By: Kyle Markley
If you’re a fan of track and field I’m sure you’ve probably heard the news about the “Duck Track Club” and their attempt at the four by mile world record. With that news also came debate about the timing of the race with the OAC hosting the Penn Relays four by mile race just one week later. But to understand the whole story we must start in the beginning.
In early February On, the Swiss global performance brand, announced a partnership with Penn Relays. This deal made their company the exclusive footwear and apparel sponsor of the oldest and largest track & field competition in the U.S. Then a month later the On Athletic Club (OAC), the On brand’s flagship professional running team announces they will compete in the historic four by mile against the best middle distance runners the world has to offer. Of the teams entered to run, the “Duck Track Club” was nowhere to be found. Fast forward to last week, the Oregon Track and Field Instagram page announced on Friday they will be hosting their very own four by mile race, with one key difference, they will be targeting the world record at their own event. Immediately questions began: was this planned out before the Penn Relays announcement? Did the “Duck Track Club” get invited to attend the Penn Relays? Which teams will be competing at the Oregon Relays in the four by mile? Questions like these were contemplated by many, but the biggest question remained: why not compete at the historic Penn Relays to truly see which team is the best in the world?
As a fan of track and field I can understand some of the reasoning behind this world record attempt occurring at Hayward instead of Penn. For starters New Hayward Field is trying to get as much hype and publicity as possible leading into the 1st ever Worlds on U.S. soil. Second, the “Ducks Track Club” consists of Oregon Alumni and current Oregon studentathletes, so why not keep it closer to home. And lastly, having two different four by mile races on two coasts to allow more fans to witness potential history in person. As a fan of the sport, I can understand and respect those reasons, but I do not agree with it.
The sport of track and field, heck all sports thrive on one key aspect: head-to-head competition. In basketball the matchup of Magic vs. Bird in the 80’s captivated fans across the country, in boxing Ali vs. Frazier rocked the world, the list goes on and on. Track and field is different, in this sport these types ofmatchups it can be rare, especially between two heavily favored contenders. Rivalries like Kipchoge vs. Bekele, Chelimo vs. Lomong, or McLaughlin vs. Muhammad. These types of matchups are what drive the sport into new levels of publicity, yet we hardly ever see powerhouse athletes like these complete on a regular basis. This matchup for the world’s best four by mile squad is no different. In a meet that is historic for its relay races, why not determine who the fastest relay team in the world at the Penn Relays? What if instead of live streaming two separate races, we all watch Ollie Hoare and Cooper Teare go stride for stride down the home straightway with the ultimate bragging rights on the line? Who wouldn’t watch that?
In the end track and field had a prime opportunity to watch some of the best distance runners from across the globe compete against each other in an event that you don’t get to see veryoften. That chance was lost because for one reason or another the “Ducks Track Club” decided to stay in their nest and time trial rather than fly across the country to go against arguably one of the best fields this event has ever seen. This sport can get caught up in time trial races where time holds more value than winning. But this style of racing doesn’t build excitement like an all-out race. And for that reason, the more exciting race is still happening this weekend. For that reason, we need to see this weekend as the more important race, a belief more people need to have if we wish to grow our sport.
What are your thoughts on this situation? Drop a comment below!