Hayward Field: Competitive grounds with a storied past of Olympic stature

Racers from the women's 110 meter hurdles cross in front of the west stands at the PAC-12 Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field Sunday, May 13.  (Michael Ciaglo/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Racers from the women's 110 meter hurdles cross in front of the west stands at the PAC-12 Track and Field Championships at Hayward Field Sunday, May 13. (Michael Ciaglo/Oregon Daily Emerald)

Posted by Dashiell Paulson on Monday, Jun. 18 at 6:00 pm.

It started out as a track in the mud. A place built by students who wanted to run. They called it Kincaid Field in 1895. In 1919, it became Hayward Field, named after a University coach of track and field who can only be called legendary. In the last 93 years, Hayward has witnessed performances by the greatest runners, the finest coaches and the continued obliteration of track and field records.

In 1904, the fledgling Oregon track and field team was soundly defeated by Albany College — now Lewis and Clark. Oregon shrewdly offered the Albany coach a position as their first permanent track coach and William “Colonel Bill” Hayward accepted.

For the next 44 years, Hayward turned the Oregon program into a regional champion and gained national prominence.

Hayward coached four track world record holders, six American record holders and nine Olympians.

His enormous contribution to Oregon track was recognized when Kincaid was replaced with the new track in 1919 and named Hayward Field in his honor.

Construction wrapped up just in time to start hosting track meets after a two-year hiatus on collegiate sports due to World War I. The field was originally intended for the University football program, but Oregon’s success in track and field events led to further non-football improvements including a six-lane cinder track in 1921.

After Hayward retired in the fall of 1947, his former protege Bill Bowerman became head coach and outdid his mentor in many regards.  During his 24 years at Oregon, the Ducks’ track and field team had a winning season every year except for one, took home four NCAA titles and finished in the top ten in the nation 16 times.

By the 1960s, the football program had outgrown Hayward and was moved to Autzen Stadium. In 1967, Hayward became strictly a track and field facility.

The cinder track lasted until 1970 when it was replaced with an all-weather surface.  In 1972, the field played host to the U.S. Olympic Trials for the first time and continued to host the event in 1976 and 1980.

In the 2000s, the University made several expansive upgrades to Hayward.  In 2007, a permanent lighting system was installed that made Hayward a venue for long-distance running competitions. The lighting systems also made Hayward an attractive option for the Olympic trials. The field played host for the fourth time in 2008.

Some of the greatest long distance runners in history found their start at the University of Oregon. Names like Kenny Moore, Alberto Salazar, Bill Dellinger, Steve Prefontaine, Leann Warren, Kathy Hayes and most recently, Galen Rupp have made an indelible mark on the sporting landscape.

Hayward is one of the only four class-1 internationally certified tracks in the U.S., so in addition to hosting all Duck track and field events and the trials for the fifth time this year, Hayward has hosted some of the most prestigious competitions in the world.

Past meets have included the the 1960 U.S. Olympic Decathlon Trials, seven USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, 10 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, and the 1980 National Women’s AIAW Championships.

Normally, Hayward has room for more than 10,000 spectators. This year, expansions will allow a crowd of approximately 21,000.

From humble beginnings, Hayward Field has become America’s proving ground for track and field athletes. Some of the fastest men and women in the world, and a legion of Olympians, were first recognized here. That legacy should continue in 2012.

  • Bruce Tharp

    Damn I love this town and its history. I left California to retire in Eugene in Febuary of 2010 to simply be a Duck fan. It was an impulsive move that worked out for the best. You really have to experience thr roar of Eugene track fans to appreciate the magic of Hayward Field.

  • Kerrymyers53

    Competed here twice in My life and although i hated the apron i loved the atmosphere in Eugene! Till this day it’s the only place where i signed autographs for kiddies and grandma and grandpa knew who i was and what i had jumped for the past 2 years!!!

  • Anonymous

    The all weather track was poured in the fall of  1969 for the 1970 track season. If I remember, at the time there was a sign on the fence saying “Stevenson Track” for the donors (I may have the name wrong, it’s been a few years.)

    • Dpaulson

      Thank you for posting, sir.  During my research this was not made apparent.  I appreciate the detail!