Transporting Tracktown, by Lindsay Rossmiller

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Dunbar_Colin-USAInd16.JPgColin Dunbar, photo by PhotoRun.net

The USA Indoors was a test for the World Indoors. In most of our views, it went quite well.

Lindsay Rossmiller wrote this piece about the "feel" of the OCC, and how it brings some of Tracktown to Portland.

Tell us what you think about the OCC and if Tracktown has been transported!

Transporting Tracktown

Eugene, Oregon is known for both its history and knowledge of track and field. This weekend as Portland hosted the US Indoor Championships 100 miles north of Eugene, the organizing committee (also known as TrackTown USA) attempted to infuse some of that Hayward magic to the Oregon Convention Center as a goal to get more of the state involved.

There was plenty of green, including the surface of the new indoor track built just for this event because there wasn't one in the whole state of Oregon. In the early months of 2016, they had it set up in a warehouse in Portland dubbed the "House of Track" and ran Friday night meets featuring the many professional athletes based in Oregon to test it out. Between those meets, community users, and even school events, 10,000 people used the track according to Vin Lannana, president of TrackTown USA.

March 11th and 12th were the first glimpse at the results of their effort. On Friday afternoon 3,816 attended to watch the weight throws, prelims, and most of the men's field events. They were rewarded with world leading marks for 2016, the appearance of many athletes they could be watching in Rio later this summer and consistency from many of the favorites as the top two advanced to next week's IAAF World Indoor Championship.

Colin Dunbar grabbed his first US title in the weight throw after throwing a personal best of 23.96 meters as he defeated three-time Olympian A.G. Kruger. Unlike the hammer throw outdoors, the crowd was able to line the gates all the way down the runway as the throwers competed behind the stands.

Saturday's crowd of 5,244 people saw a pair of women win their first US championships over seasoned veterans: Vashti Cunningham set a new high school and junior record in the high jump in addition to a world-leading jump this year and Sandi Morris set two PRs as she cleared 16 feet for the first (and second) time defeating Jenn Suhr and notching the fourth-highest jump of all time. Both were also coached by their dads. Cunningham is the daughter of Randall Cunningham, former NFL quarterback.

Morris' regular coach, Brian Compton, was coaching at NCAAs (also held this weekend) so her father, Harry Morris, stepped in. "He was a decathlete back in the day so he knows enough about pole vault to help me through so my dad was there for my first 16-foot jump so I'm very happy," said Morris.

On the track, Barbara Pierre won the 60 meters in 7.00 seconds to match the world-lead so far this year. Brenda Martinez won her first U.S. championship with a 4:08.37 in the 1500. Favorites Boris Berian (800 meters) and Vernon Norwood (400 meters) moved through relatively easily.

The athletes mentioned time and again both their enjoyment of the facility, but also the crowd and their knowledge of track and field. Like at Hayward, the jumpers and vaulters were thrilled to be able to get the crowd involved with rhythmic clapping on the runway.

"The fans especially were very supportive and just the track and field knowledge you guys have out here is incredible. It's refreshing," said Morris after the competition.

But the championships also featured races like the 3000 meter race walks and women's Masters mile. And even for those races, the crowd brought the spirit of Hayward.

"The crowd was great. Every time I came around, it was like the wave - they would cheer," said Sonja Friend-Uhl who won the Master's mile in 4:56.87.

As athletes from all over the world begin to arrive in Portland, it will be interesting to see the response. In addition to innovations like a runway and entry tunnel for introducing athletes and the format of the pole vault having its own event, the medals will all be awarded not in the arena, but instead in downtown Portland.

For both the fans and the athletes, it promises to be quite the experience.

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