Oregon Ducks track and field

Oregon Ducks track and field
University University of Oregon
Conference Pac-12
Location Eugene, OR
Head coach Robert Johnson (5th year)
Outdoor track Hayward Field
Nickname Ducks
Colors Green and Gold[1]
NCAA Indoor Championships
Men's: 2009, 2014, 2015, 2016
Women's: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016
NCAA Outdoor Championships
Men's: 1962, 1964, 1965, 1970, 1984, 2014, 2015
Women's: 1985, 2015

Cross Country:
Men's: 1971, 1973, 1974, 1977, 2007, 2008
Women's: 1983, 1987, 2012, 2016
Conference Outdoor Championships
Men's: 1924, 1934, 1965, 1967, 1978, 1979, 1986, 1990, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
Women's: 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1991, 1992, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

Cross Country:
Men's: 1969, 1970, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1982, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1992, 1995, 2006, 2007, 2008
Women's: 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1995, 2012

The Oregon Ducks track and field program is the intercollegiate track and field team for the University of Oregon located in the U.S. state of Oregon. The team competes at the NCAA Division I level and is a member of the Pac-12 Conference. The team participates in indoor and outdoor track and field as well as cross country. Known as the Ducks, Oregon's first track and field team was fielded in 1895.[2] The team holds its home meets at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. Robert Johnson is the current head coach and since the program's inception in 1895, there have only been seven permanent head coaches.[3][4] The Ducks claim 28 NCAA National Championships among the three disciplines.[5]

Due to its rich heritage, the home of the Ducks is popularly dubbed as Tracktown, USA.[6] Four of the head coaches in Oregon's history have been inducted into the USTFCCCA Hall of Fame. Several people involved with the program have developed innovative coaching strategies and helped restructure amateur athletics. Alumni of the program have continued to the Olympics and professional ranks while some others have founded athletic corporations like Nike and SPARQ.

Oregon's track and field history has been documented in two major motion films Without Limits and Prefontaine as well as the books Bowerman and the Men of Oregon and Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend. Former coaches and alumni have also written a number of books on running instruction for both top end athletes and hobbyists.


Early history

The first track team was established in 1895 with head coach Joseph Wetherbee. The coach remained for only one year and the following four coaches, William O'Trine, J.C. Higgins, C.A. Redmond, and William Ray, also remained for extremely short durations.[7] With such sporadic coaching changes, the Oregon track and field team struggled with inconsistencies,[8] although the university did win six of seven meets in 1895.[9]

Under Coach Bill Hayward

1906 Oregon Ducks track and field team

In 1903, Bill Hayward coached Albany College's track team. Following Oregon's defeat at the hands of Albany College, Oregon hired Bill Hayward as the track and field head coach for the following season.[7] Hayward's career at Oregon was long and illustrious, lasting 44 years as head coach. His athletes included nine Olympians and produced five world records.[10] In 1919, a new stadium was constructed for football and named Hayward Field for him. Two years following construction, a track was added and track schedules were transferred there from nearby Kincaid Field.[11]

Under Coach Bill Bowerman

Bill Bowerman's involvement with the university started before he became the track and field head coach in 1949.[12] He attended the University of Oregon and played football. Coach Bill Hayward, who Bowerman credits with teaching him how to run, convinced Bowerman to run track. Bowerman graduated from Oregon in 1934 with a degree in Business.[13]

After his service in World War II, Bowerman was hired by Oregon to replace the retiring Hayward after John Warren's single year as interim head coach.[7] Though Bowerman's title was head coach, he considered himself more of a teacher than a coach.[14] He stressed schoolwork over athletics and urged his pupils to apply the values they learned participating in track and field to everyday life.[13][14] During his time at Oregon, he brought four NCAA team championships to the university and coached 33 Olympians as well as 24 individual NCAA champions.[13][15] He coached some of the world's best distance runners including Steve Prefontaine

