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Feature15 Jul 2021


Oregon's class of 2014

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Class of 2014 (© Getty Images)

In sport, as in life, many things come full circle.

Just seven years ago, Eugene’s Hayward Field played host to the World U20 Championships Oregon 2014 – the first outdoor global track and field World Athletics Series event to be held in the USA.

Fast forward to the present day, and the same venue is now counting down 365 days to go until it hosts the World Athletics Championships Oregon22.

Of the dozens of athletes who will contend for medals in Eugene next year, many would have been in action at the 2014 age-group event, gaining their first experience of a global athletics championships.

And whether they claimed gold back then or exited the competition in the first round – as underlined by some of the below examples – many of the world’s best athletes will head back to Oregon next year to complete a neat circle in their career.

 

Valarie Allman

There’s nothing quite like missing out on gold in a close competition to help fuel the flames.

At the 2014 World U20 Championships, Allman took an early lead in the discus with her opening effort of 56.75m. In the next round, though, Brazil’s Izabela da Silva threw 58.03m, which remained the top mark of the day.

Allman was far from disappointed with her silver medal, though. “As much as I would have liked to be able to win, there’s something cool about being in the hunt for it and feeling those emotions,” she said. “It’s something I’m never going to forget.”


She most likely had flashbacks of that competition when she set foot in the renovated Hayward Field last month at the US Olympic Trials, where she threw a stadium record of 70.01m.

When Allman competes at next year’s World Championships, not only will she have the home crowd advantage, but her opponents will be aware that she owns the best ever mark produced in that stadium.

 

Dina Asher-Smith

The British sprinter already had considerable championship experience before she headed to Eugene in 2014. Not only had she raced at various international age-group events, she had also – aged just 17 – claimed a medal as part of Britain’s 4x100m team at the senior World Championships in Moscow in 2013.

But Eugene will always stand out as the place where she won her first global title, and she sped down the home straight to take 100m gold in 11.23.

Just one year later, she placed fifth at the senior World Championships in Beijing and then occupied the same position at the Olympic Games in Rio. More recently, she claimed 200m gold at the World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.

“I'm so excited for the World Champs in Eugene,” she said. “I have really fond memories of competing there. It's where I won my first ever world title at the World Juniors in 2014.

“Even though it seems like ages ago, I still remember it so fondly. I'm really, really excited to go out there and be competitive.”

 

Joshua Cheptegei

When the Ugandan distance runner won the 10,000m back in 2014, he earned the honour of being the first global champion ever to be crowned at Hayward Field.

In the men’s 25-lap event, the first final held at the 2014 World U20 Championships, Cheptegei won convincingly in 28:32.86, finishing two-and-a-half seconds ahead of his nearest opponent. Although he was considered the pre-race favourite by virtue of having the fastest PB of the entrants, he was still relatively unknown heading into the championships.

People soon took note of him following his win in Eugene, though, and he went on to finish ninth at the senior World Championships in 2015 and sixth at the Olympics in 2016. He provided a stiff challenge to Mo Farah at the 2017 World Championships, eventually earning silver in the 10,000m, before enjoying his moment in the spotlight at the 2019 edition in Doha, striking gold.

“I have very fond memories of competing at the historic Hayward Field when I won the world U20 title in 2014,” said the 5000m and 10,000m world record-holder. “My dream is to go back in 2022 and win another gold medal to become a world champion again.”

 

Yoshihide Kiryu

Like Asher-Smith, Kiryu had already experienced a senior major athletics event before making his World U20 Championships debut.

The Japanese sprinter, who set a world U18 best of 10.19 in 2012 and an Asian U20 record of 10.01 one year later, competed at the 2013 World Championships, finishing fourth in his 100m heat before going on to help Japan to a sixth-place finish in the 4x100m.

But in Eugene he made it on to the podium – twice.

He took bronze in the 100m in 10.34 and then ran a blinding second leg on Japan’s silver medal-winning 4x100m team.

Kiryu went on to break the Japanese 100m record with 9.98 (which has since been bettered) and has starred on the Japanese 4x100m squads that took Olympic silver in 2016 and world bronze in 2017 and 2019.

It seems highly likely that, at the very least, he’ll feature on Japan’s relay team in Oregon next year.

 

Shamier Little

The USA unsurprisingly dominated the 2014 World U20 Championships and 400m hurdler Shamier Little was one of the host nation’s 11 gold medallists.

In fact, her World U20 triumph was one of three successive big titles she won at Hayward Field within the space of six weeks in 2014.

In mid-June she won her first NCAA title, despite being the youngest in the field. Three weeks later she returned to Eugene and won the US U20 title, beating Sydney McLaughlin, among others. Then in late July she won global U20 gold at the same venue.

She went on to win the senior US title there in 2015, before going on to win world silver in Beijing later that year. In her most recent race in Eugene, this year’s US Trials, she narrowly missed making the Olympic team after placing fourth, but she’s already focused on returning there next year for the World Championships.

“I’ve had some good runs in Eugene – World Juniors, NCAAs, US Trials,” she said. “Having the World Championships there next year is huge. I’m like, ‘Girl, make this team – please!’ I want to feel that moment of redemption and I’m definitely looking forward to competing on home soil.”

 

Eliza McCartney

Eugene was certainly a place of redemption for pole vaulter Eliza McCartney of New Zealand.

Just one year before the 2014 World U20 Championships, McCartney narrowly missed a medal on countback at the World U18 Championships in Donetsk.

She returned to the global stage in 2014 as a much stronger athlete, and in Eugene she produced her best when it mattered most, setting a national U20 record of 4.45m to earn bronze.

“The crowd in Eugene is amazing, there was a huge crowd and they were very supportive,” she said of the experience. “It was just great to have that whole atmosphere around you.”

When she returned to Hayward Field in 2018 – having taken a surprise Olympic bronze medal in the meantime – McCartney excelled once again and set an Oceanian record of 4.85m.

Due to recent injury struggles, McCartney was unable to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games, but she returned to action earlier in 2021 and will be keen to be back competing at one of her favourite venues next year.

 

Yulimar Rojas

The Venezuelan jumper may not have made much of an impact in the battle for medals at the 2014 World U20 Championships, but she still managed to make a lasting impression.

Even back then, as a relatively inexperienced teenager, she was animated on the runway and stood head and shoulders above her opponents. She reached the final of the long jump, eventually finishing 11th, and failed to reach the final of the triple jump.

But it wasn’t long before she started making serious progress. In 2015, still aged 19 but in her first year as a senior, she set national records of 6.57m in the long jump and 14.20m in the triple jump. Then less than a year later, she returned to the US state of Oregon for the 2016 World Indoor Championships in Portland, where she won triple jump gold – her first senior global medal.

It kick-started an incredible run of major podium finishes as she went on to earn Olympic silver later that year, then won gold at the 2017 and 2019 World Championships, plus the 2018 World Indoor Championships.

She may not have reached the triple jump final in Eugene in 2014, but she’ll return there next year as a two-time world indoor and outdoor champion.

Jon Mulkeen for World Athletics

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