Athletes and advocates alike took the stage at the first TrackTown Tuesday of 2019 in front of a crowd of 150 at the Downtown Athletic Club on Feb. 5.
The night started with a touching tribute to Barbara Kousky, who passed away last December. Kousky was an important figure in the Oregon Track Club and had a long and distinguished career in track and field management.
UO senior and 2018 NCAA outdoor 1,500-meter champion Jessica Hull was joined by her Duck teammate Jonathan Harvey, a hurdler and member of the men’s 4x400m relay. Harvey, a California native, explained his journey to becoming a part of the Oregon athletic tradition.
“Growing up, Oregon was always my dream school,” said Harvey. “I used to follow the football and track team all the time. I ran track when I was a little kid. So it was just destiny honestly.”
Hull and Harvey were selected by their peers to be on the leadership council for the track and field team. That council sets the precedent for what it means to be an Oregon student-athlete.
“We are trying to develop this concept of being a Duck,” said Hull. “Figuring out what that means as an individual and what that means as a collective, day in and day out for practice and competition.”
“Being a Duck to me starts with school,” Harvey added. “Making sure you’re doing the work, going to class and sitting in the front, to be an example for non-athletes and our teammates. On the track, [it means] working hard and showing you are relentless. That you want to get better everyday.”
OTC Elite newcomers Drew Piazza and Vincent Ciattei both made their TrackTown Tuesday debuts. As star distance runners from Virginia Tech, Piazza and Ciattei run the 800m and 1,500m, respectively. What was once a dream to run for OTC Elite turned into a reality when Ciattei and Piazza got the message they had been waiting for.
“A few days before we got the email, we both said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great for us to run for OTC?’” said Ciattei. “I thought that would be the perfect set up. Then we got the email saying that exact same thing. It was just unbelievable.”
Piazza was drawn to the passionate track community of Eugene and the value that is placed on the history of the sport.
“Here in the community, everyone gets it,” said Piazza. “It’s awesome.”
Ciattei spoke of how surreal it has been for him to be a part of OTC Elite and to be training with the athletes he idolized in high school.
“Everyday at practice, we’re training with Olympians that I knew or looked up to,” said Ciattei. “We had something special at Virginia Tech, but this is a completely different level…I even had Nijel Amos as my phone background in high school.”
Bev Smith, Oregon women’s basketball legend and Executive Director of Kidsports, appeared on stage with Olympic steeplechaser Bridget Franek. They spoke about the progress of the Civic Park project on behalf of Eugene Civic Alliance. Smith stressed the importance of physical activity in the lives and health of children, and the need for the community to provide opportunities for youth sports.
“Kidsports has been in the community for 65 years and it’s founded under the premise that all kids play,” said Smith. “It is a right for these kids to play and improve their development.”
Franek outlined the evolution of Civic Park, which has raised more than $25 million and is still fundraising. The facility will house indoor courts and outdoor turf fields to accommodate all sports in the same footprint once occupied by Civic Stadium.
“We started construction in October of last year and the first phase is set to be completed in spring of 2020,” said Franek.
The next TrackTown Tuesday will be March 5.