For years, track and field athletes and administrators have kicked around the idea of having some sort of U.S. pro circuit of meets to showcase and foster American talent, but none have really taken off.
That dream becomes a reality this summer when the TrackTown Summer Series debuts on July 29 in Eugene., Ore. The meet will feature 144 athletes representing four teams from Portland, San Francisco, Philadelphia and New York City. Each squad will carry 36 athletes on its roster, split evenly between men and women, with competitors battling for prize money and additional benefits in excess of $500,000.
The meet, which will take place at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, will be broadcast live on ESPN or ESPN2.
The four teams will be chosen via a combination of a June 25 athlete draft and free agency. Athletes can register for the draft on June 1-15 online at gotracktownusa.com.
The meet will also feature events open to recreational runners and walkers, including a 4-mile road race called the TrackTown Team Challenge. Each person who signs up for the race will be assigned to a team and given a T-shirt to fly their team colors. The road race course includes a section on the famed Hayward Field track.
The TrackTown Summer Series is a new and innovative domestic circuit of scored track and field meets featuring competition between top teams of elite athletes in cities on both the East and West coasts. The series will expand in each of the next two seasons, possibly with regional meets leading up to a championship in Eugene.
“This is outstanding news for our sport,” TrackTown USA President and 2016 U.S. Olympic Men’s Head Track & Field Coach Vin Lananna said. “We look forward to continuing to explore fresh and creative ways to spark interest in track and field in the U.S.”
The idea for the TrackTown Summer Series first surfaced with a trio of High Performance meets at Hayward Field (2006, 2007, 2008) leading up to the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. It was followed by the highly successful Run TrackTown High Performance meet held in conjunction with the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships.
“I’m really excited about this new series of meets,”said Ben Blankenship, a U.S. Olympic 1,500-meter hopeful who competes for the Oregon Track Club Elite program out of Eugene. “Besides the obvious advantages of being able to compete in the U.S., the fact that ESPN has agreed to televise the series is truly amazing for the sport of track and field.”