Hayward Field’s Grand Reopening Is Friday, And a Ton of NCAA Stars Will Be Racing
By Jonathan Gault
April 1, 2021
When the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field reopens on Friday with the Hayward Premiere meet, 1,028 days will have passed since it last hosted a track meet.
Back then, on June 9, 2018, the marathon world record was 2:02:57, the Nike Oregon Project still existed, Donald Trump had zero impeachments, and we were still 18 months away from learning the word “coronavirus.” It has been a minute.
Do you remember the final race before Phil Knight‘s bulldozers razed old Hayward to the ground? It was pretty good:
With an estimated cost of $270 million, “new” Hayward is easily the most expensive track & field-specific facility ever built in the United States and immediately becomes the center of the American track & field universe: over the next 16 months, the stadium will host two NCAA championships, the US Olympic Trials, and the 2022 World Championships. Based on everything we’ve seen, it should be a fitting home (if you haven’t already, check out the Hayward Field website, which has tons of info and cool photos of the rebuild).
On Friday, track is finally back in Eugene. And it should be quite a meet. Some of the country’s top distance programs — BYU, Arkansas, Iowa State — are sending athletes to compete at the Hayward Premiere, and of course the host Ducks will be racing some stars of their own. Between Oregon’s Cole Hocker, BYU’s Courtney Wayment and Conner Mantz, and Iowa State’s Wesley Kiptoo and Edwin Kurgat, no less than five NCAA individual champions will get to test out the new track.
The Hayward Premiere is the first of four regular-season home meets at Hayward in 2021, followed by the West Coast Classic (April 17), Oregon Relays (April 23-24), and Oregon Twilight (May 7) before the stadium hosts NCAAs (June 9-12), the Olympic Trials (June 18-27), and Prefontaine Classic (August 21).
Meet details and preview below.
What: Hayward Premiere
When: Friday, April 2 – Saturday, April 3
Where: Hayward Field, Eugene, Ore.
How to watch: The meet will be streamed live for free by RunnerSpace. Running events start at 8:30 p.m. ET on Friday and 4:05 p.m. ET on Saturday.
How does the new stadium look? And is it fast?
To say we at LetsRun.com are excited about the new Hayward Field is an understatement. There was no better place in America to watch a track meet than the old stadium, and while we are firm believers that not every single big meet should be in Eugene, it was distinctly weird not having any meets there the past two years. The new stadium may lack the character of “historic” Hayward Field, but from the wooden roof beams to the
Bowerman Tower, it already sports an iconic look. After sitting empty for months — outside of UO practices — it will be great to see Hayward Field doing what it was built for: hosting meets.
And the good news is that some fans and media will be there in person. Under Oregon’s current athletics guidelines, a limited number of family and guests of coaches and athletes are allowed at the meet. Obviously, it would have been nice to open up the new Hayward with a full house, but this is better than totally empty stands. And the fact that Oregon got permission from the state and county to host four regular-season meets with spectators is a step in the right direction toward an Olympic Trials with fans (how many will be allowed in June remains to be seen).
As for the second question — is the new track fast? — we assume the answer has to be yes if they spent $200+ million on it and we imagine we’ll find out this soon. While this will be the outdoor opener for the athletes, the story of Covid-19 and the super spike ear is that no one seems to wait to run fast anymore. People want to get fast marks up ASAP in case of a Covid-19 delay.
The weather looks decent (high of 61 in Eugene on Friday, 64 on Saturday, and no rain) and the fields are full of quality so it will be interesting to see what type of marks are put up.
And will the infamous headwind still blow on the backstraight?
Races to watch
Women’s 1500 (Friday, 10:40 p.m. ET)
This race features a rematch from the anchor leg of the NCAA DMR three weeks ago, with BYU’s Courtney Wayment taking on Arkansas’ Krissy Gear. Wayment won that matchup, splitting 4:32 to Gear’s 4:37 to run away with the title for the Cougars, but she had the advantage of running fresh while Gear already had a mile prelim in her legs. Can Gear, who bounced back to take second in the NCAA mile final the next day, gain a measure of revenge on Wayment? Also keep an eye on BYU’s Anna Camp, who didn’t run indoors but finished 11th at NCAA XC, the top runner on the Cougars’ title team.
