CORVALLIS – There was a brief awkward moment early in the Oregon State track meet with Utah on Saturday when field announcer Adam Schneider wrapped up an interview with the 2000 meter steeplechase winner, Kristianne Width of OSU, by congratulating her on the win and “getting five points for the Duck . . . er, Beavers.”
While Schneider caught his mistake immediately, the crowd of several hundred let him know about it with their groans and boos at the near mention of their rivals. The Duck mistake was certainly understandable, since the UO has been one of the preeminent teams in track and field for decades. But track is now back in Corvallis, and Schneider’s minor slip was about the only glitch of the day for the OSU women, who celebrated their first scored dual meet in 27 years by hammering Utah 95-64 and showing off their new depth. 37 of the 45 women on the roster competed for OSU on Saturday, and it was clear that the Beavers now have the sprinters, hurdlers, jumpers and throwers to round out a team that was primarily distance-oriented in the early years of the rebuild.
Kara Hallock, a Lebanon HS grad who spent two years at Lane CC, won both the 100 and 400 hurdles as well as the long jump to score a team-leading 15 points. Also contributing to the win was sophomore Morgan Anderson from Silverton. Anderson was second in the 1500 meters and used a late charge in the 800 meters to capture second behind teammate Kelsi Schaer in a PR time of 2:12.05.
“I was just so adrenaline filled,” Anderson said. “I didn’t think I could run a race like that so it was great . . . Kelsi and I have been training partners for the last two years, and just knowing we needed to place and get the first two spots, I just waited for that opportunity to take it. It was good – I feel like I contributed a lot.”
In the big picture, the win is nice but less significant than the program reaching another historic milestone in its continuing rebirth under Head Coach Kelly Sullivan. Formerly the Willamette head coach, Sullivan came to OSU in 2004 to not only rebuild the program, but also to regain some measure of the past glory the Beavers enjoyed in the sport, especially during the 1960’s and early 1970’s.
“It was a big day for everything that you can imagine – for the sport, for the alums, for this team, and track and field in general in this state,” Sullivan said after the meet. “It’s a rare thing that Oregon State is doing in bringing back track and field. We’re working really hard at this, and you noticed today that a lot of people are on that same journey with us, and it’s pretty cool. I’m proud of it.”
Ed Ford, the former head track coach at Chemeketa Community College, competed for OSU from 1964-69. One of many OSU alums who volunteered as meet officials, Ford echoed Sullivan’s thoughts, saying, “It’s great to see it come back after so long without having a (track) program. Having a dual meet is great. I hope they get men’s track back sometime, too.”
Both Ford and Sullivan said there aren’t enough college meets with head to head competition. “People like to see a scoring meet with a quality team,” Sullivan said. “If we do it every year, we will double and triple and quadruple the size of the crowd.”
Fittingly, the Beavers clinched the meet with their six points in the high jump, an event that was revolutionized by the “Fosbury Flop,” developed at OSU by Dick Fosbury and Coach Berny Wagner.
Sullivan couldn’t help but beam with pride as he discussed his team. “They love each other, they get along great and they understand what we’re doing. You know, the cool thing is we have a bunch of kids from Oregon high schools here, at least two-thirds if not more. It’s given a lot of them an opportunity that they never would have had.”
While the program has made enormous progress, there is still much to be done before it is fully restored. Phase 2 work scheduled for August will largely complete the Whyte Track & Field Center. New grandstands, a scoreboard, a hammer throw venue, a stadium entrance, and media facilities will all be added, assuming funds for the project continue to be raised.
“We’re still fundraising,” Sullivan said. “I won’t say it will never end. . . if $5 million fell out of the sky we’d be done today . . . But we are getting closer so it’s exciting.”
With the completion of Phase 2 in 2016 or 2017, OSU will be in a position to host the Pac-12 championships in 2017. After that, the restoration of the men’s program will be the focus. All that will happen, no doubt. On Saturday, however, fans lined the home stretch, the sun was out, and the OSU women competed well and won. It was a great day to be a Beaver track fan.