|University of Oregon's Andrew Wheating
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
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.