Alexi Pappas, courtesy of TrackTownUSA.com
Lindsay Rossmiller wrote the following piece on the 2016 Oregon Relays.
It was a meet where, among many things, Alexi Pappas won her first race, the 5000 meters, on Hayward Field.
Alexi Pappas earned her first victory lap at Hayward Field Friday night at the Oregon Relays. While much of the weekend’s attention was focused farther south at Mt. Sac, Pappas was one a host of athletes who elected to make their season debut in Oregon instead alongside a host of collegians and high school athletes.
Pappas won the 5,000 meters in 15 minutes, 33.78 seconds, just off the Olympic standard (15:24) she was trying to hit.
“If you’re a Tracktown girl like I am, there’s no question. If you get the chance to run a victory lap around Hayward Field, run on your home track, run in the place where you live – there’ s nothing better than that so I’ll always run at Hayward when I have the chance,” said Pappas after.
Although many professionals chose to chase qualifying times at Mt. Sac instead, the Oregon Relays were filled with a sense of anticipation. Both Friday and Saturday set meet attendance records. Temporary stands were in the process of being added on the southwest corner of the track for the meets yet to come this season – the Prefontaine Classic, NCAA championships and Olympic Trials which looms over this 2016.
But as Oregon also prepares for renovations to Hayward needed to host the 2021 IAAF World Championships, there’s an urgency to take advantage of it since next year the Ducks won’t host a home schedule.
The nearly 2,500 athletes were professionals from training groups in the Pacific Northwest, collegians from as far away as Colorado and NAIA schools who may otherwise never have a chance to compete here, and high schoolers from Idaho, Washington, California and Oregon. Over two and a half days the infield buzzed with activity, often involving both runways, pits, and throwing circles to accommodate all the events. High school events included ones they rarely get to compete including steeplechase, 4×200 relays, sprint medley relays, and wheelchair races.
For many professionals who belong to training groups in the region, the Oregon Relays provided a chance to see where they were at after returning from altitude or get in a rust-buster race before leaving for another altitude stint.
Team Run Eugene’s Eric Avilia returned from five weeks in Flagstaff, Ariz. two days prior and won the 1500 in 3:43.86. He bounced around his victory lap and after admitted he even surprised himself. The field included Nike OTC Elite’s Harun Abda and current NCAA indoor and outdoor 800 meter champion Edward Kemboi, now with High Performance West.
“I feel way more confident in the 5000,” said Avilia laughing. “That’s where I feel like right now is my strength at the moment and yeah, it’s fun to do a 1500.”
Avilia joined Team Run Eugene in January and was one of 16 Team Run Eugene athletes competing at the Oregon Relays. Also representing Team Run Eugene was 2012 Olympian Geena Gall. Gall took second in the 1500 (4:18.04) behind Colorado high school senior and University of Oregon signee Katie Rainsberger (4:17.52).
“It’s a good meet, it’s here local, it’s good timing,” explained Ian Dobson coach of Team Run Eugene.
Ultimate Speed Athletics also made an appearance. Ryan Bailey’s training group out of Portland includes former University of Oregon sprinter Arthur Delaney and Joe Morris from the University of Colorado. They ran their second 4×100 relay in two weeks and added Russell Hornsby on the anchor. They got second in 40.35.
“We’re just here to push each other,” said Bailey. “It’s good to have an actual sprint group in Oregon for once and to be able to come out here and run in Oregon is great.”
Morris also won the 100 meters in 10.22.
Tyler Mulder also made a reappearance for the Oregon Track Club (OTC) Elite in the 800 meters. Mulder has had a nagging hamstring tendinopathy in his left hamstring and has struggled to race over the past two years. He won the race in 1:50.5.
“This is a step in the right direction today,” said Mulder. “I was happy to be out here and kind of get rid of some of the early nerves you have for your first race.”
He’ll make his next appearance at Drake Relays.
“I like my situation. I’ve kind of fallen off for the last two years so I’m a bit of an underdog and no one’s really probably expecting much of me,” he said. “So I’m just going to go with that approach and just keep training so I get through each round and take it day by day. It’s all you can do.”
Other highlights from the professionals:
Tara Welling got second in the 5000 running for High Performance West in 15:49.66. Her teammate Nicole Blood took tenth in the 1500 (4:29.61) as she began her comeback.
Bowerman Track Club’s Carrie Dimoff won the steeplechase (10:18.96) and her teammate Julia Webb got third (10:30.12). Lindsey Drake got fourth in the 1500 (4:28.15).
Nike Oregon Project’s Seguru Osako won the 5000 in 13:45.39. Oregon Track Club Elite’s Jordan McNamara took third (13:57.87).