CORVALLIS, Ore. – For the first time in 25 years, Corvallis will be the site of intercollegiate track and field competition when the Oregon State track and field program hosts a pair of meets as part of its 2013 schedule, which was announced by Head Coach Kelly Sullivan on Tuesday afternoon.
As part of its outdoor slate, the Beavers will show off their world-class Whyte Track and Field Center for the first time in competition on March 23, when they welcome fellow in-state schools Portland and Willamette. On April 26, Oregon State will hold the inaugural OSU High Performance Meet with student-athletes from Oregon, Portland and Western Oregon as well as open and club qualifiers.
“I think all along one of the big things that has been in the back of my mind, and I know has been in the back of a lot of people’s minds, has been hosting a meet here,” Sullivan said. “There is great significance of Oregon State having a home track and field meet again. I never expected it to be this soon. All it does is continue to validate everything we’ve thought from day one on just how important this process has been.”
OSU has not hosted a track meet since the Oregon Senior The Athletics Congress (TAC) Championships were held at Patrick Wayne Valley Field in 70-degree conditions on June 11, 1988. That event was used mainly as an opportunity for athletes to qualify for the US Olympic Trials held in Indianapolis, Ind. the following month and as a final tune-up for those who had already qualified. The last solely collegiate meet was the Beaver Twilight on May 26, 1988, which was a last-chance event for those attempting to qualify for the NCAA National Championships held in Eugene from June 1-4. Oregon State’s program was discontinued after the 1988 season before being resurrected under the direction of Sullivan in 2004.
The March 23 meet will be split between OSU’s new facility and Willamette University in Salem. Phase I of Oregon State’s construction project was officially unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in September and features an IAAF-certified Olympic-caliber surface, FieldTurf infield, nine-lane track, high jump aprons, long jump and triple jump runways, pole vault and javelin runways, shot put area throw sectors and dual discus rings. Phase II consists of a larger portion of the infrastructure needed to host a meet – grandstands and hammer facility and equipment like hurdles, a pole vault pit and timing system – so the Beavers will operate the events which it is capable of running on the oval and field at the Whyte Track and Field Center with the Bearcats handling the rest.
The event will be scored as a dual on the women’s side between Oregon State and Portland, with the possibility of adding another Division I men’s team against which the Pilots can compete. Willamette will also enter quite a few student-athletes in a number of disciplines.
“We are very optimistic Phase II will happen soon,” Sullivan said. “But now I’m in that `we-must-do-this-right’ mode. There’s a lot at stake. I think I’ll be more proud when both meets are done. For the first time in 25 years, Oregon State is in a position to offer something to the other schools in-state. That’s one of our objectives and missions and I’m really thankful and happy for that. Oregon State is going to put on a home track meet, no matter what size, and it’s going to happen sooner than we thought.”
The OSU High Performance Meet on April 26 began as a discussion between Sullivan and the coaches at UO during the most recent Pac-12 Cross Country Championships. Also taking place that weekend are the two biggest relay meets in the country (Drake and Penn) as well as the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational at Stanford on Sunday. The Beavers will attempt to fill the void for those athletes not traveling to any of the aforementioned meets by hosting one aimed at achieving NCAA and regional qualifying standards.
“This weekend happens to be the one weekend that we’ve earmarked for the future as a great opportunity for us to have a traditional, long-standing meet that could be really well attended because it could fill a void,” Sullivan said. “It’s obvious, even a program like the University of Oregon has a need, desire and wish to compete here in the state of Oregon and not always at Hayward Field.”
Both the happenings on March 23 and April 26 will have the NCAA-mandated 10 events necessary to be considered countable meets and will also serve as an opportunity for OSU to “work out the kinks” as it prepares to handle numerous similar affairs in the years to come. Temporary stands will be brought in for spectators, who are invited to attend, free of charge.
“It’s going to help us and continue to get the word out and reconfirm what we’ve been doing all along the line,” Sullivan said. “This is not just a nice story. It has the potential to be extremely important in the big scheme of things at many levels of competition. We’ve already been approached by the local high schools [to host district meets and invitationals]. Once we get Phase II done it is not going to be sitting out there idly. The facility is going to be used a lot.”
Corvallis has a storied history as a center for track and field competition and the last event held at Oregon State 25 years ago illustrates that fact, as the TAC Championships featured a number of notable names. In what was largely a throws and jumps meet, the celebrated Crouser brothers all participated on the Saturday afternoon. Mitch, an alternate on the 1984 US Olympic Team, won the discus with a throw of 63.16m. Dean, a two-time NCAA champion in the discus and once in the 16-pound shot put, finished third in the javelin behind brother Brian (79.88m), who won two NCAA javelin titles and competed for Team USA in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.
Lance Deal, a 1996 Olympic silver medalist, won the hammer that day with a throw of 75.64m. He also competed in the 1988, 1992, and 2000 Summer Olympics. He was followed in the event by John McArdle (71.78m), who qualified for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. In the same event, Oregon State’s John Thomas broke the school record when he threw 66.72m.
The impressive roster of athletes also included Tim Bright, who finished fourth in the discus, second in the long jump and first in the 110-meter high hurdles. Bright represented the US in the decathlon at the 1984 and 1988 Olympics and the 1987 World Championships. He won the American national championships in decathlon in 1987. He also became American champion in pole vault in 1991 and 1992 and competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics for Team USA.
Shannon Sullivan, Oregon State school-record holder in the pole vault threw shot that day as well.
“It’ll be a pretty special day on March 23,” Kelly Sullivan said. “It will be huge for our alums, but it’s going to be really cool for the young women and men that compete this spring. March 23 happens to be my birthday, so it will be a really nice birthday present. I’ve got to hope that the track and field gods of weather will be watching over us on both of those meets, too.”
The rest of Oregon State’s 2013 indoor and outdoor track schedule can be viewed here.