TrackTown USA

UO music professor composes first original piece of music for an American track event

Spectators at Tuesday’s 10K race in the IAAF World Junior Track & Field Championships may not have realized they were part of a unique experiment combining music and sports. TrackTown USA president Vin Lananna commissioned the University of Oregon’s Brian McWhorter to compose an original piece and perform it with a live orchestra.

McWhorter, a nationally renowned trumpet player and professor at the UO, earned degrees from both the UO and Julliard. He has composed pieces for Eugene Ballet, worked with musicians like John Cale of the Velvet Underground and was principal trumpet in the Eugene Symphony in 2008-2009.

McWhorter was reluctant to accept the assignment, because he only had three weeks to write the 30-minute piece of music and rehearse with the musicians. He also explored different styles, like attempting to match the music with the runners’ heartbeats.

Ultimately, he aimed for the surreal version “of what might happen in a Roman coliseum” as his stylistic goal.

“It was kind of cinematic in its approach, because a lot of work I do is for film, so it was a real backdrop,” McWhorter said. “It didn’t have much melody per se. A lot of huge brass chords, but underneath it was percussive, accelerating music. The entire thing sort of had this effect of speeding up constantly. I was trying to push the runners just like the audience pushes them with their clapping.”

The runners found the music helpful during the punishing race. Curtis Anderson, director of communications for TrackTown USA said that this is the first time a live piece of music has been commissioned and performed live for a race, at least in the United States.

“There’s a lot of pain involved in this race and they said it kind of took their mind of it during the rougher patches,” Anderson said. “Every time the runners came around the Bowerman Curve, they ramped it up, and when they went down the back stretch they toned it down. So it was sort of a supportive piece.”

McWhorter was very happy with the way the music turned out, and thought the band sounded amazing. The only disappointment was that people watching the live broadcast couldn’t hear the music because of track meet rules.

However, he says he never intended to write a piece that would stand out, so he didn’t mind that the TV viewers could not hear it.

“The music was for the runners and the audience, and they heard it,” McWhorter said. “It’s not strong music, like people come away humming a tune, but it just sort of filled the mood, and that’s sort of what I was after.”

Coincidentally, the same night of the 10K, a documentary McWhorter was featured in, called “I Live For Art,” won the Silver Award at the Philadelphia International Film Festival. He composed music for the film and was also one of the three artists profiled.

McWhorter said that most of his work involves bringing music into something else, like film or dance.

“This feels like it’s in line with all that, supporting the runners at a track meet,” he said.

Anderson said there’s a good chance they might commission music for a track event again in the future.

Eugene will bid to host 2019 Track and Field World Championships

Although the United States has a tradition of dominating track and field, the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships for track and field have never been hosted in the country.

But now Eugene — in addition to Barcelona, Spain and Doha, Qatar —  is one of three cities that could host the 2019 IAAF World Championships.

The city of Eugene submitted a letter bidding to host the 2019 Championships to the IAAF in mid-April. According to TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna, the next step is for the IAAF to send out formal bid documents to each of the three cities. Once TrackTown receives these documents, they will begin to determine the feasibility of hosting the event in Eugene.

“A critical part of our process in moving forward will be determining what are the costs associated with all of these financial obligations. At this point, it is far too early to say what those costs might be,” Lananna said.

This event is usually very expensive. Lananna explained that the financial obligations for the host city include travel and housing costs for over 1,800 athletes, team officials and support staff. It also includes security, transportation, insurance, accreditation, facilities and more.

“If we move forward with a bid, we will jointly present the bid to the IAAF in an in-person meeting,” USA Track and Field Chief Public Affairs Officer Jill Geer said. “They will make the choice of who will host.”

The IAAF World Championships is held every two years. In 2015, it will be in Beijing and in 2017, it will be in London.

Because this event has never been hosted in the United States, Lananna said that there were preliminary steps to take before requesting to host this event. That is why Eugene is hosting the IAAF World Junior Championships at Hayward Field this summer. Portland will also be hosting the 2016 World Indoor Championships.

