The grand opening of Hayward Field finally took place this weekend, the Oregon Ducks’ first home meet since June 2018. In the era of COVID-19, the debut of the new $200 million stadium had much less fanfare than it otherwise would have, but that appeared to have little effect on the athletes’ performances. There were several impressive results throughout the weekend, including from Canada’s own Charlotte Prouse, who won the women’s 3,000m steeplechase.
Prouse shared the lead for the majority of the race with Oregon’s Aneta Konieczek, but then broke away with two laps to go to finish the race 9:54.65, the fastest collegiate time so far this season. Konieczek finished behind Prouse in 9:59.42, and third place went to BYU’s Sara Musselman in 10:01.88.
The London, Ont. native is in her final year of track at the University of New Mexico. She was a member of the school’s 2017 NCAA cross-country gold medal team, and in 2018 claimed the silver medal in the NCAA steeplechase final in 9:45.45. After dealing with a stress fracture at the beginning of 2020, Prouse was forced to sit out the indoor season but appears to be back in good form and ready for outdoors.
Arguably the most exciting performance of the night went to Oregon’s Cole Hocker, who made a late surge in the men’s 1,500m to take the win in 3:38.99. In an interview with The Register-Guard, the sophomore from Indiana admitted that it was different without a full stadium, but despite that, there was still a special energy in the race.
Historic Hayward Field was torn down in June 2018 to make room for the new, state-of-the-art facility. It is the most expensive and modern track-only facility in the United States, and features sports medicine facilities, treatment and rehab areas, a weight room and a theatre-style room for team meetings. After a one-year delay due to COVID-19, the reopening of the facility has been a highly anticipated event in the world of track and field. Beyond this opening meet, the facility will be hosting several more events, including the West Coast Classic on April 17, the Oregon Relays from April 23-24, the outdoor NCAA Track and Field Championships in June and of course, the U.S. Olympic Track ad Field Trials, which will take place from June 18-27.
“This has been a long time coming for us here and our program,” said Oregon head coach Robert Johnson on the first day of the meet. “It’s been a surreal moment today. … Thankful, blessed, happy. I woke up this morning excited and giddy and couldn’t wait to shoot off the gun.”