The final race of the NCAA outdoor track and field championship, the women's 1600 meter relay, was the last track event ever to take place on Historic Hayward's track as the 99 year old stadium will be coming down this year for a new renovated stadium that plans to open in 2020. For some it was an emotional day, but for others, it was a day full of long lasting memories.
Hayward Field, named after famous University of Oregon head coach Bill Hayward, opened in 1919 and was used as football field for the University's football team. Since Oregon is in the Pacific Northwest, rain was no surprise to hit the stadium on multiple occasions.
During its time as a football stadium, Hayward Field was notorious for its poor conditions in rainy weather. The field had a terrible draining system and sometimes the football players would feel like they were playing in mud rather than on grass. It wasn't until 1921 when Hayward Field would a track and field stadium along with the football field.
Hayward field started off with a 6 lane cinder track costing them about $10,000 to install. The University of Oregon track and field teams would then start to compete here after using Kincaid field.
In 1925, the east grandstands were built and stand to this day before renovation begins. These grandstands are the oldest standing architecture at the stadium as they had the original finish line down their stretch when it first opened. When people come to Hayward Field, this is the iconic part of the stadium where they have multiple photos of Oregon's Steve Prefontaine crossing the finish line on his way to another victory.
The Oregon football team didn't move out of Hayward until 1967 when the construction of Autzen Stadium was completed. From then, Hayward Field became a track-only venue. For the next 48 years, Hayward has the been home of numerous U.S. Olympic Trials, NCAA Championships, Pac-12 Championships, and the famous Prefontaine Classic.
This year's NCAA track and field championships will be most remembered by those who attended as multiple NCAA records were broken and dreams became a reality.
USC's Michael Norman set a new collegiate record in the 400 running 43.61, and the men's 4x4 relay team he was on also set a collegiate record running 2:59.00 becoming the first 4x4 relay team in NCAA history to break 3 minutes. The USC Women won the team National Title with an improbable comeback in the Women's 4x4 relay race.
Kendall Ellis, the anchor of the USC women's 4x4 team, stormed back trailing nearly 20 meters behind Purdue's anchor with less than 100 meters to go. Ellis close in a 50 second lap to help the Trojans to the programs 2nd national title.
I was standing by the USC women's team on the back stretch during the race and their expression after watching their teammate cross the finish line in victory, all the girls went insanely crazy.
Kentucky's Sydney McLaughlin won her first and only national title in the 400 meters hurdles winning by more than 2 seconds. The Wildcat freshman has declared to go pro after this season.
In 4 of the 5 men distance events, a Big Ten athlete went on to win. Isaiah Harris (Penn State) in the 800, Oliver Hoare (Wisconsin) in the 1500, Obsa Ali (Minnesota) in the 3,000 steeplechase, and Ben Flannagan (Michigan) in the 10,000.
It was my first time ever coming to Hayward and I definitely learned a lot from my experience watching. When distance races are going on and they come down the home stretch, every body is engaged into the race with the sound of hands coming together, encouraging the runners. I thought this was the coolest thing I had ever seen.
My favorite part of the entire meet is when the athletes, that won an event, would take a victory lap around the track and high five all the fans that cheered them on. Even though it down poured for most of the meet, I wasn't passing up on this opportunity to tell these athletes, "congrats" or "nice job".
This stadium means so much, not only to the athletes that compete at it, but to the community members as well. During the men's final, an older gentlemen had jumped on the track running around on it. I had no idea why he was doing it until I read his shirt. His shirt said "Save Hayward". History matters to the people of Oregon, and it is sad to see such a sports iconic go down.
From Steve Prefontaine winning all of his races in front of the home crowd, to Alan Webb setting the national high school record in the mile, to Galen Rupp breaking the American 10,000 meter record, and to the movie Animal House being filmed within the stadium. Hayward field will never be forgotten by those who love the sport of track and running.
I know this was my only time coming to stadium, but I don't want to see the magic go. But it is not the magic within the stadium that makes Hayward what is today, it is the people who come to watch the best sport in the world and cheer on all these great athletes.
Historic Hayward may be gone, but it will never be forgotten.