Disproportionately High Number Of Northwest Runners On Team USA

Jul 2, 2012

Two more runners and two javelin throwers from the Northwest claimed spots in the London Olympics on the final scheduled day of competition at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials.

Runners, jumpers and throwers from the Northwest performed well in these Olympic Trials. In fact, more than 20 percent of the athletes on the U.S. Olympic track and field team have ties to our region. Correspondent Tom Banse looked for reasons behind the disproportionately high local representation.

The poncho clad masses who packed the bleachers night after night at historic Hayward Field had plenty of local favorites to cheer for. And night after rainy night, Northwest athletes delivered.

Yes, there is such a thing as home field advantage in track and field. So says former Oregon Duck standout A.J. Acosta, who competed in the men's 1500 hundred meter race.

Acosta: "There's something to be said for sleeping in your own bed, being able to cook your own meals... and/or have your family pay for your meals."

The powerhouse sports program at the University of Oregon draws national talent to the Northwest. Many of those track stars stay in the region after graduation. Auburn, Washington native and U of O grad Jordan McNamara says that creates "peer pressure" to excel.

McNamara: "I think success breeds more success. We see each other going strong. It motivates us to train harder and get out there."

McNamara wears the green and black uniform of the Oregon Track Club. That's one of three elite training groups sponsored by the Nike company. All three of those groups are based in Oregon, although they spend part of the year training elsewhere. Distance runner Lisa Uhl was recruited from the Midwest to join the Portland contingent two years ago. She just qualified for the London Olympics in the 10,000 meters. Nike sponsors her, pays her coach, and lets her use the world class athletic facilities on the company's Beaverton campus.

Uhl: "If we need the resources, they're there. It's great. Great treatment, soft surfaces to run on on campus, a great weight room facility. Like I said, anything I need, they're very ready and willing to serve me."

A Nike spokeswoman declined to specify how much the company invests in the elite training stables.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio