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Construction delays at Hayward Field result in Mt. Hood hosting the track championships again

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Estacadas Amber Liber takes the baton from Hayven Richardson on the first exchange of last years 400-meter relay at the 4A state meet.

The OSAA will return the big-school state track and field championships to Mt. Hood Community College this year after construction delays on Hayward Field were announced earlier this month.

"My gut was telling me that would happen, but we know the University of Oregon will be hosting future meets, so this is just a small bump in the road," Estacada coach Jon Erickson said. "The old Hayward was full of magic, a special place for the kids to compete, and I'm sure there will be a similar feeling at the new facility."

Mt. Hood hosted last year's track championships with the 3A/4A meet on one weekend, followed by the state's 5A/6A divisions the following weekend.

"Brad Garrett with the OSAA has kept us updated on the entire process, and we have known that there was a chance we would be the back-up site," Mt. Hood Athletics Director Kim Hyatt said. "In the last two or three weeks that became more of a possibility."

This year, the OSAA has the 4A/5A/6A schools all competing in the same meet, assuming the spring seasons are allowed to begin. The OSAA has suspended spring sports until at least April 28.

"We are excited about the opportunity to host, but our number one priority is the health and safety of everyone attending," Hyatt said. "With the extended closures and restrictions that are currently in place, it will be more challenging to get the facility ready, but we will do everything we can to make it a positive and safe experience."

Over the past year, the Mt. Hood facility completed a renovation of its East (backstretch) bleachers and added railings in its main stadium.

"Seating will be improved," Hyatt said.

The college has also seen upgrades to its shot put ring and its long jump and triple jump pits.

"I was a little concerned about the site change last year, but we got there and it ran really well," Erickson said. "It was a good weekend, and we had some great things happen."

Of course, the fate of this year's meet remains in question amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. If spring sports resume at the end of April, it would leave about a month for athletes to train and qualify for state. With group practices cancelled through April 28, Erickson is sending out email workouts every few days that his athletes can perform in isolation.

"You cross your fingers and hope your athletes are doing some things are their own, but you realize it's not going to be a very technical year," Erickson said. "It will come down to who is ready for a three-week season."

This story is scheduled for our March 26, print edition.

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