Track Town USA: The Legacy Of Hayward Field Lives On

Kerry Merrill FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

Located on the University of Oregon’s Eugene campus, Hayward Field is one of the world’s most famous track-and-field-only facilities.  But before Hayward Field was the fan-filled, legendary home of insanely talented track and field athletes, it was a small, quarter mile dirt track named Kincaid Field.  The track itself actually dates all the way back to 1895 when the University of Oregon had a student body of 353.  But enough about the history of the field itself — let’s get into just how Hayward was dubbed the nation’s most important track and field stadium.

Track Town USA’s reputation first started in 1900 when the University of Oregon Ducks began to compete in dual meets against other regional universities. In their first nine years the Ducks’ track and field team pulled off a 13-3 record, including undefeated seasons from 1906-1909.

U of O dominating at last years NCAA Championship

Gary Breedlove

U of O dominating at last year’s NCAA Championship

Due to the Ducks’ track and field’s growing team in the late 1800s to early 1900s, what used to be known as Kincaid Field was upgraded in 1904.  The field was improved to facilitate Eugene’s wonderful, consistent, reliable weather! (Sarcasm intended.)  The upgrade was to help the athletes not only for practices but also for meets.  By 1912 the University of Oregon’s track and field team became larger than what the field could offer the athletes. So, the university had to figure out a plan for expansion. This expansion was not just for the track and field athletes, but it was also for the football team!

The transition from the name Kincaid to Hayward Field was decided after the legendary track-and-field coach for the Oregon Ducks, Bill Hayward, made his impact on the country. Coach Hayward guided the Ducks toward massive success and history from 1904-1947.

Believe it or not, Hayward Field at one point in time was a facility for both track and field athletes and football athletes. Therefore, the new expansion in 1919 was to accommodate a field for the football team to use as well.  Later, a six-lane cinder track was added around the football field. Luckily, Autzen Stadium was built for Ducks football in 1967 and Hayward Field finally became a track only venue!  GO DUCKS!

All right, now here is where Hayward Field gets to really brag.  Eugene has hosted the Olympic Track and Field trials on Hayward Field not only in 1972, but also in ’76, ’80, ’08. and ’12!  In addition, Hayward Field brings the world’s finest track and field athletes here for the beloved Prefontaine Classic every year.  To add to all of that, Hayward Field has hosted multiple NCAA Track and Field Championships and the Ducks have won immense amounts of individual championships with their own hometown runners.  If that is not impressive, I do not know what is.

U of O's Mike Berry at 2013 NCAA Track and Field Championship

Gary Breedlove

U of O’s Mike Berry at 2013 NCAA Track and Field Championship

Hayward Field has had an amazing history over the years and has continued to live up to its status as the centerpiece for Track Town USA. This past week, the U of O’s track and field team nailed a total of 39 spots in the NCAA Western Prelims and will be going to the upcoming NCAA Championships that will (wait for it) be held once again at Hayward Field!

Overall, I think it is safe to say that Hayward Field has brought honor and tradition to the City of Eugene, while the Oregon track and field supporters in Eugene have done the same for her. With her rich history, respectful tradition, as well as blood, sweat and tears, Hayward Field the dedicated athletes and supportive fans have helped built up Hayward Field to what she is today. It will be exciting to see how well the Ducks do once again in the NCAA Championships!

 

Top photo by Gary Breedlove

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