“Over the past two years, the landscape has begun to tilt in favor of a viable U.S. bid, and I believe the timing is right to pursue this renowned event,” Lananna said.

The most decorated runner in University of Oregon track and field history, Jordan Hasay, is a UO alumni who may be eligible to compete at a high-caliber event like this.

“If we were to host the World Championships, not only would it be a huge hometown advantage, but I think it would bring Eugene closer to the world and the world would appreciate the crowd in Eugene,” Hasay said. “The crowd is incredible.”

The final decision will be made by the IAAF Council at its meeting this November in Monaco.

“Today, I believe we are better positioned than ever to make a run for the IAAF’s crown jewel, and because of the rich tradition and history of TrackTown USA and our built-in fan base, historic Hayward Field is the right spot for that meet,” Lananna said.

Eugene Marathon Moving to Late July for 2014

Eugene Marathon
Eugene Marathon

The 2014 Eugene Marathon will look a little bit different than in years past. Next year’s Eugene Marathon will be held in July, not in April.

The new date will be July 27th in response to the IAAF World Junior Championships, which will finish its six-day meet on the same day. The Eugene Marathon/half-marathon is intended to be a celebration of the running community and inspire more to compete.

“As people come in for the track meet, they’ll get to watch people finish the marathon,” Eugene Marathon founder Andy Heily said to the Register Guard. “The whole idea is create that overlap between track and field and road racing, and really celebrate running.”

And it’s all about creating more of a track connection into the already strong TrackTown community.

“From the inception, our mission has been to reinforce TrackTown USA as a mecca for running,” Heily said. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that.

“We have one of the fastest and most scenic marathon courses in the country. Twenty percent of our participants qualify for Boston. The community is absolutely amazing and the fan support is incredible. Participants always talk about that.”

Of course the major question will be how the change in date will impact the runners weather-wise. It’s pretty common knowledge that the weather in July is much warmer than April, but Heily says he and the Eugene Marathon team is well aware of this and don’t think it will impact the race.

“The average morning temperature in July in Eugene is 56 degrees,” race director Richard Maher said. “By 10 a.m., it’s still in the low 60s.”

“The demand is there,” Heily added. “A lot of fit people have been running all spring and early summer, and they’re ready to run a fast marathon. What an amazing opportunity if I’m living in Atlanta, Georgia, and I come out to Eugene, Oregon, to be a part of this incredible community event. Watch a track meet and run on one of the fastest courses in the country.”

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Three Ducks Earn National Titles at USA Championships

Ashton Eaton (
Ashton Eaton

DES MOINES, Iowa –- Former University of Oregon track stars Ashton Eaton, Matthew Centrowitz and Brianne Theisen each brought home individual national titles at the USA Track and Field National Championships this week.

Eaton, the current world record holder in the decathlon defended his title with a score of 8,291 points.

“It was a good two days,” said Eaton. “It was good to do another multi because it’s been since the (Olympic) Games. I feel pretty good about that. I have quite a bit of confidence. Obviously the high jump was very sub-par, the hurdles and the pole vault, and a lot of that stuff was very much ‘safety.’ If I can score 8,200 with those marks, I think at 100 percent, I’ll be OK.”

Centrowitz claimed the title in the 1,500m with a late surge, finishing with a time of 3:45.17.

“In my head I said, ‘Dominate the final’ and that’s what I set out to do, I didn’t really glance back,” said Centrowitz. “Definitely wanted to make a statement heading to Worlds. I’m in great shape, definitely looking forward to improving on my (Olympic) bronze medal.”

Theisen, a Canadian, brought home honors in her country for a score of 6,233 points in the heptathlon. It was her first national title in the event.

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Photos: NCAA Track and Field National Championships


It was a big first day of the NCAA Track and Field National Championships with several impressive performances. Oregon four-star athlete Liz Brenner was eighth overall in the javelin, good enough to advance to the finals. The Ducks’ women sprinters also had a good day with the 4X100 team advancing and English Gardner as well in the 100 meters.

