7 Northwest athletes to watch at upcoming World Track & Field Championships in Eugene
Nearly 2,000 of the world's best runners, jumpers and throwers from 192 countries have arrived in Oregon for the 2022 World Outdoor Track and Field Championships, which start Friday and go through July 24.
The big event, Oregon 22, is happening on U.S. soil for the first time and in a smaller host city than ever before, Eugene. More than 30 athletes who are from the Pacific Northwest or who were collegiate standouts here secured berths in these world championships.
Speaking of which, athletes with connections to the Northwest can be found not only on Team USA, but also on the rosters of half a dozen foreign countries. This is partly a result of top runners desiring to join pro training groups based in Portland, Eugene and Seattle.
The Nike-sponsored Bowerman Track Club prepared Canadian Olympian Moh Ahmed to do battle in the 5,000 and 10,000-meters. Nike’s other Beaverton/Portland elite training group, the Union Athletics Club, includes German distance threat Koko Klosterhalfen and Australian Olympian Jessica Hull. Seattle-based Brooks Running, sponsor of the Brooks Beasts Track Club, sends Josh Kerr into the fray wearing United Kingdom colors and Marta Pen Freitas for Portugal.
Action on the track and on the local roads during the Oregon 22 World Champs spans 10 days of competition. NBC Sports secured the U.S. broadcast rights and is airing events on different network and cable properties on different nights. All of the action can also be streamed live on the Peacock video service and NBCSports.com.
The Northwest contingent on Team USA is a mixture of old and new faces. The list includes Olympic and Worlds veterans such as Evan Jager, Ryan Crouser, Devon Allen and Kara Winger, plus rising young track stars such as Cooper Teare and Sinclaire Johnson.
Eugene-based Teare relishes competing mere blocks from home this coming week.
“When you hear your name called and that roar that some other people don’t get, it’s definitely a confidence booster on the line,” the former Oregon Ducks star said. “So, I’m looking forward to it and just having the world in my backyard.“
Teare, 22, qualified in the men’s 1,500-meters. In fact, most of the middle and long distance races at the world champs meet will feature at least one Northwest athlete – shot put and javelin, too.
Steeplechase runner Jager of Portland also anticipates getting an extra boost from the event being close by at storied Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.
“I think there will be pride on the line,” Jager said. “There will obviously be home field advantage. Lack of travel to get to world championships. There's the familiarity and just feeling like you’re at home in the U.S.”
Jager acknowledged that at the elite level of competition this event represents, second only in importance to the Olympics, the home field advantage may be limited. But he said he welcomed whatever extra motivation the friendly crowd offers.
“It might not make a huge difference,” the 2016 Rio Games silver medalist said. “No one is going to come in here and be like, ‘Ah, this is not my stadium. I don’t know if I can give it a go today.’”
If you like cheering for hometown or home region athletes, here's a list of seven notable Oregon 22 competitors with Pacific Northwest connections:
Ryan Crouser (shot put) There are few sure things in sports, but Crouser surely carries the best odds among Oregon-raised athletes for winning a world champs medal in front of the home crowd. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has been remarkably consistent in unleashing big throws when it counts. The proud grad of Barlow High School in Gresham even is a threat to break his own world record this weekend.
Devon Allen (110m hurdles) This former Oregon Ducks track and football speedster finished fifth in the high hurdles at the 2016 Rio Olympics and just off the podium in fourth last year at the Tokyo Games. Oregon 22 might be his best chance to bring home a championship medal given that he owns the world’s leading time of this year – a 12.84 seconds win posted at the New York Grand Prix last month. However, the competition in this event is particularly stiff.
Cooper Teare (1,500m) Teare will be the hometown favorite when he steps to the line in one of the signature events of track & field, the metric mile. Teare has raced well during the buildup to Oregon 22, including winning the 1,500m at U.S. nationals last month on the same track. However, Teare has limited experience racing against a loaded international field, having turned pro just last winter.
Raevyn Rogers (800m) The University of Oregon is so proud of this alum, they plastered her image on the 10-story tower that looms over the rebuilt Hayward Field stadium. Rogers now trains in Portland with the Nike-sponsored Union Athletics Club. Her long resume includes a bronze medal from the Tokyo Olympics and a silver medal from Doha at the last outdoor world championships in 2019.
Grant Fisher (5,000m & 10,000m) Fisher will attempt a draining “double” at Oregon 22 by competing in the two longest races contested on the Hayward oval. He did quite respectably in the same 5,000/10,000 double at the Tokyo Olympics last year (fifth overall in 10K, ninth in 5K). The 25-year-old signaled he should be in the medal hunt this coming week by setting a new North American record in the 10,000-meters at an invitational meet in California in March.
Donovan Brazier (800m) Brazier is the 2019 world champion in the half-mile and would like to defend his title in his adopted home state. Brazier trains in Portland with the Union Athletics Club. Fans had high hopes for the American record holder to medal at the last Olympics, but Brazier bombed out of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials and didn’t even travel to Tokyo. He wrestled this past year with injury, which he hopes is now behind him.
Emily Infeld (5,000m) Infeld is among several Northwest track athletes who could claim the unofficial title of “comeback kid.” The 32-year-old Portland resident last made the U.S. team for the 2017 World Championships. But the past four years have been a nonstop saga that nearly drove her from the sport, including hip surgery, a series of stress fractures, being terrorized by a stalker and a coaching change. A strong finish for her in Eugene would be one of the feel-good stories of the meet.
Besides Allen, Teare and Rogers, twelve other athletes on the Oregon 22 start lists have previously worn the yellow and green uniform of the powerhouse Oregon Ducks track and field team. Some other Ducks to keep an eye on include two-time Olympian Jenna Prandini in the 200-meter dash, Alaysha Johnson in the 100-meter hurdles, Kemba Nelson competing for Jamaica in the 100-meter dash and Emmanuel Ihemeje competing for Italy in the triple jump.