State track meet returns to Mt. Hood
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.
"The Pac-12 Championships had already been called off, and they aren't going to rush construction to open for a high school meet," Barlow coach Scott Jones said.
Last season, Mt. Hood hosted the 3A/4A state meet on one weekend, followed by the 5A/6A meet the following weekend.
"Hosting last year brought over 20,000 people to our campus an our community," Mt. Hood CC Athletics Director Kim Hyatt said. "It had a positive economic impact on our community partners and provided our coaching staff with an excellent recruiting opportunity."
This year's OSAA schedule has top three divisions all scheduled for the same site on the same weekend — Friday and Saturday, May 29-30 — although that was planned with Hayward in mind.
"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," Hyatt said. "In the last two or three weeks that became more of a possibility."
The OSAA still has its championship events on the schedule, although it has suspended the regular season until at least April 28. A review of its spring-season status is expected in mid-April.
"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."
Helping to make it a top-notch experience are upgrades to Mt. Hood's shot put ring and to its long jump and triple jump pits.
The biggest difference at the stadium is the renovation of the east side (visitors) bleachers that provide seating space along the backstretch of the track.
"It's a good facility, I ran there in college, and it's hosted some bigger meets. When you think about other places, Lewis & Clark or George Fox, they just don't have enough seating."
The bonus year at a local site allows East County athletes to sleep in their own beds leading up to race day, saving area teams the costs of hotel stays and bus travel.
"The budget when you stay at home is next to nothing," Jones said.
The state meet is a regular part of the schedule for a Barlow program that won the 6A girls crown in 2015 and a pair of runner-up finishes between its boys and girls teams in the past decade.
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.
"Right now, we are staying positive and encouraging the kids to keep focused on what they can do on their own," Jones said. "If we get that chance to complete, be ready."
The University of Oregon is set to continue its tradition of hosting the Oregon High School state championships once the Hayward Field project is complete.
This story is scheduled for our Friday, March 27, print edition.
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