Hayward Field

No other stadium in the United States has seen more high-level dual meets than Hayward Field. It first hosted a meet in 1921 and has been in use ever since, making 2012 its 92nd season of competition.

Until the late 1980s, dual meets dominated the schedules of teams in the Pacific-10 Conference (and its forerunners, the Pac-8 and Pacific Coast Conference). Oregon’s annual rivalries were with Oregon State, Washington and Washington State, and there were always other foes as well. Fans could expect to see three or four home meets a year.

Oregon has kept that history alive through its annual Pepsi Team Invitational, a quad meet that brings in a Pacific Northwest rival and two other national powers. A brief revival of the Oregon-UCLA dual meet series also took place, one that may return again. And in 2013, Oregon will take on Arkansas in the middle of its sprawling multi-day Oregon Relays invitational.

It’s not just the competitions, but the spirit.

Former UCLA head coach Art Venegas, when the UCLA-Oregon series restarted in 2008:

I remember back in 1984 walking in the rain from the hotel to the track, and the Oregon fans were out there giving us the business. I remember thinking, ‘OK, this is cool. This is showtime.’

Track and Field News’ Managing Editor, Garry Hill:

My whole perception of track & field changed the afternoon I first walked into Hayward Field on a Friday in April of ‘68. The Washington State-Oregon dual wasn’t until the next day, but this was our window for a practice session. And there were probably a couple of hundred people in the stands, just eager to watch. Like 99% of the others in collegiate track, I had come up through the ranks where a high school stadium may have no stands, or at best bleachers on one side. And my collegiate experience to that point had been that the track surrounded the football field and there were always acres of empty stands because even a crowd of a few thousand would be swallowed up.

It was, in short, a sport contested in a vacuum.

This was the old Hayward Field, where the West Grandstand hadn’t yet been rebuilt, so it was a twin to the still-standing East, with inspired by the Wrigley Field school of architecture. And in those days, when the track had long straightaways and very tight curves, th East stand was some 30-feet closer to the West. So it was a bandbox. Think of how the sound reverberates from one side to another today and multiply it by some.

When the day of the meet came, I was treated to reading the Eugene Register-Guard for the first time. Wait a minute! In addition to multiple feature stories, there’s an event-by-event analysis of the meet, listing all the dramatis personae?

At the track my recollection is a full house, but I suspect that’s just time talking, and the backstretch was fairly sparse.

It didn’t take long to feel like an enemy of the people. In every other collegiate dual I had ever been in, the crowd was certainly partisan to the home team, but the sound/mood was more like applauding at a concert. But as soon as the first gun went off I felt like I was back playing basketball. The crowd was, wow, INTO IT! And in a partisan way. I was particularly struck on my first long jump attempt when I blew my step and simultaneously forget everything I had ever known about taking off and landing. I did some weird degree-of-difficult 9.9 twisting and turning and get absolutely hooted at by the crowd.

As I recall, the score went back and forth, rarely more than a couple of points apart until late in the meet. It didn’t matter, but we got screwed late in the meet when one of our 200 guys was ignored, even though he had finished high. In those days, lane 8 was right up against a high wall, and he had been running there and the judges just didn’t see him (at least that was their story, and they were sticking to it). John Chaplin went batshit.

When Arne Kvalheim upset an under-the-weather Gerry Lindgren in the 2-mile in Collegiate Record time, the roof came off the place.

But that was small consolation for the Ducks because we already had the meet in hand. Of all the duals I was ever in, none felt so much like a team-game victory. It felt sooo good to shut the crowd up.

Oh yeah, and I got extra satisfaction by scoring a point in the triple jump, beating two Oregon guys the ERG had picked ahead of me. In fact, so far off their radar was I, my name hadn’t even made the paper. Quack this!

The top collegiate dual-meet attendance marks at Hayward Field:

Year Meet Attendance
1979 vs UCLA 12,123
1970 vs UCLA 10,200 (est)
1979 vs Washington State & Idaho 10,164
1970 vs Oregon State 10,150
1973 vs UCLA, Wash St & Nebraska 10,000 (est)
1974 vs Oregon State 8,500 (est)
1980 vs Kansas 8,393
1975 vs UCLA 8,200 (est)
1963 vs USC 7,500 (est)
1966 vs UCLA 7,500 (est)
1968 vs Oregon State 7,500 (est)
1977 vs UCLA 7,100 (est)
1977 vs UCLA 7,100 (est)
1962 vs Oregon State 7,000 (est)
1978 vs UCLA 6,803
1962 vs Stanford 6,500 (est)
1963 vs Washington 6,500 (est)
1964 vs Oregon State 6,500 (est)
1979 vs Washington 6,493
1970 vs Washington State 6,200 (est)
1983 vs UCLA 6,161
1987 Pepsi Team Invitational 6,149
1978 vs Washington State 6,125
1971 vs Washington State 6,000 (est)
1973 vs Washington 6,000 (est)
1982 vs LSU 5,868
2011 Pepsi Team Invitational 5,501
1960 vs Stanford 5,500 (est)
1962 vs Washington State 5,500 (est)
2012 Pepsi Team Invitational 5,402
2007 Pepsi Team Invitational 5,250
2008 Pepsi Team Invitational 5,212
2009 vs UCLA 5,209
1980 vs Indiana 5,206
1980 vs Oregon State 5,123
2006 Pepsi Team Invitational 5,004
1967 vs Washington 5,000 (est)
1974 vs Washington State 5,000 (est)

Sources: Oregon track & field media guide, Eugene Register-Guard

My blog post on Hayward Field’s induction

One Response to Hayward Field

  1. KB says:

    I still get goose bumps when I think about some of those track meets. What a great place to grow up!

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