Cain’s Performance Highlights Outstanding Prefontaine Classic


The Prefontaine Classic may have come to an end yesterday, but plenty around the nation are still buzzing about the performances that were turned out at the 2013 meet. One of the main highlights for the thousands in attendance was high school phenom Mary Cain‘s showing in the women’s 800 meters.

Competing in a field that included Francine Niyonsaba (BDI), Brenda Martinez (USA), Janeth Jepkosgei (KEN), and Alysia Montano (USA), Cain used a fast field to finish with a time of 1:59.51, a personal best for the budding track and field star that also saw her set the high school and U.S. Junior records in the event. Finishing up her junior year in high school, Cain has yet to announce where she will attend college, though there were plenty of fans encouraging her to bring her talents to Eugene, as they familiarized her with the “Come to Oregon!” chant.

The first high schooler to run the 800 meters in under two minutes, she bested the previous high school record of 2:02.04 that was set by Amy Weisenbach in 2011. Placing fifth overall, she finished right behind Montano, who edged Cain with a time of 1:59.43. After the race Montano gave her signature orchid to the high school phenom, signaling the emergence of a great track and field athlete.

Mary Cain astonished the Hayward faithful at the 2013 Prefontaine Classic | (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)
Mary Cain astonished the Hayward faithful at the 2013 Prefontaine Classic | (Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports)

“I’m just so thrilled, I broke two minutes,” said Cain after the event. “Part of me was out there thinking today, no one has ever done this before. I’d be the first person to do it. That’s been my goal since eighth grade. I’m going to be that kid, I’m going to do it.”

Coming in first place in the women’s 800 meters was Niyonsaba, who finished with a time of 1:56.72 to set a new meet record while becoming the world leader in the event.

Aside from Cain’s astonishing finish and Niyonsaba’s world leading finish, plenty of other athletes set records and bests at the 2013 Prefontaine Classic, with one area record being set, 13 world leaders established, five meet records set, and three national records broken.

Setting the lone area record at the meet, Mutas Essa Barshim (QAT) cleared a height of 2.40 meters in the men’s high jump to overcome a strong field that included Erik Kynard (USA) and Derek Drouin (CAN). His clearance also made him the world leader in the event while also setting a new meet record and national record for his country. Drouin’s clearance of 2.36 meters set the new Canadian national record.

Silas Kiplagat (KEN), meanwhile, established a world leading time in the Bowerman Mile with a time of 3:49.48. He narrowly edged Asbel Kiprop (KEN), who finished right behind Kiplagat with a time of 3:49.53. Aman Wote of Ethiopia placed third in the event with a time of 3:49.88, a personal best for the 29-year-old.

Hansle Parchment (JAM) also established a world leading time in the 110 meter hurdles, finishing with a time of 13.05 seconds that also saw him set a new Jamaican national record.

Renad Lavillenie (FRA) finished just as he did at the Olympic Games, placing first in the men’s pole vault to once again overcome Bjorn Otto (GER) and Raphael Holzdeppe (GER), who also finished just as they did in the past Olympics. Lavillenie cleared a height of 5.95 meters to become the world leader in the event this year.

Aleksandr Menkov (RUS) took home first in the long jump, as he reached a distance of 8.39 meters to become the world leader in the event. Mauro Vinicius Da Silva (BRA) placed second in the event, reaching a distance of 8.22 meters.

The men’s discus was won by Robert Harting (GER), who also became a world leader, throwing a distance of 69.75 to overcome Piotr Malachowski‘s (POL) distance of 68.19, a seasonal best for the 29-year-old.

James Kiplagat Magut (KEN), who did not finish in the Bowerman Mile, made up for his performance in the men’s international mile, becoming the world leader with a time of 3:55.24.

Edwin Sheruiyot Soi (KEN) became the world leader in the men’s 5,000 meters, finishing with a time of 13:04.75 while Kenenisa Bekele (ETH) finished with a time of 27:12.08 to become the world leader in the men’s 10,000 meters.