Bowerman retired from coaching in 1972. While at Oregon, he also coached the USA Track and Field team and helped bring the U.S. Olympic Trials to Hayward Field for the first time.[13]

Steve Prefontaine

Pre's Rock; the memorial marker at the location of Prefontaine's death

Steve Prefontaine arrived on campus in 1969 and immediately, head coach Bowerman and assistant coach Bill Dellinger had their hands full to rein in the rebellious new athlete.[16] The bold running style of Prefontaine, front-running, was a strategy that altered the pace of the sport.[17] At one point, Prefontaine held every American distance record above the 2,000 meters and was thought of by many to be one of the greatest American runners in history.[18][19] Prefontaine had never lost a race longer than a mile during his collegiate career and won a total of seven NCAA championships in track and field and cross country.[16] He raced in the 5000m at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, placing fourth in the race.[16] He died in an automobile accident in Eugene in 1975, at the peak of his career.[19]

His accomplishments were not confined to the track. He was deeply resentful toward the treatment given toward amateur athletes.[20] He had frequently butted heads with the Amateur Athletic Union, calling the AAU a corrupt organization.[21][22] His opinions played a major role in the passing of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, legislation providing legal protection to amateur athletes.[17]

Prefontaine, coupled with Frank Shorter's success running the marathon, is often credited with playing a role in the running boom in America in the 1970s.[23] His legacy lives on in two movies documenting his life, Without Limits and Prefontaine, as well as the Prefontaine Classic, an annual track meet held at Hayward Field in his honor.[24]


Another one of Bowerman's pupils, Phil Knight, partnered with Bowerman and revolutionized the sport with the formation of the shoe company giant, Nike. Knight graduated from the University of Oregon in 1959[25] and went on to Stanford University for graduate school. There, he developed the idea to import Japanese running shoes to the American market.[26] After earning his MBA from Stanford, he returned to the University of Oregon where he and Bowerman struck a handshake deal in 1964, each with a $500 investment into a company called Blue Ribbon Sports to import Japanese running shoes.[12] In the late 1960s, Bowerman's pursuit of lighter shoes for his athletes led him to develop a sole by pouring rubber into his wife's waffle iron, inventing the modern running shoe.[12] After Knight decided to rename the company Nike and develop its own shoes, Bowerman's invention became the prototype for the company.[15] The shoe made its debut in the 1972 Olympic Trials at Hayward Field with Steve Prefontaine as one of the early endorsers.[12][27] Although Bowerman retired from coaching in 1972, he remained on Nike's board until 1999. In that time, Nike exploded into a multibillion-dollar company.[12]

Under Coaches Bill Dellinger and Tom Heinonen

Like his predecessor, Bill Dellinger's involvement with the University of Oregon began before his coaching career. He lettered in track at the university, graduating in 1956[25] and won a Bronze medal in the 1964 Summer Olympics.[28] After his athletic career, he joined Bowerman's staff in 1967 as an assistant coach where he helped coach Steve Prefontaine. He took over as head coach in 1973 after Bowerman's retirement.[29] With Dellinger at the helm, Oregon's Cross Country team brought home four NCAA national championships and the track and field team brought home one NCAA national championship.[29] He retired in 1998.[30] The Bill Dellinger Invitational is an annual race held at Hayward Field in honor of the coach.[31]

One of Dellinger's assistants, hired in 1975, Tom Heinonen, was promoted to the head coach for the women's cross country and track and field team in 1977. Prior to Heinonen, no other full-time head coach at Oregon had exclusively coached the women's disciplines. He was a strong advocate for women's sports and was a force in making the Oregon Twilight Meet a co-ed event.[32] Women's cross country and track and field blossomed under Heinonen's leadership. He led the women's team to win its first three NCAA team championships and coached 14 NCAA individual champions. He produced 134 All-Americans and his athletes made 17 appearances in the Olympics.[33] He retired in 2003, after which the University of Oregon Athletic Department decided to combine the men's and women's programs under one head coach.[34]

