The kids – the next generation – are coming to town.
And they’re a sight to behold. Sprinters, jumpers, throwers and record holders with Olympic pedigree dazzled in Eugene on the Hayward Field venue on the University of Oregon campus over the weekend to cap the collegiate season.
Now the NCAA Track & Field Championships are handing a collective baton to the U.S. Track & Field Championships that run June 22-25 at Sacramento State, the momentum leading to August’s IAAF World Championships in London.
The unique aspect of this sport is spectators can pick and choose events and athletes to follow.
“Anyone who goes really fast, or really high, or really far, that’s the fun of it,” U.S. Track coach Vin Lananna said. “That’s a fundamental people can relate to. I find as much interest in the pole vault, the hammer, the 100 or the 1,500, and we have a sport that lends it self to all of those metrics as long as we put those athletes in a great platform where spectators can see and understand.”
Hornet Stadium has fit and passed the bill before, hosting the U.S. Olympic Trials in 2000 and 2004 with record crowds, and the USA Championships three years ago. A good showing – and large crowds – will surely boost Sacramento’s cause for a board meeting on June 25 when U.S. Track & Field officials decide which city will host the 2020 Olympic Trials – Eugene, Sacramento or Walnut in Los Angeles County.
Sacramento has history on its side, too, having hosted some epic meets big on speed. Including:
▪ Tommie Smith setting the world record in the 220-yard dash in 1966 at Hughes Stadium in 20-seconds flat.
▪ In what is known as the “Night of Speed,” the world record of 10.0 in the 100 was broken by three men and tied by seven others at Hughes Stadium in 1968. Jim Hines, Ronnie Ray Smith and Charlie Greene each clocked wind-legal 9.9 efforts.
▪ Carl Lewis won his first national championship in the 100 in 1981 at Hughes Stadium, a springboard to winning nine Olympic gold medals.
▪ Michael Johnson in 1995 pulled the rare double in winning the 200 and 400 in the U.S. Championships, repeating in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
A closer look at athletes who sparkled in cold, often rainy conditions in Eugene last weekend as they cruise into the welcomed heat and stillness of Sacramento:
▪ Christian Coleman – The Tennessee junior joined select company when he became the second man to win the indoor-outdoor sprint double (the 60 and 200 meters inside, the 100 and 200 outside), joining his idol and friend, Justin Gatlin, an Olympic gold medalist whom Coleman will compete against in Sacramento. Coleman is the world leader this season the 100 after uncorking a 9.82-second effort in a semifinal heat on Wednesday.
“I have the confidence that I can be the best-of in any stage,” he said. “I had the same level of confidence last week as I do now going into the USA meet.”
▪ Fred Kerley – The Texas A&M senior blazed to a collegiate record 43.70 in the 400 last month, and he won the NCAA title on Friday with a 44.10 effort, the fourth fastest collegiate time ever.
▪ Kyra Jefferson – The Florida senior clocked an NCAA-record 22.02 to win the 200 on Saturday, the fourth fastest time in the world this year. Deajah Stevens of Oregon has gone 22.09 this year and will also be in Sacramento.
▪ Raevyn Rogers – The Oregon junior is the three-time defending outdoor champion in the women’s 800, and her seasonal best of 1 minute, 59.1 seconds makes her the second fastest in the U.S. this year.
▪ Danniel Thomas – The Kent State senior won the women’s shot put with a 62-feet, 10-inch effort, good for the fourth best mark in the world this year and the second best put in collegiate history.