With Hayward Field Set to Be Demolished, Pros Alan Webb, Matthew Centrowitz, Nick Symmonds, Christian Coleman, and Jenny Simpson Recall Their Favorite Races at Hayward
By Jonathan Gault
June 2, 2018
The University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, as you have surely heard by now, will likely be torn down later this year and rebuilt in order to host the 2021 IAAF World Championships. The stadium, which was built in 1919, has hosted track meets since 1921, including 15 NCAA championships, seven USATF Outdoor Championships, six U.S. Olympic Trials, and the 2014 World Junior Championships, in addition to the annual Prefontaine Classic and the Oregon high school state meet.
Almost every significant American runner of the past 40 years has competed at Hayward Field, as well as many top international runners (one who notably did not: the PUMA-sponsored Usain Bolt). Indeed, scroll through the Hayward Field record book and you’ll find Olympic champions everywhere you look — Michael Johnson in the 400 (43.74), Eliud Kipchoge in the 3,000 (7:35.55), Mo Farah in the 5,000 (12:56.98), and Kenenisa Bekele in the 10,000 (26:25.97), just to name a few.
With just one meet remaining before this version Hayward is scheduled to be knocked down forever — this week’s NCAA championships — I thought it might be fun to ask a few of America’s biggest recent stars to share their Hayward Field memories. Below you’ll see what they had to say.
Editor’s note: Old timers, we know you may be cringing a little as all of the pros listed below are from the post-2000 era but that’s only fitting as Hayward has really been dominating the US scene of late, hosting 6 of the last 10 US Champs counting the Olympic Trials, and 6 straight NCAA champs if you count this year. If you are an old-time legend and have a favorite Hayward Field memory you want to share with us, email Jonathan and we’ll publish it.
Alan Webb: 2001 Prefontaine Classic, Bowerman Mile
“My favorite race that I ran in at the Pre Classic was the mile in 2001 when I broke Jim Ryun‘s high school record.
“There was no other time in my career when I was on or below my personal-best pace and had that much command and gas left in the tank to kick. The final lap I felt like a boxer whose opponent was mysteriously handcuffed and I was allowed to throw punches with as much power as I so chose. I threw punches and hit hard.
“Everything about that day was amazing. Even though I didn’t win, I was allowed to take a victory lap with [Hicham] El Guerrouj, the world record holder. The Hayward crowd made it that much more special when I got [to] give the front-row high-fives on the way down the east grandstand. I remember touching the wood and thinking how many great runners had run past. The direction of my life was changed by that race. Hayward Field is a special place.”
Results – Bowerman Mile, May 27, 2001
1 Hicham El Guerrouj MAR 14 Sep 74 3:49.92
2 Kevin Sullivan CAN 20 Mar 74 3:51.82
3 Bernard Lagat KEN 12 Dec 74 3:53.14
4 Adil Kaouch MAR 1 Jan 79 3:53.40
5 Alan Webb USA 13 Jan 83 3:53.43
6 Hudson de Souza BRA 25 Feb 77 3:54.39
7 Graham Hood CAN 2 Apr 72 3:54.62
8 Bryan Berryhill USA 15 Dec 77 3:55.01
9 Youssef Baba MAR 7 Aug 79 3:55.10
10 Raymond Yator KEN 7 Apr 81 3:55.12
11 Martin Keino KEN 20 Jun 72 3:56.87
12 Daniel Zegeye ETH 13 Mar 79 3:57.92
13 Ibrahim Aden USA 11 Nov 72 4:01.27
Nick Symmonds: 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials, men’s 800 meters
“My favorite memory from Hayward Field is crossing the finish line at the 2008 Olympic Trials. I ran faster on Hayward Field and won other races there against tougher fields, but nothing compares with making your first Olympic Team. I had made so many sacrifices for that moment and had to overcome so many obstacles, both physically and emotionally, in order to make that dream a reality. Add to that, the fact that I was able to do it in front of my friends and family in my hometown of Eugene. Of course, the icing on the cake was that my Oregon-based buddies Andrew Wheating and Christian Smith also made the team that evening. Add it all up and that was my favorite race of my entire career, not just my favorite race at Hayward. It will be an emotional day when they begin demolition on Hayward Field.”
Results – U.S. Olympic Trials, men’s 800, June 30, 2008
1 Nicholas Symmonds OTC/Nike 1:44.10 2 Andrew Wheating Oregon 1:45.03 3 Christian Smith OTC/Nike 1:45.47 4 Khadevis Robinson Nike 1:45.53 5 Lopez Lomong Nike 1:45.58 6 Duane Solomon U S C 1:45.78 7 Jebreh Harris Reebok 1:46.21 8 Jonathan Johnson Reebok 1:48.11
Jenny Simpson: 2009 Prefontaine Classic, women’s 1500
Simpson, then a 22-year-old collegian at the University of Colorado known as Jenny Barringer (her maiden name), smashed the collegiate record by over six seconds and in the process became just the third American woman to break 4:00.
“There’s no contest. It would be the 1500 meters in 2009. I was little punk college kid in with all the pros. The meet organizers here had no reason to accept me in the field and they graciously allowed me to give it a go. And I have that to thank for a lot of my 1500-meter future. I have a lot of good memories here.”
