo by

This interview really started when Vin Lananna, World Championship Men's Head Coach, and I sat down and caught up in the lobby of United Air Lines in Seoul, Korea. Vin was elated with the success of the US team in Daegu, but obviously tired. He was heading back to Eugene, Oregon, where he is Associate Athletic Director and the Director of Track & Field/Cross Country at the most visible program in the country. Two hours after his arrival in Eugene, Oregon, Vin was scheduled for a meeting with his staff. No rest for the successful athletic administrator.

Vin Lananna is a fine track & field coach. But, he may be an even better administrator. From his time at Dartmouth, to his time at Oregon, Lananna has put together a fine team of coaches, and trainers.

At the University of Oregon, the ghosts of the late Bill Hayward and the late Bill Bowerman walk around the campus. Bill Dellinger, the last coach of the Bills at Oregon, kept the tradition of success in middle distance running going, with the likes of Rudy Chapa, Steve & Bill McChesney and Alberto Salazar. Things have changed at Oregon. This is the University that Nike built, that little shoe company founded by the late Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight, one of Bowerman's runners in the late 50s and early 60s. To say that having a successful track & field program is important here is an understatement. Lananna was brought here for that reason, and he has exceeded all expectations.

The post graduate opportunities at the Nike Oregon Track Club, championed by Vin, have given many chances to run, jump or throw after university. Vin was quite happy that seventeen Oregon Track Club members competed in the 2011 World Championships this year. (Nike also supports the Nike Oregon Project, developed by Alberto Salazar, again, a program that gives athletes a chance to see where they go on the global athletic stage).

The 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials were fantastic. Vin Lananna has made it quite clear that he wants 2012 to be even better! Lananna's name was on the very, very short list for USA Track & Field's CEO, but, for his reasons,  Vin Lananna is still at the University of Oregon. Perhaps he did not want to leave somethings unfinished. He made it clear to me that he wants to make this 2012 Eugene experience the best ever.

Here is how Vin spoke about the upcoming 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, and his experiences at the 2011 World Championships. One thing is for sure, Vin Lananna loves this sport. How to describe Vin Lananna? Charming and focused is how I will do it. The rest, I will leave up to you.....

TrackTownUSA-USAOlyT08.JPgTracktown USA, photo courtesy of

RBR, #
1. Eugene 2008 was a tremendous event, the best of the seven Trials I have attended, what made it so special?

Vin Lananna: The TrackTown USA community put its heart and soul into making the 2008
  Trials a fantastic and memorable event, and we succeeded beyond expectations. The energy of the Trials - having a sold-out crowd insideHayward Field and another 5,000 fans outside of the stadium at the festival - made it very special. And all that energy was driven by such passionate performances from the athletes. Our Local Organizing
Committee set the stage and Team USA put on an amazing show. We are
looking forward to a bigger and better event in 2012. Many fans have already reserved their seats, tickets are going fast, and they should
expect an outstanding show.

Matt Centrowitz, bronze medal, 1,500m, 2011 WC,
photo by

RBR, # 2. You just finished as head coach for 2011 WC, and your teams garnered 25 medals, what
were the highlights?

Vin Lananna: The media had dubbed the US team for Daegu as a
below average team and they responded with multiple outstanding
performances. The athletes exceeded all expectations and truly set the
table for London 2012.

Felix_AllysonQ1-USout11.JPGAllyson Felix, gold, 4x400m, 4x100m, silver, 400m, bronze, 200m, 2011 WC, photo by

RBR, # 3. What frustrated you about the performances? 

Vin Lananna: The lack of
understanding in the US about the World Championships and the significance of the event.

Berry_Michael4x4Q-World11.JPGMike Berry, Gold, 4 x 400m, 2011 WC, photo by

RBR, # 4. Think we can see 30 medals in a major event?

Vin Lananna: I don't think measuring
the USA team by their medal count is productive. The focus should be in keeping the US team as the world's number one team.  Perhaps there is a number north of thirty.  Perhaps we should measure them by their performances.  Perhaps it's based on gold medals won or a sweep in an event.  I have never doubted our athletes in a major championships. They continue to raise the bar when they compete on the world stage.

Eaton_AshtonSH1-USout11.JPGAshton Eaton, silver medal, decathlon, 2011 WC, photo by

RBR, #5. Tell us about Eugene 2012?

Vin Lananna: We are not simply pressing the replay
button from 2008. Our TT12 Team is planning for show stopping opening and closing ceremonies. The energy inside Hayward Field will be electric
and the in-stadium production for TrackTown12 will be unbelievable.

