I’m a big fan of the Oregon ‘O’ logo, for a lot of (mostly) obvious reasons. In particular, I dig that it’s not just any old ‘O’ but that some thought went into the design. You know, how the outside of the logo represents Autzen Stadium and that the inside represents Hayward Field. It’s fitting that Hayward gets the inner ring, because that venerable, iconic venue truly is the heart of University of Oregon athletics.
Oh sure, the flashy football team gets most of the headlines. But let’s be honest, almost all of the best things to happen at Autzen have happened within the last 20 years. And before Kenny Wheaton took off for the west end zone in October of 1994, the most talked-about game in its history was a scoreless tie in the 1983 Civil War.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’d rather have a dismal past than a boring present and a nothing-to-be-excited-about future. If you spend all of your time referencing the past, you’re probably a fan of a mediocre football team.
So to find the folklore and history of Oregon worth talking about at any length, one simply must go to Hayward Field. It’s the only athletic venue at the U of O where the past is rich in tradition and the present is, to be blunt, kicking butt and taking names.
On Sunday, the Oregon Ducks swept the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field for the fourth consecutive year. The men have now won six straight conference titles, the women four. Oregon is now the only school in conference history to sweep this meet four straight times.
And they didn’t just win, they dominated.
The women scored a whopping 200.5 points and beat second-place Stanford by an eye-popping 77-point margin. The men outpaced pre-meet favorite Arizona State by 23.5. It was the kind of beatdown we’ve grown used to seeing on Saturdays in the fall across the river at Autzen.
Like Autzen, Hayward is loud, and the fans make a difference. Laura Roesler, who led a 1-2-3 Oregon finish in the 800 knew she was in a close race because “The crowd was just going crazy.” Roesler added “I ran in form and heard the crowd and they carried me through the end.”
Elijah Greer won the men’s 800 by just over a tenth-of-a-second, thanks to the Hayward faithful. “I heard the crowd roaring. It was like, there is no way I am going to lose this. For the fans, I wanted to give a show and work hard.”
Lauryn Newson, who scored more points than anybody, talked about soaking in everything during her last meet at Hayward as an Oregon Duck. And why not? It has to be an amazing feeling to know that you didn’t just succeed, but that you added your name to the list of special performances at a special place.
The old stadium has seen a lot during its 93 years. Pre and Bowerman. The birth of Nike. Countless Olympians. It’s a place rich in history and steeped in tradition. But as the Ducks showed us on Sunday with their unprecedented four-peat, the present is spectacular, too.