Track Resurfaces in Sacramento
Two U.S. Olympic Trials, four NCAA Division I championship meets, one world record, six American records, 13 collegiate records – that’s quite a run for a track, and for a town.
From 2000 through 2007, Sacramento was the epicenter of U.S. track and field. But time moves on, and tracks age, which leads to the story of how California’s capital city resurfaced on the national scene in 2014.
With the 2014 USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships available, the Sacramento Sports Commission and its parent organization, the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, expressed a desire last year to get back in the game. USATF officials said the Mondo track at Hornet Stadium would need to be resurfaced.
The Convention & Visitors Bureau quickly secured pledges from local hoteliers and businesses to help foot the $1.4 million bill. The resurfacing of the warm-up and competition tracks at Sacramento State with Mondo’s new Super X 720 model. The project began April 14 and will be completed by the end of May.
Less than a month later, Sacramento will play host to its sixth national championship meet. Sacramento previously held the U.S. championships in 1968, 1981, 1995, 2000 and 2004.
USA Track & Field assured local organizers that it will award the 2017 USA Championships to Sacramento if this year’s championship meet attracts at least 22,500 spectators.
“We’re excited to be back in the game,” said Sacramento Sports Commission Director Mike Sophia. “Hosting major track and field events is obviously one of Sacramento’s strengths, going back to the 1960s and reaching its peak with the 2000 and 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials. Sacramento was considered the track capital of the United States. This is a major step toward claiming the mantle again.”
The 2014 USA Championships begin Wednesday, July 25, with junior multi-events. The main part of the schedule opens July 26 and continues through Sunday, July 29. Tickets are available at sacsports.com.
In keeping with the comeback theme, the Golden West Invitational high school meet is returning to Sacramento after a one-year stopover in Berkeley. The 55th annual GWI will be held Saturday, June 28, following the conclusion of Saturday’s open competition at Hornet Stadium.
Many of the top professional athletes expected to compete in the USA Championships are Golden West alumni, including Allyson Felix (200 meters), Ryan Whiting (shot put), Bershawn Jackson (400 hurdles), Ashton Eaton (decathlon) and Galen Rupp (distances).
“The opportunity to hold the Golden West Invitational in conjunction with the USA Championships was too good to pass up,” said John Mansoor, the executive director of USATF’s Pacific Association who is serving as co-meet director of the USA Championships.
“The high school athletes will compete in front of thousands of fans and have a chance to be seen by the top professional coaches and athletes in the country at the same time,” Mansoor said.
The 2000 and 2004 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at Sacramento State were the best-attended Trials in history, attracting approximately 360,000 spectators.
In 2000, Stacy Dragila, the world champion from nearby Auburn, broke her own world record in the women’s pole vault. Gail Devers set an American record in the 100-meter hurdles. Additional U.S. records were set in the women’s 5,000 meters and the 3,000-meter steeplechase, proving that Sacramento’s warm days and temperate evenings make it one of the few locations in the United States that offer excellent weather for sprinters and distance runners.
Sacramento’s successful hosting of the 2000 Olympic Trials led to a return visit in 2004. A new group of stars, led by Felix, Jeremy Wariner and Justin Gatlin, thrilled crowds that averaged more than 20,000 each day.
The two Olympic Trials were preceded by national championship events in 1968, 1981 and 1995. The 1968 AAU Championships at Hughes Stadium featured the “Night of Speed” in which the world record in the men’s 100-meter dash took a wholesale beating. The 1981 TAC Championships showcased the dizzying talents of a rising star named Carl Lewis, and the 1995 USA Championships featured Michael Johnson’s wins in the 200 and 400 meters.
Hornet Stadium also served as the site of the 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2007 NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Five collegiate records were set at the 2003 event, and the 2005 NCAA meet featured two collegiate records that still stand – Kerron Clement’s 47.56-second clocking in the 400 hurdles, and LSU’s 2:59.59 in the 4 x 400 relay.
Ten years after the 2004 Olympics Trials, Sacramento is back in the track game.
“This wouldn’t be possible without the support we received from our stakeholders,” said Steve Hammond, CEO of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Knowing that economic impact of events such as the 2014 USA Track & Field Championships on the regional economy is significant, they bought into our plan.”
By Bob Burns