Journey to Gold Begins Friday in Eugene

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EUGENE, Ore. — The Ducks are flocking home to their new pond.

Nearly three dozen current or former University of Oregon student-athletes are getting ready to compete in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials beginning Friday at Hayward Field. The 10-day meet, which includes off days Tuesday and Wednesday, concludes Sunday, June 27. List of UO entries and full broadcast schedule appear at end of the article.

Participants will be competing for the right to represent the United States at the Tokyo Olympics beginning July 23.

Competition begins Friday, a session that includes finals in the men’s shot put and the men’s 10,000 meters, with UO alums Galen Rupp and Eric Jenkins in the field. Friday also features the first round of the women’s 100 meters, a field that includes Hannah Cunliffe, English Gardner and Jenna Prandini.

“Hayward Magic is a little bit more magical for the people who are wearing the ‘O’ or have worn the ‘O’ before,” said Prandini, a three-time NCAA champion for the Ducks and two-time U.S. champion at 200 meters. “I’m just excited to get back out on the new track and compete.”

Current Ducks will be on hand as well, including Kiana Phelps in the discus and Dominique Ruotolo in the triple jump Friday, and Micah Williams in the first round of the men’s 100 on Saturday. Williams will compete in a field that includes Cravon Gillespie, a junior on the 2018 Oregon team that was the last to compete in Historic Hayward Field before it was remodeled.

Gillespie recalled running in the Trials at Hayward as a junior college athlete back in 2016, and being appreciated by Oregon fans before he ever signed to run with the Ducks.

“It just means a lot to come back and have the Olympic Trials here, and knowing next year’s Worlds will be there,” said Gillespie, who helped the U.S. 4×100-meter relay team win gold at the 2019 World Championships. “To know you have a home-field advantage kind of, it’s always pretty cool to go back there and represent.”

Pole vaulter Cole Walsh recalled winning a junior national title at Hayward Field in 2014, before he went on to become a two-time all-American with the Ducks. He said he’s expecting a similar competitive environment in the reimagined venue when his event begins Saturday, with the pole vault runway located in about the spot, and with the contingent of longtime fans in the stands.

“Eugene is the only place in the States where the fans come and they know your name, they know your best mark, they know what you’ve been doing all year,” Walsh said. “Eugene is the only place I’ve really found (true) track fans, and I’m excited to be able to come back.”

The qualifying round for the men’s pole vault is set for Saturday afternoon.

For Gardner, who helped the U.S. win gold in the 4×100 at the 2016 Summer Olympic in Rio, this year’s U.S. Team Trials hold even deeper meaning. Not only will she race to make another Olympic team, she’s looking to show she’s all the way back from a bout with COVID-19 since April.

Gardner said she experienced “long hauler” symptoms including muscle pain, fatigue and respiratory problems. Her heart rate would remain elevated for several hours after a practice, she said. Garnder arrived in Eugene on Tuesday and said “this has been the first week where I feel like a normal person.”

“I have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she said. “I’ve already beaten COVID. I feel like a conqueror.”

On a lighter note, Gardner also said she hopes to visit the concession stand at Hayward Field named in her honor. She’s hoping a little name recognition will go a long way at “English’s Garden.” 

“I’m just gonna show my ID,” she quipped, “and hopefully that’ll get me a free meal.”

Even for those athletes who didn’t fall ill with COVID-19, the last 15 months have been a whirlwind due to the pandemic. This Olympic cycle was originally scheduled for last year, before being pushed back.

“The fact we actually get to step on the line and race at the Olympic Trials is exciting,” Prandini said.

And the fact that UO athletes past and present get to do so at Hayward Field makes it that much more special.

“This is my second home — it’s a home away from home,” Gardner said. “So I’m excited to warm up the track a bit, and put on a great show for all the great fans that always come out and support us.”

Full Broadcast Schedule (all times PT)
Friday, June 18
NBCSN: 4-7 p.m.
NBC: 7-8 p.m.

Saturday, June 19
NBCSN: 5-7 p.m.
NBC: 7-8 p.m.

Sunday, June 20
NBC: 6-8 p.m.

Monday, June 21
NBCSN: 4-5 p.m.
NBC: 5-6 p.m.

Thursday, June 24
NBCSN: 6-9 p.m.

Friday, June 25
NBCSN: 2-5 p.m.

Saturday, June 26
NBC: 6-8 p.m.

Sunday, June 27
NBC: 4-5:30 p.m.

*NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app will present exclusive coverage of select field events

Ducks at the U.S. Olympic Trials
Devon Allen – 110HH
Alli Cash – 1500m, 5000m
Matthew Centrowitz – 1500m
Hannah Cunliffe – 100m
Joe Delgado – Decathlon
Brooke Feldmeier – 800m
Rhesa Foster – Long Jump
Phyllis Francis – 400m
English Gardner – 100m
Cravon Gillespie – 100m, 200m
Isaiah Griffith – Triple Jump
Jonathan Harvey – 400H
Alysah Hickey – Long Jump
Cole Hocker – 1500m, 5000m
Eric Jenkins – 10,000m
Kyree King – 100m, 200m
Jackson Mestler – 3000m SC
Ben Milligan – High Jump
Kiana Phelps – Discus
Sam Prakel – 1500m
Jenna Prandini – 100m, 200m
Raevyn Rogers – 800m
Dominique Ruotolo – Triple Jump
Galen Rupp – 10,000m
Damarcus Simpson – Long Jump
Sabrina Southerland – 800m
Cooper Teare – 5000m
Jasmine Todd – Long Jump
Cole Walsh – Pole Vault
Micah Williams – 100m
Jack Yearian – 1500m

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