TRIALS BLOG: The Eugene Experience

Thursday Afternoon

all photos by Tim Fulton

So we headed over to the Brooks/Hanson house, which is where FloTrack parks their van and broadcasts from, to pick up Bart and walk over to the Warton house, where numerous Olympic hopefuls have been staying and while others drop by to get treatment (massage, etc, more coming on that subject from Chris Hunt later today).

The house has a peaceful vibe where everyone speaks in hushed tones, eats fresh, natural meals, and are as friendly a group as you can find. We wanted to do a story on the Warton’s, who have a NY office and have just started a center in Flagstaff. The NYRRC helped pay their way to the meet and who did we run into but the CEO and president of the NYRRC, Mary Whittenberg. She had actually called me the week before and this gave us an opportunity to meet and have an informal meeting.

The Barber sisters, who are in the 200m this weekend, were there getting treatment as well. It’s like that all day over there – athletes coming and going, others awaking from a nap while still others heading in to take one.

I headed directly to the stadium afterwards to get ready for the meet, but not before stopping to buy a smoothie and a muffin top to hold me over until the meet was over. The smoothie was very good, a lo-cal option, but the low cost was countered with a ten minute wait. Neither the price nor the time frame would fly in NY, but that’s part of what makes this place so great.

The Meet

You can read all about the meet results in Chris’s articles. I’m here to talk about the crowd and the stadium. The crowd filtered in a bit early on for the men’s masters 3K. Armondo Oliviero, a local NY runner and coach, led early before finishing 11th. Armando can be found running at The Armory often and we have raced more than a few times. He’s having a fine masters career so far.

Everything is green here, in both the literal sense of the word and the newer, hipper environmental sense as well. Not only are there many trees and plants, but they painted everything they could green. There’s even a large pine tree next to the north video screen than partially blocks the view from the west grandstand.

There are recycling bins at every turn, and not just bottles and cans. Paper and compost bins are located everywhere you look. It’s like I’ve gone into the future where we have finally figured out how to balance nature and man.

The stadium was full by 7:30 and the crowd was loud and knowledgeable. There is a rhythmic clapping that follows the leaders around the track that newcomers pick up on immediately.

I sat with my good friend John Nepolitan, AKA the “Track Junkie” from Dyestat (pictured left). John and me photograph together often since we cover so many of the same meets. He arrived last week so he sort of showed me the ropes as far as where to stand and what to watch out for. Working with TV cameras around always makes life a little more difficult.

I was happy with what pictures I managed to capture besides my rookie status. The men’s 1500m prelims were exciting. Webb looked smooth and all of the big guys made it through unscathed. Lagat just seems to know that no one else here can run with him.

The women’s 3K steeple was fun. The American record went down and the crowd was great. Even during the long jump the crowd was loud. You needed only to listen for the roar to know when something happened, either a big jump, a big throw, or perhaps even a fall in the steeple.

After the Meet and Friday's Run

I finished up editing my pics around 11:30pm and headed to The Willard Street Pub to meet some people. Did I ever. This was a who’s who in the track world. The new American record holder in the women’s steeple was there, Anna Willard, was there. She had a crowd around her table all night long as apparently the evening doubled as an engagement party. Anna Willard was at the Willard Street Pub. There's must be some magic about this place.

I ran into so many people I knew personally, so many faces I recognized from TV and the internet, and so many big time names it’s impossible to list. I did sit down for a bit with about 10 coaches from the Rockland/Westchester area in NY, where I coach. Our section truly has great track and field fans, and we of course got to talk a little about some Section 1 business.

After heading home I posted some more pics on the site at about 2am, doubled checked Chris’s articles for typos (there were a few) and headed to bed. Me and Bart woke up around 8am and were out the door for Pre’s Trail before 9am. I got in the 70 minutes I wanted, followed with a soak in the freezing Willamette River, which runs next to Pre’s Trail and ¼ mile from our dorm rooms. My ankle is feeling fine except for some tightness in the morning.

The Trail is mainly a flat, wood chipped surface that runs right by the huge Oregon Football Stadium. We saw hundreds of people out, some walking, some jogging, and some just plain running fast. We were not in the latter group.

After pitter-pattering past numerous groups of emaciated, shirtless runners and plenty of solo women runners (who did have shirts on for the record), we grabbed a yogurt parfai and decided to lay low for a bit. It’s been a busy week working and playing pretty hard. A nap is in order today.


The Willamette River runs next to Pre's Trail, just a short walk across Franklin from the dorms.

all photos by Tim Fulton