Grant Lucas

EUGENE —

There is something magical about Hayward Field that is difficult to describe.

It is what Mountain View graduate Ashton Eaton credited during his record-breaking decathlon performance at the 2012 U.S. Olympic track and field trials at the historic facility in Eugene.

It is what amplifies history, such as the Summit girls setting the all-classification, boys and girls, team state-meet scoring record of 190 points in 2016. It helps drive high school athletes toward jaw-dropping performances, like La Pine’s Jordynn Slater at last week’s Class 3A state meet becoming the third female athlete in OSAA history to sweep the three throwing events.

Competing at Hayward, says Dominic Langley, brings chills to athletes.

“You walk in, and you can’t even explain it,” says the Crook County high jumper, who placed second and set a personal record at the 4A boys state meet this past weekend. “You try to tell people, and there’s no words until you’re here. Whether the stands are full or not, you step on the track and it’s just a feeling that you can’t get anywhere else.”

“As a person who has run this meet for the last 19 years, this is the epitome of what goes on here because it’s the essence of bringing a community together,” says Oregon School Activities Association executive director Brad Garrett. “And in this case, it’s the track community.”

That magic, however, will be put on hold next year, possibly even in 2020.

In preparations to host the 2021 IAAF World Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Hayward Field will soon undergo construction and remodeling. As a result, the venue that has been the high school state championships site for all classifications since 2013 — and that has hosted at least one state meet every year since 1979 — will not be available to the OSAA next year.

The $200 million stadium remodel is scheduled to begin in June and be finished by April 2020. The annual OSAA track and field state meet is typically scheduled for May.

“We are guests at Hayward Field. We treat it as such,” Garrett says. “The reality is they hold a number of large meets there. Certainly (with) the OSAA meet, they value our relationship. They’re trying to look toward the future, and they’ve kept us involved from the beginning, saying that it was a likely outcome that we would not be at Hayward Field in 2019, and potentially in 2020. I’m hoping it’s only one year, but we were certainly enlightened early that this would be occurring and have been in constant contact about it.”

Now, the OSAA is in search of a temporary site — multiple sites, actually, as Hayward Field is the only track facility in Oregon large enough to hold an all-classifications state meet over a three-day period. Garrett says it is highly likely the six classifications will be split into three separate championships with the 6A and 5A classes sharing a meet at one location, 4A and 3A staged at another site, and 2A and 1A at a third venue.

“I actually think it is good,” Dave Turnbull, Summit’s 17th-year track and field coach, says of the state championships being spread out over multiple sites. “I think you can focus more on the kids that are there at each classification instead of hustling through everything. … I hope that it doesn’t come back to everybody at one location again. It’s neat to see, but at the same time, those officials are tired. They’re working 10- to 16-hour days. That’s ridiculous.”

Among the sites being considered by the OSAA are Western Oregon University’s McArthur Field in Monmouth, which hosted the small-schools state meet from 1992 to 2012; Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, which played host to the AA and then the 3A championships from 1976 to 1991; and Bend’s Summit High School.

Garrett says other venues have contacted the OSAA about staging a state meet, including Linfield College in McMinnville and George Fox University in Newberg. One consideration in determining a site is finances, as Garrett says the OSAA loses about $70,000 each year hosting the championships at Hayward Field. Other considerations, he says, are facility size and quality, and availability of venue, parking and officials. At Hayward, for example, some 200 officials and volunteers — many from in and around track-crazy Eugene (and with ties to the University of Oregon’s tradition-rich track program) — help run the state meet.

“What we’re going to do, strategywise, is we have a few other facilities to meet with a visit,” Garrett says. “We’re going to map out potential options, and the (OSAA Executive Board) will review those decisions at their meeting in July.”

Nothing, many agree, compares to the atmosphere surrounding the top athletes from throughout the state showcasing their abilities over a three-day time frame. Nothing compares to the chills those athletes feel as they strive to run faster, throw longer, and jump higher and farther than the rest of the best high school track and field athletes in the state.

“It’s definitely a bummer,” Turnbull says of leaving what will soon be the old Hayward Field. “Just the historical piece is gone. All the memories, everything we’ve got here will be gone. It’ll be a new venue, and I’m sure it will be fantastic, but it won’t be historic Hayward Field. You can’t replicate this. You will never be able to replicate it.”

And Garrett, like many others, hopes that the OSAA state meet will return to Hayward Field after only a one-year hiatus.

“That’s a special thing,” Garrett says of the six classifications sharing the stage. “I hope we wouldn’t lose that, personally.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0307, glucas@bendbulletin.com .

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