Gateway to Championship Season
The grandstand at Lewis and Clark College sits on a Douglas Fir covered slope that terminates far below at the banks of the Willamette River. The tree-covered prominence is called the Palatine Hill, named after the rise in Rome where the ruins of the Emperor’s palaces now jut out of the hillside. Below the ruins lies the Circus Maximus, built by Luscious Tarquinius Priscus for sport, to entertain the people of Rome with among other competitions, races around the oval.
These races became legend, and stories of champions travelled by word of mouth throughout the empire, as regrettably Augustus hadn’t thought of a strong hardline internet connection with fiber yet. Festivals took place yearly at the same site connecting and comparing feats to previous performances and forming rituals around how electric performances were received and champions recognized.
After a year hiatus, competition returns to the track below the grandstand, cut into the Palatine Hill in Portland. Fields of the world’s most talented and savviest racers will assemble in the Electric Forest to challenge for top honors and a share of the prize purse built from the new pay per view model. The Portland Track Festival’s position on the calendar places it at the intersection of the season of time standard pursuits and championship racing season. While some athletes are still on the hunt for precious Olympic and Olympic Trials standards, many of the top contenders having already punched their tickets to the big show have turned their focus to sharpening their racing skills. This unique moment in time produces memorable performances where bold moves made in search of precious seconds are met with counter-attacks by those whose sole motivation is to secure victory and head to the big dances in Eugene and Tokyo with a swagger and some respect on their name.
Notable athletes competing in their respective events include American record holder and world silver medalist, Courtney Frerichs in the Tracksmith Women’s Steeplechase. American Record holder and Olympic silver medalist, Galen Rupp will face off against gutsy Japanese marathon great, Suguru Osako in the IncubatorU Men’s 10,000m.
In one of the most absurdly loaded races of the year, world silver medalist, Raevyn Rogers will face world silver medalist, Brenda Martinez, 1:58.28 woman- Kate Grace, Gabriela Debues-Stafford, Big Friendly champion- Chanelle Price, Cory McGee, Sabrina Southerland and Mariela Real in the OIselle Women’s 800m. Everyone in this race has run 2:01 or faster with 4 women bringing sub 2 minute chops to the table.
The Tracksmith Men’s 800m will feature the reigning champion of the world, Donavan Brazier contending with 1:42 man- Emmanuel Korir and Olympic 1500m gold medalist- Matthew Centrowitz. You have to be a 1:45 800m man to make this field.
In the Nike Women’s 1500m, the Bowerman Track Club’s American record holder, Shelby Houlihan will make her season debut attempting to fend off the closing speed of her teammate- Sinclaire Johnson. Rachel Schneider, fresh off her 14:52.04 5000m performance at the Sound Running Track Meet will bring an extra dose of strength to the field.
The Tracksmith Men’s 1500m features everyone’s favorite RV trippin’, beer can wavin’, juke box hittin’, Camero cut wearin’ American dream- Craig Engels defending his PTF 1500m title against Olympic medalist- Nick Willis, Canadian hero- Moh Ahmed, Josh Thompson and Henry Wynne. High schooler- Hobbs Kessler is also in the field looking to steal the spotlight and possibly Alan Webb’s High School record of 3:38.2.
Headlining the Tracksmith Women’s 5000m, Karissa Schweizer of the BTC will compete with Australian national record holder, Jess Hull. Continuing the Canadian invasion, fresh off her 31:13.94 national record performance and victory in the Track Meet 10,000m, Andrea Seccafien will look to challenge up front with the same power and control she showed down in Los Angeles.
In the Paul Banta Memorial Men’s 5000m, the man, the myth, the legend, Lopez Lomong comes down from the mountains of Park City to blow out the jets and mix it up with world indoor 3000m silver medalist and former teammate- Ryan Hill. Eric Speakman of New Zealand looks to get under the 13:20 barrier and Brooks Beasts- Garrett Heath and David Ribich return to the forest to make statements as the Beasts are known to do.
You’ll also be able to catch the BTC’s Wild Woody Kincaid, Grant Fisher and Kieran Tuntivate in the B Heat of the 5000m to close the evening.
Exact race times and tickets to view the broadcast for The Portland Track Festival can be found at portlandtrack.com.
Tickets are $5.99 and the bulk of the ticket cost goes directly to the prize purse in an athlete revenue sharing model Portland Track and Tracklandia have committed to.
Spectators will not be allowed at the track this year due to the facility’s and State of Oregon’s current Covid restrictions. We do encourage you to purchase the broadcast, put your feet up and hang some festive lights in your living room to mimic the atmosphere in the Electric Forest on the Palatine Hill. Half of the most palpable feelings in sport are based in ritual, nostalgia and expectation, setting the stage for the other half- the shock and excitement triggered by performances that no one could predict. Make yourself a comfortable nest of expectation on your familiar sofa, sink into ritual and then hold tightly onto your Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili with Lime when the sparks start to fly. It’s going to be spicy, have dairy close by.
Editor's Note: Aussies, the scheduling basically has primetime action happening at 11am AEST on Sunday. So do your long run, get home, and take charge of the remote in time to watch it all go down.