Results – Prefontaine Classic women’s 1500, June 7, 2009
1 Gelete Burka ETH 23 Jan 86 3:59.89
2 Jenny Simpson USA 23 Aug 86 3:59.90
3 Anna Willard USA 31 Mar 84 4:01.44
4 Christin Wurth-Thomas USA 11 Jul 80 4:01.72
5 Shannon Rowbury USA 19 Sep 84 4:03.92
6 Nuria Fernández ESP 16 Aug 76 4:04.75
7 Nancy Langat KEN 22 Aug 81 4:05.05
8 Meskerem Assefa ETH 20 Sep 85 4:05.99
9 Erin Donohue USA 8 May 83 4:06.70
10 Shalane Flanagan USA 8 Jul 81 4:06.91
11 Treniere Moser USA 27 Oct 81 4:10.73
12 Shayne Culpepper USA 3 Dec 73 4:15.18
Matthew Centrowitz: 2011 USATF Outdoor Championships, men’s 1500
“I’m gonna stick with the 2011 U.S. champs. I was still competing for Oregon. That was my first U.S. championship win and I just had everyone here, like my family, friends, watching, obviously, [in] the stands.
“Believe it or not, after that race, that was the first night I ever went out in Eugene, like, partying. I was a young kid and partying, going out wasn’t my scene in college. I remember the next morning — I was on Luke Puskedra’s shoulders at one point in the night, this and that — and I remember asking guys who had gone out before me and the guys on the team, I was like, ‘Is going out always that fun?’ And they’re like, ‘Absolutely not.’ And I was like, okay, good. Because I felt like I would have missed a lot of my college experience.
“So that whole win was probably my favorite, I would say, at Hayward Field. And Bernard Lagat got second that year and he was obviously an inspiration for me growing up, so to take down one of your idols was that much more meaningful of a win.”
Results – USATF Outdoor Championships, men’s 1500, June 25, 2011
1 Matthew Centrowitz Oregon 3:47.63
2 Bernard Lagat Nike 3:47.96
3 Leonel Manzano Nike 3:48.16
4 Andrew Wheating Oregon TC Elite 3:48.19
5 William Leer Nike 3:48.20
6 David Torrence Nike 3:48.31
7 Lopez Lomong Nike 3:48.54
8 Dorian Ulrey Arkansas 3:49.02
9 Kyle Miller Nike 3:49.38
10 Jordan McNamara Oregon TC Elite 3:49.61
11 AJ Acosta Oregon 3:50.02
12 Evan Jager Oregon TC Elite 3:50.11
13 Michael Hammond Virginia Tech 3:55.69
Evan Jager: 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials, men’s steeplechase
Jager, then 23, ran the first steeple of his life on April 19, 2012. Just two months later, he was running the event at the Olympic Trials, bidding for his first U.S. title and Olympic berth.
“[The] steeple was still so new to me. It was just a really cool experience. One, obviously becoming an Olympian for the first time, realizing a lifetime goal, but also doing it in an event that was still so new to me. I had a lot of questions of how the race was going to go. I knew that I had run pretty well the first two races, but I still didn’t really know how to run the event and I wasn’t sure that I was going to make the team. So winning and making the team was the big stamp, that I had to put on the event to really know that I was going to stick with it.”
Results – U.S. Olympic Trials, men’s steeplechase, June 28, 2012
|1||Evan Jager||Nike / Oregon TC Elite||8:17.40|
|4||Donald Cowart||Ragged Mountain Racing||8:27.49|
|5||Benjamin Bruce||adidas/McMillan Elite||8:29.61|
|6||Max King||Central Oregon Running Klub||8:30.54|
|8||William Nelson||New Balance||8:32.21|
|9||Cory Leslie||Ohio State||8:33.94|
|12||Joshua McAdams||New Balance||8:41.10|
|14||David Adams||Team Nebraska||8:48.83|
Christian Coleman: 2017 NCAA Championships, men’s 100
Coleman had a historic 2017 NCAA championships. In the prelims on Wednesday, he destroyed Ngoni Makusha‘s collegiate record of 9.89 seconds by running 9.82 — a time that vaulted him into the top-10 all-time. Two days later, he won the 100 and doubled back 45 minutes later to win the 200 as well. But it’s the 100 — Coleman’s first NCAA outdoor title — that stands out to him.
“I’ve had some really great races here. I made an Olympic team here on this track, collegiate record on the track, national title. I can’t really pick a specific race. I guess probably winning the 100 national title. That was just something I’ve always worked for and dreamed about, coming out and winning nationals. You want to be the best in college. That was a pretty historic meet for me, so yeah, I’d have to say that race.”
Results – NCAA Outdoor Championships, June 9, 2017
Wind: -2.1 m/s
|3||Christopher BELCHER||SR||N. Carolina A&T||10.19||-2.1|
|5||Jaylen BACON||JR||Arkansas State||10.25||-2.1|
So the pros have shared their favorite Hayward Field memory. Now it’s your turn. MB: What was your favorite race at Hayward Field? The top pros share their favorite Hayward field memories
Additional reporting by Jake Willard (Simpson quote)