Several women’s records fell at the 2013 Prefontaine Classic as well, with Niyonsaba’s impressive performance leading the way. Aside from her effort, meet records in the women’s javelin and 1,500 meters were also set, as Christina Obergfoll (GER) threw for a distance of 67.70 in the javelin and Hellen Obiri (KEN) ran a 3:58.58 in the 1,500 to set the new meet records.

Tirunesh Dibaba (ETH), meanwhile, became the world leader in the women’s 5,000, finishing with a time of 14:42.01 to pace the field. A new world leader was also established in the women’s 400 meter hurdles, as Zusana Hejnova (CZE) finished with a time of 53.70 to see herself finish in first.

Olha Saladikha (UKR) rounded out the new world leaders at the Pre Classic, as she reached a distance of 14.85 in the women’s triple jump for the leading distance.

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Eugene Selected to Host 2016 Olympic Trials

Runners Space
Runners Space

After being host in both 2008 and 2012, Eugene has once again been selected for a third straight time and will be host for the 2016 Olympic Trials.

It’s the first time that Track Town USA has been host for three consecutive trials since it hosted for 1972, 1976 and 1980.

The last trials saw quite a bit of excitement with former Oregon track sensation Ashton Eaton setting a world record in the decathlon. Eaton and a large number of other local athletes will compete again with the hopes of making it to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Nick Symmonds of Springfield is another one those athletes. Symmonds has competed in each of the last Olympics in the 800m and represented team USA with first place finishes.

According to Kari Westlund (CEO of Travel Lane County) the past two trials generated close to $60 million dollars ($28 mil in 2008, $31 mil in 2012) in regional impact. With the continued development of Historic Hayward Field and an expansion of seating available, the number will likely be even higher than in previous trials.

[gn_quote style=”1″]“I don’t think it’s an event that we’ll ever take for granted,” Westlund said. “It’s one that needs to be approached with a great sense of stewardship anytime we’re honored to receive it.”[/gn_quote]

Vin Lananna, president of TrackTown USA and a University of Oregon representative, made the announcement at the State Capitol building in Salem. Lananna and a handful of other representatives accepted the bid from USA Track & Field CEO Max Siegel.

[gn_quote style=”1″]“The 2012 Trials were nothing short of spectacular and we are excited to continue our collaboration with Tracktown and the University of Oregon for what we know will be a spectacular event in 2016,” Siegel said. “Last year, Hayward Field provided the backdrop for our Olympic team which went on to dominate the Olympics in a way that was the best performance in a generation. We believe that bringing the Trials back to TrackTown will prepare the team for an equally impressive performance in Rio de Janeiro.”[/gn_quote]

The Trials will run July 1-10 of 2016 with the Olympics themselves taking place August 5-21. Comment below and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter @EugeneDailyNews

Lane Leads Decathlon and Heptathlon After Day One

Two track and field athletes from Lane Community College are currently in first place in the decathlon and the heptathlon after using big Saturday’s to open up the Lane Multi Qualifier.

Kara Hallock of Lane (
Kara Hallock of Lane (

Sophomore Thomas Cranor–from Eugene–is currently in the lead in the decathlon with 3,230 points while Kara Hallock is sitting in first in the heptathlon with 2,623 points. Cranor established his lead on Saturday by winning just one of five events but placing well enough to see himself in front of the pack. The lone event he won was in the long jump, where he reached a distance of 20 feet, 1 inch.

Hallock found her way into first place of the seven-event heptathlon by winning three of her four events on Saturday.  Heptathlon’s traditionally feature four events on one day and three events on the next. Yesterday’s events included the 100 m hurdlers, high jump, shot put, and 200 m. The final day of the heptathlon will feature the long jump, javelin throw, and 800 m.

Events finished yesterday in the men’s decathlon were the 100 m, long jump, shot put, high jump, and 400 m. The combined event will culminate today with the 110 m hurdlers, discus throw, pole vault, javelin throw, and 1500 m.

Hallock After the 2012 OSAA State Championships for Lebanon