Under Coach Vin Lananna

In 2005, Vin Lananna was hired to become the track and field head coach, replacing Martin Smith who resigned after the previous season. Lananna was already a decorated head coach from Stanford with five NCAA national championships under his belt.[35] At Oregon, he led seven teams to win NCAA national championships, including the first indoor national championships in school history. He also attracted the Olympic Trials, the NCAA Track and Field Championships, and the USA Track and Field Championships to Eugene for multiple years.[5] Just prior to the 2012 season, Robert Johnson was promoted to the head coaching position as Lananna moved to an administrative position with the program.[4] In Johnson's first year, the women's team produced a national championship in both cross country and indoor track and field.[36][37]

Impact on running

The people involved in the Oregon track and field program have led changes that benefited professional athletes and coaches, as well as running enthusiasts. Bill Bowerman experimented with many coaching techniques during his time as a head coach at the University of Oregon and instilled many of his principles from his days as a Major in the US Army. For example, Bowerman pioneered in using film as a method of teaching technique to his athletes.[13] With Bowerman's meticulous attention to details, he made other discoveries with regards to coaching track.[12] The training schedules he developed for his athletes ran counter to many other coaches' principles at the time. He believed that each individual athlete was different and tailored different workout routines to different athletes. He also scaled his workouts up and down, giving some of his athletes rest on certain days for recovery time.[13] This attention to detail also led him to become obsessed with experimentation of reducing the weight of his athletes' apparel and increasing the traction of their shoes which eventually led to the creation of the apparel company Nike.[12] Moreover, Bowerman considered himself more of a teacher than a coach and stressed schoolwork as well as mentoring his athletes with regards to life.[14] Tom Heinonen, the former head coach of the Oregon women's track and field program was a strong advocate of female athletics at a time when female athletics were largely an afterthought.[32] Steve Prefontaine was vehemently outspoken against the Amateur Athletic Union.[17] Kenny Moore, a former University of Oregon student who ran track under Bowerman, was one of the speakers at the President's Commission on Olympic Sports, a series of hearings regarding amateur sports.[38][39] These efforts along with those from other amateur athletes eventually culminated in the passage of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978.[17][40]

Bowerman and his athletes' philosophy and stories were documented by Kenny Moore. Moore wrote the book Bowerman and the Men of Oregon[41] and practiced journalism, most notably for Sports Illustrated.[40][42] He also was the screenwriter with Robert Towne for Without Limits, a movie that told the story of Prefontaine and Bowerman.[43] In addition, he was also an actor in Personal Best, a movie with track and field as one of the central themes.[44] Bowerman himself wrote several books on the sport of running including High Performance Training for Track and Field[45] which details coaching instruction for high level competition.[46] He also wrote a book with a cardiologist called Jogging,[47] which detailed the medical benefits of jogging, to which many credited its exploding popularity.[13] Bowerman's successor, Bill Dellinger, also authored a number of books regarding running, including Competitive Runner's Training Book,[48] The Running Experience[49] and Winning Running.[50]

Galen Rupp, coached by Alberto Salazar, celebrating his 2012 Olympic silver medal in the 10k.

