These are the deep thoughts of Jeff Benjamin on his sojourn to the Olympic Trials. We hope you enjoy his photo adventure.
Jeff Benjamin’s 4 Takeaways From The Eugene U.S. Olympic Trials!
It sure as heck took us long enough!
After 40 years of being in the sport we love, my pal Tony Gulotta and I finally were able to trek to TrackTown USA and attend the last 5 days of the Trials.
And what did we think?
Here are 4 takeaways!
Asterisk * of Note – We also visited with Coach Dellinger as well but that is a story that deservedly stands alone and will be coming up soon!
1) The solid running community! –
Coming into town it was only fitting to stop by the Eugene Running Company store and it sure didn’t disappoint.
Owner Bob Coll and wife Laura (A multi-National USA team member at various track & world XC championships) have a solid team in the store of workers who know not only the products but the history of our sport as well.
The store is a balance of cool products ( you can do mail-order!) as well as historical pics and other memorabilia.
The coolest thing?- A one of a kind 1983 almost one-foot high wooden-carved sculpture of my pal Rod Dixon!
There was some literary license taken by the sculptor, as the Kiwi 1972 Olympic 1500 Bronze medalist and 1983 NYC Marathon champ was portrayed wearing a different shoe company’s flats on the feet, but hey, after all, we are in Eugene!
The unique Rod Dixon wood statue, photo by Jeff Benjamin
That Wednesday evening the Pre’s Trail 5K took place beginning at Atwood park. If anything, this event (which raised $$ for the Trail) showed that the legacy of Steve Prefontaine is above and well. Joining the event was sister Netta Prefontaine, while Irish legend and current Nike Coach Sonia O’Sullivan participated as well, joining in on the field of 200 runners as they traversed the immortal wood-chip trails, which have been treaded upon throughout the decades by the legendary names of the Sport.
2) Phil Knight’s Castle!
For better or for worse we had no pre-conceived experience of the old Hayward Field so encountering this monstrosity of a stadium was inspirational. It seems as if no corner was left untouched by the Sport, as the design gave what Brooklyn Dodger septuagenarian fans recall about Ebbits Field, with its intimacy of fans to the athletes.
Knight’s castle does not have dungeons anywhere, that’s for sure. For the fans sitting in the stadium, isolation is not present and you feel as though you’re on top of the action!
3) The Original Pancake House & The Wild Duck!
If Hayward Field is the center of the track universe, then the Wild Duck bar and restaurant, located a few blocks away, is a moon that rotates around it, while the Original Pancake House circles just a few miles away.
The Pancake House serves a variety of breakfast goods, and the atmosphere leaves a decidedly Prefontaine-Oregon Track flavor as evidenced by the Duck decorations on the walls.
Whether it’s before, during, or after a day of competition, Athletes, Officials, Coaches & Fans seemed to all gravitate to the Wild Duck, where one saw friends new and old with a HUGE pic of Prefontaine proudly displayed.
4) The Athlete-Fan Relationship
Most of the fans who show up to watch the trials have great knowledge of the Sport. They appreciate and many can relate somewhat to the high level of training that these athletes endure for one of those 3 coveted Olympic spots for Tokyo.
From observations throughout the week, the athletes know it and are appreciative of it.
From signing autographs and taking pics, the athletes went one better as many interacted, spoke abs engaged the fans post-event, from Sydney McLaughlin after her phenomenal world record to Ajee’ Wilson earning her 2nd trip to the Olympics.
How great was Matthew Centrowitz after his 2nd place finish? The defending Olympic Champion engaged many fans, noticeably the kids, in-kind and encouraging words that were both positive and humorous through the Victory lap around the entire stadium, a passage completed by many of those who qualified for Tokyo.
Speaking of engaging fans – how about Jumper Tara Davis?
Dancing during her jumps and dressed in a flamboyant Cowgirl outfit, the University of Texas star finished 2nd behind her idol Brittany Reese.
To say she was quite enthusiastic was an understatement, as the Junior Record Holder earned loud cheers from the Hayward faithful!
One must wonder how Davis (whose boyfriend Hunter Woodall is going to Tokyo as a Paralympian!) and her flamboyancy will be greeted by the Japanese fans?
One thing is for sure they won’t be bored.
And neither were we here in Oregon!
See You All Next Year When The World Arrives!