Ever find that perfect little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, a bit off the beaten path yet second to none in both charm and fare?
Or how about that cozy, nondescript old theater where the best musicians still come to ply their timeless ware?
There are treasures in this world—far from the glitz and glare—illuminated only by their own distinctive flair.
Hayward Field (one such place), apart from the principals gathered there, has its own particular ambiance—a certain magic in the air.
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For sure, the story of last weekend's Pepsi Invitational was the developing rivalry between collegiate Track and Field powerhouses Texas A&M and the University of Oregon. Duck fans were not disappointed as both the women's and men's teams emerged victorious.
In the cool and breezy April air of Oregon, it was not meant to be a day for records (although there were some new PRs and meet records established). It was a day for head-to-head competition, jostling for position, and earning team points.
In this respect, it was a great meet to watch. I was glad I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to endure the two-hour drive to be there.
Perhaps because my visits to Hayward are infrequent (or maybe it's my advancing age), I was immediately aware of a familiar sense of greatness—something I'd sensed on all my previous visits.
A greatness not directly associated with individual athletes, important national, or international meets, although those elements are an integral part of that greatness.
It is a special spirit about the place itself, nestled in an insignificant town, in an insignificant state—when measured by today's sophisticated global standards.
It has something to do with the throwback covered grandstands and the intimate (18,000 maximum capacity) seating. The casual trackside access available to even the general admission ticket holder. The easy five-minute transit from Interstate 5 to the parking lot.
It's PA announcer Paul Swangard's informed and poetic commentary. And a well-oiled track crew, seamlessly and invisibly moving from one event to another. It's the huge video board, instantly flashing times, distances, and scores. There's not a bad seat in the house.
In a city known as Track Town USA, the fans of course are a huge element in that greatness. Home-team partiality aside, they will appreciate and applaud any great effort, regardless of team colors.
Then there is the legacy.
Hayward Field, by virtue of it's tenure alone, simply reeks with history. It is no accident that world class athletes, track and field governing bodies, high school prospects, and network television all consistently choose Eugene, Ore. as a preferred destination.
With all these thoughts running through my mind last Saturday...and then to have an excellent track meet to enjoy...well, it was a double blessing.
I've already ordered tickets for the Pre Diamond League and NCAA Championships.
The Oregon women have a sprinter!
Well, we already knew that, but Amber Purvis solidified her status as someone to be reckoned with in the short sprints. She won the 100m in 11.38 and the 200m in a wind-aided 23.00. Mandy White impressed me with third-place finishes in both races.
Ashton Eaton is a stud!
After winning the 110m hurdles (w13.64) and the long jump (25-6), he gutted out a 45.7 starting-leg split in the 4x400 relay. This time is noteworthy because Eaton had a block start and did not benefit from a running start. His time would have beaten Demetrius Pinder's winning time (46.76) in the 400m by over a second.
Texas A&M's Tabarie Henry absolutely smoked the field in his third-leg of the 4x400. It would be interesting to know his split time.
In the women's 5000m, the race strategy was very interesting. Freshman Jordan Hasay was the only competitor to chase the rabbit, teammate Lauren Zaludek. The pair ran away from the field, holding a 150 meter lead until Zaludek dropped out after six laps. Hasay maintained the lead, running alone the rest of the race.
Was it a ploy to keep Hasay out of traffic?
A strong, gradual, closing finish by Nicole Blood closed the gap to 20 meters, but Hasay won in a respectable 16:16.02, considering she ran unchallenged at a distance not considered her forte. A bright future lies ahead for this young lass.