Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vicki Huber on the Magic of Hayward Field

Hayward, the home of track
Vicki Huber Rudawsky
Delaware Online
July 17, 2012

Sixteen years ago, the adventure began with one phone call.

My friend Kris, who I had become close to while living in Eugene, Ore., made the long-distance call to Delaware to urge me to return to Eugene in preparation for the 1996 Olympic Trials.

The only problem was that my daughter was only 6 months old at the time, and while I had returned to training, I desperately needed my parents’ help to do so.

Kris didn’t miss a beat. “You need to come back to Eugene,” she said. “Come live with us [her husband and three daughters], and I’ll be your nanny for a year.”

Although I had lived in Eugene for two years previously, those two years were a tough time in my life – a time when training was not a priority. I had made some contacts, met with Coach Dick Brown and knew most of the runners who lived in town, but I stayed away from the track.

I decided to take Kris up on her offer, and my parents tearfully sent their daughter and 8-month-old granddaughter across the country, praying that we would be taken care of.

I felt the magic of Hayward Field instantly. My first workout with my new training group was a 4-mile tempo run on the track, which I breezed through in a pace that surprised not only me, but Brown and everyone on the track that day.

Hayward Field is the home track of the University of Oregon, but it also has been the heart of U.S. track and field for many years.

It has hosted some of the most amazing showdowns in track history, as well as countless NCAA Championships and Olympic Trials.

The people of Eugene are truly avid track fans, and on any given evening a random track event will bring hundreds out to fill the stands.

When it was time for Alyssa and me to return to Delaware, it was with a heavy heart. It was the right thing to do, but we were leaving people who had become family.

In 2008, Eugene was host to the track and field Olympic Trials, and I had the wonderful opportunity to travel there for work. Rudy and I decided that we should make it a family trip, to visit Kris and her family as well as try to take in some of the festivities of the Trials. It was so good to be back, despite the changes to Hayward Field.

The track, which used to be open to anyone and everyone, is now surrounded by walls, which are padlocked most of the time. Where there once could be an older person strolling around the track for exercise at the same time five Olympians were doing a time trial, I imagine the track is now used only by select groups.

Regardless of the changes, the magic of Hayward Field never fades. Being at the Trials in 2008, in and around Hayward Field surrounded by thousands of track fans, we were giddy with excitement. When three Oregon men qualified for the 800 meters, we cried along with the crowd. Even with no tickets to get into the stadium, we watched the events on huge TV screens right next to the stadium. We left there knowing that we would be back in four years.

On June 20, we headed back to Eugene. We were so excited to visit Kris and the family, as well as watch the trials.

This time, we had tickets for every day of the meet and Alyssa could not wait to tackle Pre’s Trail. Only at Hayward Field would the stands remain packed for two 10,000-meter races in the pouring rain. Only at Hayward Field would you run into Mary Slaney and Al Joyner on the way back to your car. Only in Eugene would you run past Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan on an early Sunday morning run on Pre’s Trail.

Yes, the runners from Oregon definitely have an advantage being the hometown favorites.

However, each and every athlete shares in the energy of Hayward Field. Each runner, thrower and jumper is cheered on to success and personal bests. The Olympic Trials, when in Eugene, are just plain magical.

Vicki Huber Rudawsky won 8 individual NCAA championships and 7 Penn Relays watches while running for Villanova from 1985 to 1989. During her collegiate career, she set an NCAA record in the 3000 meters. She represented the USA at both the 1988 and 1996 Olympics.

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