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Oregon Track Club History

For close to half a century the Oregon Track Club has been the quiet force behind Eugene’s image as the “Track Capital.” From all-comers’ meets to Olympic Trials, the Eugene-based club has been instrumental in promoting track and field and running for all facets of the community.

In the spring of 1949, Bill Bowerman, the newly appointed track coach at the University of Oregon, decided something needed to be done to stimulate interest in track and field during the summer months, so he staged an all-comers meet for grade school athletes. Fifteen people showed up.

The next summer he held an all-comers meet for high school seniors and college-age athletes. Twenty people showed up. With help from the Eugene Active Club, the meets became a regular fixture at what was then a cinder practice track immediately west of Hayward Field.

By 1958, Bowerman and others (including Ray Hendrickson and Bob Newland) who’d been active promoting a variety of track meets in Eugene, had formed the Emerald Empire Athletic Association. The goals of the EEAA were threefold:

1. To promote a youth program for youngsters in track and field.
2. To provide training assistance and facilities for track and field athletes of all ages.
3. To sponsor one big track meet each summer as a fundraising event to support the other goals.

Eugene physician Ralph Christensen, who would become a team doctor for U.S. track teams in the 1960s, was the EEAA‚s first president. The EEAA began sponsoring the Oregon AAU Championships but in 1965 changed its name to Oregon Track Club to narrow its focus to track and field.

In its five decades of service to the University of Oregon and the community, OTC has helped manage and staff AAU, NCAA, TAC, USATF, AIAW, Junior Olympic and WAVA (World Veteran) Championships, as well as four Olympic Trials (and a fifth to be conducted in 2012). The club was a major force in laying the original all-weather track at Hayward Field, building the West Grandstand and reconfiguring the track and moving back the East Grandstand.

OTC provides financial support for the UO track program and organizes officials for UO and other meets at Hayward Field. The club annually sponsors the prestigious Prefontaine Classic, part of the IAAF’s Grand Prix circuit, as well as the community-oriented July 4 Butte to Butte 10K, Eugene’s oldest and largest road race.

An active OTC Masters program provides an outlet for both serious and recreational athletes and the all-comers’ meets still fill Hayward Field each summer for five consecutive weeks, drawing up to 500 kids (12 & younger) on Wednesday evenings and up to 250 athletes (13 & older) on Thursdays.