UO jumpers, OTC Elite athletes headline TrackTown Tuesday

The OTC Elite 800m women joined us at the Downtown Athletic Club on May 1. (Photo: Theo Mechain / TrackTownUSA)

TrackTown Tuesday welcomed a series of accomplished guests in front of an audience of 150 at the Downtown Athletic Club on May 1.

The show featured Prefontaine Classic Meet Director Tom Jordan, five members of the University of Oregon jumps crew, and Oregon Track Club Elite athletes Francine Niyonsaba, Shea Collinsworth and Hanna Green. Those in attendance were given an insiders’ glimpse into the upcoming Prefontaine Classic, and a preview of the competition that will be showcased at the Oregon Twilight meet on May 4.

The UO contingent included three reigning Pac-12 champions in senior Damarcus Simpson (long jump), junior Chaquinn Cook (triple jump) and sophomore Rhesa Foster (long jump) plus rising stars junior Ben Milligan (high jump) and junior Tristan James (long jump, triple jump).

The jumpers of Oregon talked about their goals going into Championship season. (Photo: Theo Mechain/TrackTown USA)

Cook set the school record in the triple jump by more than a foot with a leap of 45 feet, 7 inches (13.89m) at the Mt. SAC Relays in April. The former Benson High and Portland State star told the crowd that she was surprised at the mark.

“I didn’t see it coming,” Cook said. “But I knew I was getting stronger and my times were getting faster. Once I did the jump, by my second phase, I was already up on the pit. When I took my last phase, my landing wasn’t that great, but I ended up jumping 13.89m. It didn’t feel that big, but it felt good to have an improvement.”

James talked about his transition back to TrackTown USA after originally attending college in Oklahoma. An Oregon native and Lane Community College transfer, he described the feeling of debuting as a member of the Oregon track and field program.

“It took me going 2,000 miles across the country to Oklahoma to realize that I belong in TrackTown USA,” James said. “I was a little nervous because I did represent the O, and every time that I put it on, I want to be the best that I can be.”

The show also featured three 800m runners from Oregon Track Club Elite in Niyonsaba, Collinsworth and Green.

Niyonsaba, in her third season with OTC Elite, is a two-time World Indoor gold medalist. She also won silver medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the 2017 World Championships in London.  Besides being one of the world’s best 800m runners, she is also involved with UNICEF in her home country of Burundi. Niyonsaba gives back in many ways, including organizing track and field competitions for youngsters.

Olympic silver medalist Francine Niyonsaba charmed the crowd. (Photo: Theo Mechain/TrackTown USA)

“I believe in supporting Burundi,” she said. “I want to inspire them to start a better future. It’s a big pride for my country.”

Green and Collinsworth are two of the newest members of OTC Elite. Green, a graduate in interior design from Virginia Tech, talked about the intricate balance between athletics and her portfolio.

“All through college, it was a good thing to have going back and forth,” she said. “I wouldn’t think about interior design as much when I was on the track, and I wouldn’t think about running when I was in school.”

Collinsworth spoke about her decision to come to TrackTown USA to run professionally.

“There were three reasons,” she said. “The reputation of the team and its athletes, Coach Rowland with his reputation, and TrackTown USA. This is the city to be in if you want to run.”

Niyonsaba is expected to compete in the 400m at the Oregon Twilight meet on Friday, while Green is entered in the 1,500m and Collinsworth will pace the 800m.

Jordan, who is in his 35th year as meet director of the Pre Classic, said he was looking forward to an American record attempt in the men’s two-mile, plus both men’s and women’s pole vault competitions. The meet will be held May 25-26 at Hayward Field.

Tom Jordan, meet director of the Pre Classic, previewed the 2018 event. (Photo: Theo Mechain/TrackTown USA)

“I think we’re going to have the best fields ever,” Jordan said. “Top-to-bottom the fields are the best we’ve ever had.”

TrackTown Tuesday returns for its last show of the season on June 5 at Hayward Field.

Video by: Nicholas Lackides