With the World Athletics Championships (WAC) descending upon Hayward Field in Eugene this weekend, participating nations from around the world recently needed locations where the athletes representing them in the event could do pre-championship training. The Cottage Grove and Creswell communities stepped up to answer that call.
July 15 through 24 will be the first time that the United States has hosted the WAC, an event that sees some of the greatest athletes in the world come together for competition. Alongside the Olympics, it is considered one of the most prestigious occurrences in world track and field, marathon running, and race-walking athletics.
The WAC was originally scheduled to take place in August 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Championships to this year. Cottage Grove has been fulfilling the host role for Team Botswana Athletics, which hails from a country located in South Africa, since July 6. Creswell has been accommodating the Finland team.
“We are really excited for Finland to be using our facilities and luckily our district has supported this endeavor from the get-go,” said Creswell High School Athletic Director Brandon Standridge. “On the district side, a large part of the heavy lifting has been done by our superintendent, Mr. Johnson, Joel Higdon (the director of facilities) and his staff, our track coaches – notably, Jonathan Ferguson and Evan Lybarger - and community member Lonn Robertson.”
Travel Lane County, an organization that concerns itself with local tourism, has been working with cities all over the county to find communities and schools willing to provide home bases for several participating nations since December of 2021. Standridge says the Creswell campus has benefited during this time of preparation.
“Throughout this process we, with [the help of] community partners, have been able to spruce up our grounds, re-bark our walking trail, and put in a temporary hammer throw that we will use as a discus pit after Finland is gone,” Standridge continued.
The City of Cottage Grove and Travel Lane County reached out to Cottage Grove High School (CGHS) Athletic Director Garrett Bridgens, who has been working with Team Botswana Athletics to allow the team to use the high school facilities to prepare. The team trained daily from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at CGHS and left on July 12 for the athlete village in Eugene.
“We are excited to be in a spot to host this caliber of athletes in Cottage Grove. It speaks to the Eugene area and Hayward Field,” Bridgens said. “This is special. This is the first time the world track and field championships have been on U.S. soil, so we are excited Cottage Grove can play a small part in that.”
Team Botswana Athletics brought along Nijel Amos, who took silver in the 800M race during the 2012 London Olympic games. The organization’s 4 x 400 men’s relay team also took the bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“After planning for most of the year, it is hard to believe that it is time for [the athletes] to be here, and we wish them the best of luck during the Championships,” Standridge concluded.