The program's coaching extended beyond just within the program itself. Bowerman had his athletes mentor the community and continued to be active in the sport after his retirement.[5] He was also a coach for the US Olympic team in 1972 and an assistant coach in 1968 US Olympic Team. Bill Dellinger coached the distance runners in the 1984 Olympic Games.[29] After Dellinger retired from the University of Oregon, he continued to coach running on a consulting basis despite suffering through a stroke.[51] Tom Heinonen remained a running coach after his retirement at the volunteer level for the University of Oregon Running Club.[34][52] Alumnus Alberto Salazar became a noted marathon coach after his running days under the employ of Nike. Salazar used controversial coaching tactics like tweaking runners' natural running form, but had coached many athletes to the apex of their careers. He launched an experimental training program called the Oregon Project financed by Nike with the purpose of integrating African runners' training conditions into American training mixed with modern technology. He also discovered similarities in running posture between sprinters and top level distance runners, two disciplines previously thought to be exceedingly different. Instilling some of these methods into American runners, he was able to coach Kara Goucher to a third-place finish in the Boston Marathon in 2009, an event that East Africans typically dominate.[53][54] Mo Farah and alumnus Galen Rupp were training partners under Salazar and finished first and second respectively in the 2012 Summer Olympics in the 10k. Rupp was the first American to medal in the 10k since Billy Mills in 1964 and the first medalist not born in Africa since 1988.[55] Similar to his collegiate coaches, Salazar wrote a pair of books about distance running.[56] Matt Centrowitz, another University of Oregon alumnus, took the American University track and field program to prominence since the rebirth of the program in 1999.[57]


Kincaid Field

The early teams ran at Kincaid Field, constructed in 1902 as an athletic field.[58] In 1919, Hayward Field was constructed for football events and two years later, a track was installed around the field as the track and field team moved in.[11] Kincaid field was torn down in 1922.[58]

Hayward Field

Autzen Stadium was opened in 1967 and the football team moved out of Hayward Field.[59] At that point, Hayward Field became exclusively a track and field stadium. The venue had undergone significant upgrades since then including the Bowerman Building in 1992, the Powell Plaza in 2005, an indoor facilities upgrade in 2006, and new equipment in 2007.[11]

Hayward Field has been host to numerous national track and field events such as the U.S. Olympic Trials, NCAA Championships, and the USA Track and Field Championships. No other venue has hosted more NCAA Championships and no other venue had held three consecutive U.S. Olympic Trials.[11] Many have attested to the magical aura of Hayward field, citing many personal bests run at the venue. Credit often goes to the regular attendance of knowledgeable track and field fans for the phenomenon.[3]


1966 dual meet between Oregon and Oregon State

The traditional rival of the Oregon Ducks is the Oregon State Beavers, called the Civil War. This fierce rivalry extended to the track and field programs, where for a period, they met twice a year.[60] However, due to budgetary concerns, Oregon State University dropped the track and field program in 1988 and the rivalry ended.[61] Plans are underway to reinstate the program by 2014, at which point the rivalry may continue.[62]

1966 dual meet between Oregon and UCLA

The UCLA Bruins became an Oregon rival in track and field as the two powerhouse programs battled each other in a series of dual meets.[63][64] Oregon's program was ranked in the top 3 nationally in dual meets by Track & Field News thirteen times between 1970 and 1996 and was ranked No. 1 three times.[65] The UCLA squad achieved a No. 1 ranking from the same publication eleven times within the same time frame.[66] In 1966, the two programs met head to head for the first time.[67] The Bruins displayed their dominance at the dual meet and won nine straight against the Ducks.[68] Oregon head coach Bill Bowerman in 1971 called the Bruins team the best dual meet team in the country.[69] It wasn't until 1978 that Oregon earned its first victory in the series, which ended UCLA's 34 dual meet winning streak.[67] Oregon won the next three meets and the series ended in 1985 with a UCLA win.[68] The dual meet event was fading out of favor in collegiate track and field[70] and the Oregon-UCLA dual meet was discontinued with UCLA holding the advantage over the Ducks 10–4.[63] In 1994, the Pepsi Team Invitational which included Oregon, UCLA and Washington was scored as a dual meet, which UCLA won.[68] In 2008, the dual meet series between the two schools restarted and Oregon won the first three meets.[63][66][67] Although the location of the meet had alternated between Eugene and Los Angeles between 1966 and 1976, subsequent meets have been held at Hayward Field in Oregon[66] until 2011 where the two teams battled to a tie at UCLA.[71]

