As the sun set Friday over Hayward Field, and a perfect spring day slowly turned into the twilight of night, 19 seniors of the track and field team made their way onto the track for a sendoff ceremony. After being introduced, each senior received a yellow flower from head coach Robert Johnson, as the crowd cheered vehemently, saying goodbye to a stellar group who contributed to four NCAA team titles, six PAC-10/12 team crowns, and garnered an incredible 47 All-American certificates.
As I stood watching, it occurred to me that, for these stellar athletes, “this is it.” Once the season is over they will no longer be in the spotlight of a premier team, but will more or less slip into the twilight of obscurity. Think about it. Track and field has no major professional league filled with teams on which they can continue competing. Yes, there are a few elite squads and major events for them, but Olympics aside, the average Oregon fan will probably never hear of most of these amazing athletes again. It’s a perplexing, and very real phenomenon in which, for example, we follow an above-average Oregon defensive end in the NFL, yet will largely forget about a runner like Jordan Hasay, a two-time NCAA champion, 17-time All-American, and (oh yes) the most decorated runner in school history.
The Oregon Twilight – both the event and its name - meant more than simply a meet that carried on into the night. It recognized and celebrated the enduring passion of continuously pushing toward uncharted heights, a challenge to all who step onto the track, or throw or leap over the field. It perfectly represented the closing of 19 bright collegiate careers, and, for some, their ascension into the uncertain, largely overlooked realm of professional track and field. Yet, although it is certainly dusk for these highly decorated seniors, there remains a challenge of unvanquished light in their collegiate careers – post season competition.