Men’s 1500 (Friday, 10:50 p.m. ET)
New rule in 2021: if Cole Hocker is racing somewhere — anywhere — then it’s a big deal. And despite his clear value as a professional prospect, Hocker has decided — at least for now — to continue representing Oregon and will run his first outdoor race of 2021 in the 1500 on Friday. With his teammate, NCAA mile record holder Cooper Teare, also entered, along with 3:55 miler Lucas Bons of BYU, it should be a fast race.
Incredibly, this will be the first 1500-meter race of Cole Hocker’s life. It’s pretty rare for someone to go from never competing in an event to making the Olympic team in the span of three months, but it’s not unprecedented. I remember watching a young Evan Jager run the first steeplechase of his life at the 2012 Mt. SAC Relays before going on to win the Olympic Trials barely two months later. Hmmm…long, light brown hair? Midwest-raised before moving to train in Oregon? They’re practically doppelgangers.
Obviously, it’s a little disingenuous to say Hocker has never raced a 1500 — he split 3:35.63 for that distance en route to his 3:50.55 mile in February — but I’m still excited to see how he runs on Friday. After their fast indoor miles, the collegiate 1500 record of 3:34.72 looms as an obvious target this season for Hocker and Teare (conveniently, it would also allow them to knock out the Olympic standard of 3:35.00). But while both men are obviously very fit, that’s an aggressive goal for an early-season race.
Oregon distance coach Ben Thomas told LetsRun there are no plans to chase an Olympic qualifier on Friday and the plan for his guys is “just racing.” Given the talent assembled, however, it could take a time in the mid-3:30s to win, especially since BYU coach Ed Eyestone told LetsRun that Thomas assured him the race will be rabbitted to give athletes a shot at the Olympic Trials standard of 3:37.50.
Women’s 5,000 (11:00 p.m. ET)
Weber State’s Summer Allen (7th NCAA XC) and BYU’s Whittni Orton (17th NCAA XC, 8:49 3k) figure to lead the way in this one.
Men’s 5,000 (11:20 p.m. ET)
Remember when BYU’s Conner Mantz, Casey Clinger, and Brandon Garnica all broke 13:30 in the same race at the UW Invite back on February 12? The goal here is to do that again, only slightly faster — Mantz won that race in 13:28.00, and the target this time around is the Olympic Trials standard of 13:25.00. That seems attainable, weather permitting.
And don’t discount the Buffaloes. Colorado’s Eduardo Herrera is coming off a stinker at NCAA XC (107th), but he beat a good field to win the Pac-12 XC champs on March 5 and will be out for revenge. And John Dressel, a two-time top-10 finisher at NCAA XC who didn’t have any XC eligibility this winter, will be looking to lower his 13:41 pb in his first track season since 2019.
Women’s 10,000 (11:40 p.m. ET)
There are a bunch of women in here who will be seeking NCAA regional qualifiers, including Arkansas’ Katie Izzo (4th NCAA 3k), Oregon’s Carmela Cardama Baez (2nd ’19 NCAA 10,000), Big 12 XC champ Cailie Logue of Iowa State, and BYU’s Aubrey Frentheway (15th NCAA XC).
Men’s 10,000 (12:20 a.m. ET)
To be honest, I don’t blame any East Coasters who choose to go to sleep rather than stay up until almost 1 a.m. watching a bunch of college kids chase a regional qualifier. But the night owls who choose to watch could be rewarded, because you never know what will happen when Iowa State’s Wesley Kiptoo is in the field. Will he take the field out in 60 for the first lap? 4:00 for the first mile? I’d believe anything at this point.
Plus we get our first real look at Kiptoo’s Cyclone teammate Edwin Kurgat, the 2019 NCAA XC champ. Kurgat didn’t have any XC or indoor eligibility, meaning his season opener at the Longhorn Invitational back on March 6 (3:48 1500) was his first race in over a year. But he’s a serious talent, and Friday will be our first chance to see how he stacks up against his NCAA champion teammate Kiptoo. They’ll face Tulsa duo Patrick Dever (5th NCAA XC) and Peter Lynch (12th NCAA XC).
Social media beef lovers may also be interested to know that Oregon’s Carter Christman (“@mgcentro your move”) is entered here.