Head coaches

Prior to Bill Hayward in 1904, four coaches led the Oregon track and field teams for just one year including Joseph W. Wetherbee (1895), J.C. Higgins (1897), C.A. Redmond (1902), and William Ray (1903). John Warren was the interim head coach in 1948 before Bill Bowerman took over for Bill Hayward. In a similar fashion to the men's team, three head coaches led the women's team on a part-time basis including Lois Youngen (1972), Ron Brinkert (1973–1974), and Rob Ritson (1975–1976) before Tom Heinonen arrived to provide consistency at the helm. The following coaches are a chronology of Oregon track and field head coaches that served for terms greater than two years:[7]

Coach Term NCAA Team Championships
William O' Trine 1896, 1898–1901 0
Bill Hayward[a][c] 1904–1947 0
Bill Bowerman[a][c] 1949–1972 5
Bill Dellinger[a][c] 1973–1998 4
Tom Heinonen[b][c] 1977–2003 3
Martin Smith 1998–2005 0
Vin Lananna[a][c] 2006–2012 6
Robert Johnson 2012–present 10


Notable athletes

Alberto Salazar

The track and field program over the years has created dozens of NCAA individual champions and hundreds of All Americans.[5] Alumni have gone on to medal in the Olympics, win big city marathons, and win national championships at the professional level.

Some of the most famed players from the program emerged from distance running. Steve Prefontaine held numerous American distance running records and never lost a collegiate distance running match.[16] Alberto Salazar won three consecutive New York Marathons and added a Boston Marathon victory to the list.[53]

Alumni have also had illustrious coaching careers. Bill Bowerman and Bill Dellinger both became Oregon coaches. Alberto Salazar and Terrance Mahon became distance running coaches after their running days.[53] Others have found success related to track and field but not directly in the sport. Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight both co-founded Nike. Tinker Hatfield ran track at Oregon while studying architecture and later became a famous shoe designer for Nike.[73] Rudy Chapa, a successful distance runner in his own right, founded SPARQ, an athletic equipment company.[74]

There have been several members of the track and field team that lettered in other sports, particularly football. Mel Renfro is primarily known for being inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame[75] but he also achieved a world record in the 440 yard relay in 1962 while running in the track and field program for Oregon.[5] Jordan Kent, a former professional football player, was a rare three sport letterman in track, basketball, and football. The 2010 Doak Walker Award winner, LaMichael James, ran track during the football offseason. One of the first multi-sport athletes with the Oregon Ducks was the former head coach Bill Bowerman, who played football and ran track under Bill Hayward in both sports.[5]


Since Oregon's first Olympian, Dan Kelly, who finished second place in the broad jump of the 1908 Summer Olympics, at least one athlete from the University of Oregon has participated in each of the Summer Olympics since. This includes the 1980 Summer Olympics which the United States boycotted, when Chris Braithwaite competed for Trinidad, his native country.[76]

Out of the scores of Olympians that claim the University of Oregon as their alma mater, the following have received medals:[5]

Joaquim Cruz, Olympic medalist
Ralph Hill (right), Olympic medalist
Martin Hawkins, Olympic medalist, 1912
Name Country Year Event Result Medal
Dan Kelly United States 1908 Broad jump 23-3.25 Silver
Martin Hawkins United States 1912 High hurdles 15.3 Bronze
Ralph Hill United States 1932 5,000 meters 14:30.0 Silver
Mack Robinson United States 1936 200 meters 21.1 Silver
Otis Davis United States 1960 400 meters 45.07 (WR) Gold
Otis Davis United States 1960 4x400 meter relay 3:02.37 (WR) Gold
Bill Dellinger United States 1964 5,000 meters 13:49.8 Bronze
Harry Jerome Canada 1964 100 meters 10.26 Bronze
Mac Wilkins United States 1976 Discus 221-5 (OR-q)Gold
Joaquim Cruz Brazil 1984 800 meters 1:43.00 (OR) Gold
Mac Wilkins United States 1984 Discus 217-6 Silver
Joaquim Cruz Brazil 1988 800 meters 1:43.90 Silver
Lisa Martin Australia 1988 Marathon 2:25.53 Silver
Keshia Baker United States 2012 4x400 meter relay 3:16.99 (semis) Gold
Ashton Eaton United States 2012 Decathlon 8,869 Gold
Galen Rupp United States 2012 10,000 meters 27:30.90 Silver
Matthew Centrowitz United States 2016 1,500 meters 3:50.00 Gold
Ashton Eaton United States 2016 Decathlon 8,893 (OR-t) Gold
Phyllis Francis United States 2016 4x400 meter relay 3:19.06 Gold
English Gardner United States 2016 4x100 meter relay 41.01 Gold
Galen Rupp United States 2016 Marathon 2:10.05 Bronze
Brianne Theisen-Eaton Canada 2016 Heptathlon 6,653 Bronze