USOC-M-HammerTeam-USOlyT08.JPG 2008 U.S. Olympic Men's Hammer Throw team, photo by

In addition we've added HammerTime to our schedule and it will be a true
celebration of the Hammer throwers as they vie for the first spots on
our 2012 Olympic team. We will be assembling a US team in Eugene that
will be poised for great Olympic success in London. As always, the
television coverage of a meet on Hayward Field will be fantastic, but
nothing can compare to being in the grandstands and seeing the races
live and up close.

KidsInStands-USOlyT08.JPGKids in the stands, 2008 Olympic Trials, photo by

RBR, # 6. Are there tickets still left?

Vin Lananna: There are still good seats available in most sections of Hayward Field, but the best seats are going quickly. We fully expect a sellout. To get your tickets now, visit our website

Typical Track fan, maybe a U of O alum?, 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials
photo by

RBR, # 7. Are there places to stay still?

Vin Lananna: Yes. Travel Lane County and the Eugene Chamber of Commerce are working with National Travel Systems to
provide lodging for spectators and athletes. Visit
for more information on locations and availability.

Symmonds_NickFH1a_USOlyT08.JpgAndrew Wheating, Nick Symmonds, Khadevis Robinson, Christian Smith, 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, photo by

RBR, # 8. What should track fans know about Eugene, Oregon?

Vin Lananna: It's a great time of year in Eugene for Track & Field. The community is full of supportive and knowledgeable track fans and they will be packing the house for the Trials. The area truly embraces the athletes and the competition and provides a great backdrop for the meet.

Williams_JesseR-World11.JPGJesse Williams, gold, high jump, 2011 WC,
photo by

RBR, # 9. Tell us about the University? The local area?

Vin Lananna: The community here is incredible and tireless in their support of our sport and our event. The University embraces the Trials and the City of Eugene goes above and beyond in welcoming Track & Field visitors to TrackTown. Check out our community link on our TT12 website.

Sally Kipyego, silver, 5,000m, 2011 WC, photo by

RBR, # 10. Tell us about the Oregon Track Club, you got five medals in Daegu?

Vin Lananna:  An astonishing 17 Oregon-based athletes competed at the World Championships in Daegu and eight of those were from the Oregon Track Club Elite team that trains here in TrackTown USA.

Three of those eight athletes came home with medals: Sally Kipyego got silver in the 10k, Ashton Eaton took silver in the decathlon and Jesse Williams brought home gold in the high jump. It was by far the best World Championship results OTC has put together since its creation and the entire TrackTown community was behind them.

The support elite athletes receive from the Eugene/Springfield community is unmatched, and I believe such support will continue to help them as they train for the London Olympics. In addition U of O athletes Matt Centrowitz and Mike Berry burst onto the international stage with a bronze in the 1500 and a gold in the 4 X 400 relay respectively.

Rupp_GalenFV-USAout.jpgGalen Rupp, 2011 US Champs, 10,000m,
(Rupp recently set new 10,000m AR of 26:48.00)
photo by

RBR, # 11. You still enjoying coaching?

Vin Lananna: I've really assembled a wonderful and  gifted staff and I enjoy working directly with some of our athletes. And I enjoy watching our staff train, prepare, strategize, and recruit highly motivated student athletes that live, train, and compete in TrackTown USA.

Adam Nelson, 2011 WC, Men's shot put,
photo by

RBR, # 12. What do you want people to leave with when they leave Eugene in 2012?

Vin Lananna: That our sport thrives in the State of Oregon and beyond. TrackTown is not only a place, it is a cultural and social phenomenon that you feel in your heart. It is a sense of history and innovation and a magical mix of community and athletic achievement. For Track & Field it is what
Cooperstown is to Baseball and what Disneyland means to children.

Berry_MikeQ1-USAout.jpgGo Ducks! Mike Berry, in his university colors,
photo by

I believe when TrackTown is flourishing then our sport is healthy. Our
Team USA performances in Daegu certainly reinforced our ability to boast
that we're the world's greatest team. The 2012 Olympic Trials will select the best team, at the best track meet, in the best town, and everyone there will have the best time ever.

Lagat_BernardFV1-USout11.JPGBernard Lagat, silver, Men's 5,000m, 2011 WC, with Chris Solinsky, former 10,000m AR, photo from 2011 USA 5,000m,
photo by

RBR, # 13. Any suggestions for online resources?

Vin Lananna: Our website: for anything and everything related to TrackTown USA. Specific Olympic Trials information can be found at

2008 U.S. Olympic Team celebrates in Eugene,
photo by
Associated Links:

Special thanks to Vin Lananna and Jody Smith at the University of Oregon for their time and Vin's candor.

Leave a comment

Wake up to RunBlogRun's news in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you informed about the Sport you love.

Subscribe to RunBlogRun's Global News Feed

* indicates required