EUGENE, Ore. – Track and field fans were treated to a special edition of TrackTown Tuesday on Feb. 6 when a crowd of 200 gathered at the Downtown Athletic Club to honor a slate of distinguished guests.
For many, the night will be remembered as a farewell celebration for two-time Olympian and five-time NCAA champion Andrew Wheating, the former University of Oregon standout who recently announced his retirement from the sport.
Wheating was greeted with a standing ovation as he reminisced about his storied four-year career in Eugene. As a UO student-athlete, he set school records in the mile, indoor 800 meters and distance medley relay, and competed alongside fellow Duck teammates and future Olympians such as Ashton Eaton, Galen Rupp and Matthew Centrowitz.
“I remember the first workout, I was put in a group that was supposed to run 5 minutes, 20 second mile paces,” he laughed. “The next day I could barely walk.”
However, all good things must come to an end.
Wheating spoke in depth about his decision to close the professional running chapter of his life, when he determined that the next race in which he got hurt would be his last. The decisive race came after he was injured during the 2017 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. At that point, he made the choice to focus his energy in other areas.
“I didn’t feel like the racer I once was, and things weren’t clicking,” Wheating said.
“I wanted to win for my team and bring home a championship. Suddenly that drifted away.”
Throughout the evening, Wheating thanked the community that supported him during his career. His retirement sparked an outpouring of social media messages and personal stories, all of which he took to heart.
“It’s not fun to do something great by yourself and in this town especially, I wouldn’t have been anything without the people I see in front of me,” he said. “I can’t thank you enough for carrying me for as far as you guys have.”
Wheating never imagined the legacy he’d leave behind. As someone who experienced everything from the NCAA Championships to the Olympic Games, he always put those around him before himself.
“Legacy never seemed to be something to shoot for. Giving back has always seemed like a bigger and more rewarding experience,” he said.
The crowd also heard from three of Oregon’s top middle distance runners, senior Sam Prakel, senior Blake Haney and redshirt sophomore Mick Stanovsek. All three sit in the UO all-time top 10 list for the indoor mile and each has broken the 4-minute mile barrier.
“Those moments with your teammates are really hard to beat,” Haney said. “That’s something you can’t match.”
Stanovsek, a walk-on, spoke about his journey onto the UO track team following his freshman year, and his rigorous training schedule that has prepared him to leave his mark on a program he once only dreamed of joining.
“I’d do it a hundred times over again if it means having teammates like these,” Stanovsek said.
The TrackTown Tuesday show opened with an appearance from University of Oregon Athletic Director Rob Mullens, who talked about the remarkable balance that the athletic department aims to provide for its student-athletes.
“We’ve proven here that you can have a great academic experience, can engage in our community, and we can win plenty of National Championships, too,” Mullens said.
Mullens is no stranger to National Championships, including the historic Triple Crown won by the UO women last year. He also acknowledged that the program’s widespread prestige has put the Ducks ahead of other programs.
“We are the envy of our peers,” Mullens said.
TrackTown Tuesday will return on March 6.