By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2014 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
EUGENE, OREGON (22-Jul) — The last time an IAAF World Championships was held in the United States, Boyz II Men and Sir Mix-a-Lot topped the Billboard charts, Shaquille O’Neal was the NBA rookie of the year, and “Home Alone 2” had just been released in theaters.
Those championships, the 1992 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, were held in Boston’s Franklin Park, where American distance running legend Lynn Jennings had won her third consecutive title.
Since then, IAAF executives have lamented that no global championships –with the exception of the 1996 Olympics, which is not an IAAF meet– have been held in the country which produces the most world championships medalists. That all changed when a bid for the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships presented by TrackTown USA was accepted by the IAAF. Those championships, open here today at historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, America’s #1 track temple.
“I was not sure if during my tenure if I would see a championships in the United States,” IAAF president Lamine Diack told reporters here yesterday. The 81 year-old athletics executive from Senegal is serving in his final term as head of the IAAF.
The man responsible for bringing these championships to Oregon is former University of Oregon assistant athletic director and athletics coach, Vin Lananna, who heads-up the local organizing committee through his TrackTown USA organization. Lananna told reporters yesterday that hosting the World Junior Championships “made the most sense” based on the size of Hayward Field and the university setting in this city of about 156,000 people.
“Thanks for your leadership in bringing these championships to Oregon,” Lananna told Diack at a press conference here yesterday. He continued: “(We have) the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in America.”
Lananna’s street cred was a big factor in Eugene’s winning bid. Diack knew Lananna as an excellent university coach at both Stanford and Oregon and one of the biggest boosters of the sport in the United States. He also knew of the repeated successes of the Prefontaine Classic Diamond League meeting, and USA, NCAA and Olympic Trials meets which have also been held at Hayward. When Lananna spoke of Eugene’s interest, Diack listened.
“Vin is a man from track and field,” Diack said. He added, “We were very open to a bid. We knew the man.”
These championships, which feature 970 young men and 710 young women from over 200 countries, will be “a stepping stone for younger athletes,” Diack asserted. He also said that he expected the level of the organization for these championships to be top notch.
“We promised them we would deliver a heck of a championships,” Lananna said adding, “That’s a lot of pressure, President Diack.”
LetsRun.com Note: One thing not mentioned is how the meet is also a big win for the recruiting efforts of the University of Oregon. It enables them to get virtually every top junior track and field athlete on to their campus for free.