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Oregon Twilight Meet Brings Back Memories
By Steve Ritchie
May 5, 2012

University of Oregon's Andrew Wheating
EUGENE - Back in the previous heyday of track and field - the 1970s and 1980s - the Oregon Twilight Meet was all about the Twilight Mile. A generation of Oregon track fans were weaned on watching Duck distance runners go after sub-4 minute mile times in what was always the final event in this early May meet.

I remember getting off work on a Saturday afternoon when I was in college, and jumping in my VW bug to make the hour-plus drive from Salem to Eugene to see Steve Prefontaine, Mark Feig, Scott Daggett and their Duck teammates go after fast times in what was basically a team time trial.

I don't remember being disappointed at driving that far to see basically one race, as the rest of the meet was over by the time I got there. In the days when a sub-4 mile was a significant achievement - not to mention quite rare for college runners - it was thrilling to see three, four, five, or even more runners, usually all Ducks, dip under that time.

Times have changed.

The Oregon Twilight now involves a number of local pro runners who are just beginning their competitive seasons, as well as a horde of good athletes from local small colleges. Many Duck athletes do compete, but, seemingly, nearly as many sit out the meet, or have their competition limited to pacing duties in a distance race.

This is probably for the best.

Why go all out in a hard effort one week before the biggest meet of the season to date - the Pac-12 championships, which will be hosted by Oregon at Hayward next weekend. Better to use the meet as a low-key tuneup for the Pac-12s, a meet the Ducks men have won five consecutive times and the Duck women three consecutive times. Coach Lananna has shown he is willing to go to great lengths to win the conference title, so better to go into it with fresh troops.

There was no mile at this year's Twilight, but there was a good men's 1500 (though many in the record crowd of 7,011 were here to see football star De' Anthony Thomas make his sprinting debut for the Oregon team). The main point of interest in the 1500 was former Duck Andrew Wheating's return to racing after a long eight month hiatus from competitive running, most of which was due to an uncooperative hamstring which troubled Wheating last summer and continued to be a problem through the fall and into the winter.

Finally healthy and rounding into form for the upcoming Olympic Trials, Wheating pulled away on the last lap to win in a relatively pedestrian time of 3:44.97, roughly equivalent to a 4:02 mile. It evidently didn't tax him too much, as Wheating returned to the track in the final event, the men's 3000. He ran 2400 meters before stepping off the track, as apparently instructed by Coach Lananna. It all had the appearance of a good workout, which is certainly appropriate aat this point in the season.

Fittingly, perhaps, another former UO standout, Jordan McNamara went on to win the 3000 in 8:03.44. McNamara, who was primarily a miler when he ran for the Ducks, looked like he could have definitely run a sub-four mile on this night, and I found myself feeling a little nostalgic for my youth and the excitement of seeing a sub-four.

The excitement of the Pac-12 meet in a fewq days will, I am quite certain, overcome the brief feeling of nostalgia.
 

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