OSU track, cross country finally have a place to call home
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 23:09
There have been many significant moments in Oregon State track and field history.
In 1908, OSU student Forrest Smithson won gold in the 110-meter high hurdles at the Summer Olympics in London.
In 1968, Dick Fosbury won the NCAA high jump title and an Olympic gold medal in Mexico City, and revolutionized the event forever.
In 1988, the Beavers cut their track and field program, and in 2004 they brought back women’s track and field and cross country.
Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, marked the latest milestone for Oregon State track and field, when the Whyte Track and Field Center was unveiled to the masses.
About 650 people were on hand for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new track, located behind the Hilton Garden Inn. The completion of the track not only means that the women’s team will now have a place to practice but Oregon State will soon have a full-fledged men’s team.
“I didn’t realize how long it had been since I had actually told a team we were going to meet at our track,” track and cross country coach Kelly Sullivan said. “You know, eight years of meeting outside my office door or meeting on a bike path or having to jump in vans and go to local high schools all the time became old. Now we are in a position where we can actually come, like everyone else does, to our facility and have practice and hopefully in the future soon have competition.”
The building of the track was made possible because of a fundraising campaign spearheaded by Fosbury and the tireless efforts of Sullivan. Both of them, and principal donor Jim Whyte, spoke Friday and appeared to be very excited about the realization of what was once just the dream of a group of OSU track and field alumni.
“This is something we’ve been working on for more than a generation, since the athletic department dropped track and field in 1988,” Fosbury said. “As alumni, we all knew the values that student athletes get from this sport while they’re attending Oregon State. For us, it was a vision, it was a dream and now it’s a reality.”
The fact that the Beavers have been able to field a competitive women’s program without the proper facilities speaks volumes about the heart and work ethic of both the athletes and their coaches. Sullivan expects the new facility to help recruiting tremendously.
“I love to recruit, and I’ve kind of had one hand tied behind my back during this period of time because we haven’t had a facility that you could be honest about and now we can,” Sullivan said.
Although OSU won’t be able to field a complete men’s team until Phase II of the track and field resurrection is complete, the current members of the limited men’s team expect the new facility to make an immediate impact.
“We won’t have to use an indoor turf facility to high jump, or go to a high school and share their track with them,” said Obum Gwacham, a football player who cleared 7-1 3/4 in the high jump last spring and won the Oregon preview meet. “Now that we have our own track, it’s gonna make all the difference in the world. I know we’re going to be so much better than we were last year.”
Phase II of the project includes raising a $5 million endowment to fund the men’s team and building grandstands, a press box and a scoreboard. Although $5 million might seem to be a massive sum, the men and women responsible for raising the money to fund this project believe it can be done.
Oregon State junior and unanimous track and field and cross-country co-captain, Audrey Botti, summed up the mindset of both the team and the donors perfectly when she was asked what her favorite part of the track was.
“I think the starting line is probably my favorite because it’s so symbolic. You never really hit a finish line, there’s no finish line to your
dreams,” Botti said. “You’ve always got to keep dreaming, and I think Kelly’s reminded us [of] that more than anything.”
Alex Crawford, sports reporter