Journalists from around the world compete at Hayward Field

Surrounded by fellow journalists in sportswear on the track at Hayward Field, Canadian journalist Devin Héroux took a moment to revel in this unique experience.

Heroux had just completed his first 800-meter media run at the Oregon22 World Championships in Athletics on Thursday, where nearly 150 people signed up to test their mettle in the race that has become a tradition for accredited media.

“Just being in that space, smelling the grass and feeling what it is, I will never forget that,” said Heroux, who works for the CBC. “Being able to appreciate what these athletes go through in an 800 is amazing.”

As writers, editors, TV hosts and photographers took turns running through eight heats, some colleagues held up signs to cheer them on, while others posed with their country’s flag.

For many, the race was a representation of what journalists said they enjoyed most about this year’s event: having better access to the stadium and the athletes. Hosting the meet in Eugene, a smaller venue for the world championships, also allowed for more cultural exchange between athletes living in dormitories and gave fans the chance to see some famous former athletes in attendance.

“That’s how it should be: fans in a crowded stadium, journalists who can be within arm’s reach of the athletes,” Heroux said after finishing his race in 2 minutes 37 seconds.

Heroux preparation and assembly as the race also went viral on Twitter, with some Canadian track and field athletes chiming in with advice on how to run a fast time.

“I was once known in Canada for trying out sports; I actually made my speed skating debut last fall and Team Canada created my own bio on the website, so they’ll have to add that performance,” Heroux said.

The media race was sponsored by Seiko watches and the best received prizes. The race consists of two laps of the track. Many consider it one of the most difficult.

Several participants said they were surprised at the speed of the best runners. Guillaume Laurent of Switzerland took first place, with a time of 1 minute, 54 seconds. This time was 14 seconds off the world record.

Register-Guard reporter Louis Krauss, who wrote this story, participated in the race and finished in 3 minutes, one second.

One of the top 20 was Álvaro Sánchez, sports editor for El País newspaper in Madrid, Spain.

Although Sánchez is an experienced marathon runner and wants to compete, he said he was more excited about the experience of being on Hayward Field.

“I look up to Steve Prefontaine a lot and read a lot of stories about him,” Sánchez said of the legendary University of Oregon track athlete. “Being here and racing in a stadium like this is really exciting.”

Because Eugene is smaller than most cities that have hosted the world championships, Sanchez said it was a great experience to walk past his hotel and spot big-name athletes in a laid-back environment.

“I’m surprised that we live very close to the athletes, and that makes it easier to access,” he said just before the media run. “It’s like being in an Olympic village, where there are usually only authorized athletes.”

For Hiroshi Mukae, a Japanese editor for Monthly Athletics who also participated in the race, he said that although there were language barriers covering the event, in those cases people always helped him.

“It’s a bit difficult, but they’re all so nice,” he said.

A Transformed UO Campus

During the competition, dormitories around the OU campus were packed with international athletes, creating a unique environment where teams from various countries ate and lived together.

4,000 pounds of chicken and 50,000 bananas: OU catering staff caters to track and field athletes

At Barnhart Hall on Thursday, javelin throwers Elina Tzengko of Greece and Līna Mūze of Latvia chatted outside in the shade while the Jamaican sprint team socialized a few yards away.

The two European athletes commented on how cramped their rooms felt, with three female athletes in a dormitory. Mūze said it was a bit warm in the dorms as well. Tzengko said it was fine and not as stuffy as Greece.

“For the Greeks, it’s fine; for northerners like me, it’s too hot,” Mūze said.

Both said they had fans in the bedrooms which helped which was also useful as a hair dryer.

“I have longer hair, so I just hang it for 30 minutes near it; I think it’s healthy for that,” Tzengko said.

Mūze and Tzengko said they enjoyed their time in Eugene, but noted a few quirks. They said it was their first international event to stay in a dorm instead of a hotel. Tzengko said she and other athletes were bothered by loud trains passing nearby each night. Mūze said there were taller athletes on his team who thought the beds were too short.

As the athletes prepared for their events, workers behind the scenes had their hands full to feed them and the staff.

In the alley next to the old McArthur Court near Hayward Field, Oakway Catering was busy preparing thousands of meals three times a day for volunteers, police and firefighters.

Alanna Laisure, 31, said the Sprinfield-based company had made sure to offer vegetarian and vegan options. She said the crew tried to cook dishes representing a different country each day.

“It was a bit overwhelming at first with everything going on, but once we got here and organized it went pretty smoothly,” Laisure said Thursday in Oakway’s outdoor cooking area. .

Stars mingle with fans

Some championship attendees also got to meet off-road sports stars, like pro football quarterback Robert Griffin III. He attended with his wife and children. A few fans who recognized him made sure to get some selfies.

In an interview, Griffin, who was also a top track and field athlete in high school and college, said he wanted to cheer on Team USA as they competed on home soil while commentating on television broadcasts.

“It’s the mecca of athletics in the United States,” Griffin said. “I think it’s a really cool atmosphere to see American riders rejoicing that they’re not necessarily going overseas to the Diamond Tour, or other world championships or the Olympics.

“To see them get that accolade, I feel like I’ve raised their level even further.”

During the week, the stadium’s jumbotron occasionally spotlighted Griffin and other notables in attendance. On Thursday night, the crowd roared as it showed former track and field athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith. The famous two raised their fists in a salute to Black Power to protest racial injustice during the 1968 Olympics.

Louis Krauss covers breaking news for The Register-Guard. Contact him at lkrauss@registerguard.comand follow him on Twitter @LouisKraussNews.

James C. Tibbs