By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Two-year test at Hayward Field begins

The 2013 Oregon high school state track and field championships are finally upon us, and it’s going to be the biggest meet we’ve seen in the state of Oregon.

If you recall, the OSAA announced in the late summer that this year and next, the state championships would be on one weekend, in one location, combining 6A-1A. It’s the first time since 1971 that every classification in Oregon will compete in the same place when there were just three.

The numbers are staggering: Six classifications, 2,289 high school athletes, 33 hours of competition and hundreds more coaches. It was hard to imagine in September what Hayward Field in Eugene would be like when the high school track mafia descends on Track Town, U.S.A, but now that the logistics have all been ironed out, I’m a little bit in awe. Hayward has hosted some of the biggest track meets in the United States — the Olympic trials, NCAA national championships, U.S. national championships to name a few — but the size of this three-day marathon challenges any of those for the largest meet the University of Oregon has ever hosted.

I heard somewhere that Oregon director of track and field operations Vin Lananna said that the meet will be so well run that one could set their watch to the meet schedule. We shall see if that’s true, but for a meet this size, things need to be well planned out for things to run smoothly.

The OSAA decided to start the state championships Thursday with the 3A, 2A, 1A schools kicking things off. Previously, the small-school state meet was at Western Oregon University, but after the university declined to host this year, the OSAA had to find a new venue. That prompted this two-year test. The 6A, 5A, 4A meet begins this morning before the small schools wrap things up starting at 2 p.m. The final event Friday — the second heat of the boys 4x400-meter dash — is scheduled to start at 9:31 p.m. Then, per usual, the big schools finish up Saturday by early evening.

What has the few coaches I’ve talked to concerned is the congestion that could be caused by so many people all in one place on Friday. The 6A-4A competitors will get to the track early in the day, but throughout the morning the 3A-1A athletes will start to filter in, filling the stands and clogging up the already packed west university neighborhood surrounding Hayward Field.

“Friday is going to be a train wreck for a lot of people,” McMinnville coach Vic Downs said.

I was thinking more of rush hour in Los Angeles, but the point has been made.

For most, though, the rewards of condensing all classes to one spot on the same weekend far outweigh the perceived risks. Hayward Field holds a special place in the hearts of track and field athletes and fans in the United States. Every year, athletes from 6A-4A talk about the pleasure of getting to compete there in the state meet, while the smaller schools compete elsewhere. For the first time in a long time, those small-school athletes will experience the electricity of competing in a world-class facility in front of packed fans. Personally, I can’t wait to see what the atmosphere is like Friday afternoon.

“I’m excited for the sport,” Downs said, “because I think that the 1, 2 and 3A have competed at a second-class stadium and facility and now they get to compete at the best. It should provide some exciting moments.”

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