Oregon Track Club

A slice of Oregon track history: Sub-4 Reunion

The first thing students do in my “track class,” before they ever show up at Hayward Field or even in the classroom, is to read Tom Jordan’s biography of Steve Prefontaine.

If you’re going to cover the big meets at Hayward — and, for that matter, if you’re any student at the University of Oregon with an interest in sports journalism — you need to know the history of this place. That doesn’t start with Pre, of course, but his story is a gateway into why this place is known as Tracktown USA. And once Pre has grabbed everyone’s attention — that’s not difficult, by the way — we move on to excerpts from Kenny Moore’s Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, which gives a broader picture.

So my students were ready when we learned that the Oregon Track Club was planning a Sub 4 Reunion to honor the 10 runners who broke the 4-minute barrier in the mile while running for Bill Bowerman between 1956 and 1970.

It’s a big track weekend here in Eugene. Before the Prefontaine Classic — the best international track meet in the U.S. (most years), run by Jordan, now the meet director — starts Friday night with its traditional, free Distance Night, OTC will relive a big piece of Oregon track history with its reunion event at the Jaqua Center. You can prep for the reunion by clicking here for brief interviews with nine of the 10 men who broke the 4-minute barrier under Bill Bowerman. My students loved chatting with the athletes. We hope you’ll enjoy these highlights from their interviews.

And feel free to check back here or at our Twitter account. The SOJC Track Bureau will cover the reunion tonight, and we’ll have extensive coverage from the Prefontaine Classic: an individual story on every event, from the Diamond League races to the high-school events. Essentially, this weekend is our final exam. It’s just a fun one.




McNamara satisfied with third place in 5,000–for now

Racing for the first time in seven months, Jordan McNamara simply wanted to feel again. He missed the nerves, he longed for the crowds in the grandstands and he wanted to rub elbows with some of the best distance runners in the country.

But it was the pain, the pain of distance and the pain of losing, which felt the best.

McNamara, a former Oregon All-American and currently a runner for Oregon Track Club, finished third in the 5,000-meter Friday night at the Oregon Relays with a time of 13:57.87. His return to racing also marked his first time competing in the 5,000 since he finished his Oregon career nearly four years ago.

“It’s a different beast,” McNamara said. “But it’s fun to get out there…to just hurt again, it felt good.”

Nike Oregon Project’s Suguru Osako won in 13:45.39, and Canadian runner Luc Bruchet, running for Asics Canada, came in second in 13:49.30. Oregon freshman Tanner Anderson, running unattached, finished fifth in 14:00.37.

McNamara said he had no expectations coming into the race. Before his team heads to train in Flagstaff, Arizona, next week in preparation for the Olympic Trials, he wanted to see where he was at in a competitive setting. A positive effort was the only bar he set for himself.

“Box and check there,” he said.

But as the lap counter started marking down, and the minutes starting added up, McNamara felt the difference between running a mile and running a 5,000.

“It felt about eight laps too long, honestly,” he said. “That was a long one for me.”

Still, McNamara felt that if he could keep the leader within three seconds heading into the final lap, he could catch him. When that time came, McNamara, in no man’s land between the leader and the rest of the pack, saw six seconds separating himself from Osako.

“I looked up and saw that I was a long way from there,” McNamara said.

McNamara shifted his focus to fending off the rest of the runners behind him. He successfully did, finishing a race for which he had no expectations in third.

After the race, McNamara, steam waving off his sweaty head, turned his attention toward training for the Olympic Trials, scheduled for July 1-10 at Hayward Field. He remembered missing out on making the U.S. 1,500 team in 2012 by just over a second and the pain that he felt.

In Flagstaff, where the altitude is almost 7,000 feet, McNamara said he expects his training to increase. Seventy-mile weeks will turn into 90. He plans on doing everything he can to make the Olympics this time around.

“Now it’s time to really turn the screw and take some risks,” he said, “because I either want to be on the team, or it doesn’t really matter.”

“I’m throwing everything into it. All the eggs are going into the basket.”







Mulder’s kick gives him 800-meter win

After four months of rehab, Tyler Mulder of Oregon Track Club Elite opened his 2016 outdoor season with a win in the 800 meters at the Oregon Relays.

Mulder has dealt with hamstring tendinopathy for the past four months, a rare injury found in distance runners. This injury hasn’t stopped him from running completely; it’s just slowed his progress.

Nathan Fleck of High Performance led through the first three quarters of the race, with Mulder trailing by 10 meters. With 150 meters to go, Mulder made his move, easily passing Fleck on the Bowerman curve. Oregon senior Grant Grosvenor went with him. Mulder was able to hold Grosvenor off in the last steps, claiming the victory in 1:50.50.

“It’s not a fast time or anything but most importantly I haven’t really raced much, I’ve been banged up and hurt,” he said. “Which was hard to bounce back from, so coming out here and getting a win is pretty good.”

Mulder said he tried not to think about the fact that he came into the race as the number one seed.

“I tried to come in just thinking of myself as someone who’s getting over rehab and just coming through to be competitive,” he said. “I didn’t want to take the spotlight and charge from the front which is where I feel comfortable. I like a fast pace, but not quite yet.”