World record holders

The following athletes from Oregon have achieved world records:[5]

Ashton Eaton in Istanbul where he broke his own Heptathlon world record.
Name Year Event Record
Dan Kelly 1906 100 yards 9.6
Dan Kelly 1906 220 yards 21.1
Ed Moeller 1929 Discus 160–7.7
George Varoff 1936 Pole vault 14–6.5
Les Steers 1941 High jump 6–11
Bill Dellinger 1959 2-mile (indoor) 8:49.9
Bill Dellinger 1959 3-mile (indoor) 13:37.0
Roscoe Cook 1959 100 yards 9.3
Roscoe Cook 1959 60 yards (indoor) 6.0
Harry Jerome 1960 100m 10.0
Otis Davis 1960 400m 44.9
Roscoe Cook 1961 60 yards (indoor) 6.0
Harry Jerome 1961 100 yards 9.3
Harry Jerome 1962 100 yards 9.2
Jerry Tarr, Mike Gaechter, Mel Renfro, Harry Jerome 1962 440 yard relay 40.0
Archie San Romani, Vic Reeve, Keith Forman, Dyrol Burleson 1962 4 mile relay 16:08.9
Neal Steinhauer 1967 Shot put (indoor) 67–10
Roscoe Divine, Wade Bell, Arne Kvalheim, Dave Wilborn 1968 4 mile relay 16:05.0
Mac Wilkins 1976 Discus 232–6
Brian Crouser 1986 Javelin 262–0
Ashton Eaton 2010 Heptathlon (indoor) 6,499
Ashton Eaton 2011 Heptathlon (indoor) 6,568[77]
Ashton Eaton 2012 Heptathlon (indoor) 6,645[78]
Ashton Eaton 2015 Decathlon 9,045

Other athletes

Name Degree(s) Year(s) Notability Reference
Bowerman, BillBill Bowerman B.S.
Co-founder of Nike, former track and field head coach for the Oregon Ducks [79]
Centrowitz, MattMatt Centrowitz 1986 Four-time USA Champion in the 5000m, head coach of the restarted track program at American University [80]
Chapa, RudyRudy Chapa B.A. 1981 Founder and CEO of SPARQ [81]
Dellinger, BillBill Dellinger B.S.
Former track and field head coach for the Oregon Ducks [5]
Flax, KenKen Flax B.S. 1986 Two-time Olympian, Record setting hammer thrower [5]
Hatfield, TinkerTinker Hatfield B.Arch 1976 Shoe designer for Nike [82]
Knight, PhilPhil Knight B.B.A 1959 Co-founder, chairman, and former CEO of Nike, Inc. [83]
Moore, KennyKenny Moore B.A.
Long distance runner, journalist and author [84]
Prefontaine, SteveSteve Prefontaine B.S. 1974 Record setting long distance runner [5]
Rupp, GalenGalen Rupp B.A. 2009 Inaugural winner of the Bowerman Award [85]
Salazar, AlbertoAlberto Salazar B.A. 1981 Marathon runner and coach [53]
Wheating, AndrewAndrew Wheating 2010 Olympian in the 800m [86]


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