Mulder is hoping to hit the 1:46 standard needed to compete in the Olympic Trials later this year.

“I like my situation,” he said. “I’m a bit of an underdog, so no one is probably expecting much of me, and I’m just going to go with that approach.”

He leaves Sunday morning to Flagstaff to join his team for a couple weeks of altitude training before competing again at the Drake Relays later this month.



Pappas wins 5,000 but misses Olympic standard

Olympic hopeful and former Duck Alexi Pappas, who recently announced that she would be using her newly acquired Greek citizenship to compete for Greece, set out to hit the Olympic standard in the 5,000 meters at the Oregon Relays Friday night.

Running the entire last mile alone, she won the race in 15 minutes, 33 seconds, the second fastest 5,000 she has ever run, but still nine seconds short of the Olympic standard.

“You always shoot really high and have high standards for yourself but when you end up running some of the 5k alone it can be really tough to hit those standards,” she said. “I know I have it in me.”

Tara Welling of High Performance West paced Pappas through two miles before dropping out, leaving Pappas to run the last mile by herself.

While she didn’t hit the 15:24 she needed, she is optimistic about the rest of the season.

“A win is not something that was always in the cards for me, so winning and running almost a PR and opening a season like that in an Olympic year is a pretty big W for me,” she said. “It bodes well for the 10K, which is my primary event.”

Pappas is chasing the Olympic standard in both events and will run the 10,000 at the Payton Jordan Invitational next month. Despite having already run the Olympic standard of 32:15 in the 10K, Pappas needs to hit this standard again as a Greek citizen for it to qualify.

“Which is fair and good,” she said. “And I’ll do it.”

Since announcing her Greek citizenship in late February, Pappas has really begun to embrace her Greek heritage.

She recently participated in the Shamrock Shuffle, an 8,000-meter race in Chicago.

“It was so fun because there was this whole big Greek community there I was introduced to,” she said. While at the event Pappas met a little girl and her family who were from Rhodes, Greece, the same island she is from. Because she didn’t have any of her friends or family there, Pappas gave away her elite tent passes to this girl and her family.

“So I spent time with this adorable girl and her family after the race, and that became kind of my extended family there, in that sense I think my community and my reach is expanding already.”

For Pappas, the decision to compete for Greece is about more than just making the Olympics. It’s about competing and proudly representing her home country.

Avila shows recovery with 1,500-meter win

Eric Avila showed he has recovered from a yearlong bout with anemia, winning the men’s 1,500 Friday night at the Oregon Relays.

Avila, who runs for Team Run Eugene, finished in 3 minutes, 43.86 seconds, two seconds ahead of Oregon’s Chris Brewer. Just a year ago, competing at the Mt. SAC Invitational, he had run all-out but barely broke two minutes in the 800. He found out the next day he was anemic.

“Every time I ran over 75 miles a week I was dead,” he said. “I kept telling my coach I can’t believe there are guys running 100-plus mile weeks throughout the year.”

Avila has learned that in order to be at the top of his game, he has to keep a close eye on his iron levels. Now that he is in control of his body and healthy, he can go back to tough training he craves.

Avila is coming off a five-week stint at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona and is still debating whether he wants to focus on the 1,500 or the 5,000 this season. “I feel way more confident in the 5,000 right now,” said Avila. “A 5,000 is coming up in the next month, but I do want to hit the standard in the 1,500.”

The field stayed together for most of the race until Avila made his move.

“It felt fast the whole time, and I was at 200 to go and was waiting for them to just blast it,” he said. “But they never picked it up, so I was like, ‘I guess I’ll go around them.’”

While Avila may have moved down in distance after altitude training, Harun Abda of Oregon Track Club decided to move up before he starts his training in Flagstaff.

“We are in the middle of tough training right now, and I train like a 400-800 guy,” said Abda. “I came out here to have fun, but when you get to the track you are always gonna be competitive.”

Abda finished fourth in 3:45.49, a new personal best. “I ran this for the first time ever two years ago,” he said. “That was also my last time.”

The reason Abda came back to the event is because he believes that racing longer distances sets him up to be a stronger runner when he cuts down to the faster races later in the season.

He will be joining the rest of his teammates in Flagstaff this coming Monday.



Twilight Preview: Catching up with Alexi Pappas

Last weekend, Alexi Pappas ran her first 10,000-meter race at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, California. She also set her first Olympic “A” Standard time, crossing the line in 16th in 32 minutes, 2.22 seconds.

She beat the standard by just under 13 seconds.


Ben Blankenship returns to Eugene a world record holder

Ben Blankenship arrived without fanfare at TrackTown Tuesday in Eugene Tuesday, just days after breaking the world record in the U.S. men’s distance medley relay at the World Relays in the Bahamas. He wasn’t greeted by crowds or loud cheers, but was able to slip into the room while shaking hands with friends and acquaintances who congratulated him on the accomplishment. Except for the long hair protruding from under his baseball hat, he blended into the crowd.


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