THE BLOG
07/05/2008 02:04 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Oregon Track Fans Prove Why They're The Best

I've always read how Oregonians are the most knowledgeable track-and-field fans in the U.S. -- arguably the only "en masse" knowledgeable track-and-field fans in the U.S. That's pretty much why the current Olympic track-and-field trials are being held in Eugene, Oregon. The state began its world-class Prefontaine Classic in 1976, in honor of its favorite son, Steve Prefontaine.

I was watching the Olympic trials, being aired on very late-night cable USA Network (the broadcast didn't even begin until 11 PM), and Oregon track fans proved their reputation again. Actually, they proved more than their reputation, but their uniqueness. Their supremacy. And they proved it in a joyous -- and hilarious way.

For the 1500 meter semifinal race, only the top six finishers would make the finals. One of the contestants was a 16-year-old little kid, Jordan Hasay, from San Luis Obispo, California. And when I say "little kid," it's not a comment on merely just that she is 16. She's tiny and has a long, flowing ponytail all the way down her back. A newspaper account the morning after the race described her as "peanut-sized." She has a bubbly, excitable kid "Oh, my god," personality. In fact, she almost wasn't even a contestant -- arriving at the trials not even knowing if she'd be able to run. She'd had the 31st fastest time, and two people had to drop out for her to get in. But she and her folks had showed up anyway -- she said she simply liked watching the races.

Finally getting into the race, she was running back in the pack most of the time, but on the last lap started to move up. And as she neared the final turn, now in around eighth place, she put on a final-stretch sprint and moved up into qualifying sixth place -- and then even passed that runner and finished fifth. Moreover, she set an American high school record, running just over 4:14, breaking the old record by almost two full seconds. (She finished out of first by just 2.75 seconds.) The announcers were enthusiastic and commented on how college track coaches were probably salivating all over the country, not just in Oregon.

Hasay gave a bubbly interview right after, and was so enthusiastic, overwhelmed that she simply made the finals. "It was so unbelievable," she kept saying. "It was so unbelievable." (Later she was still bubbling when she told San Francisco Chronicle reporters, "It was incredible. Every time I picked off a runner I could hear the crowd screaming," adding that "I was pretty tired at the end. The last 300 I gave it all I had to see what I could do.")

And then the broadcast cut to a commercial. But the people who'd filled the stadium for their beloved sport hadn't had their say yet.

When USA Network at last got back from the break, you could tell something was up, because the announcer had an almost-incredulous sound in his voice, as he commented about the knowledgeable Oregon track fans. After which he said, "We're going to show you what just took place and see if you can make out what the crowd is chanting."

It's usually near-impossible to understand clearly what crowds are shouting. But this was clear as day. They ran the tape, and there was this little, "peanut-sized" girl sitting on the side of the track, looking up into the crowd, a huge beaming smile on her face and waving to them. And she was no doubt smiling because you could hear what sounded like half the huge stadium chanting to her in this massive, college-recruiting roar --

Go to Or-e-gon (Clap-Clap ClapClapClap)
Go to Or-e-gon (Clap-Clap ClapClapClap)
Go to Or-e-gon (Clap-Clap ClapClapClap)

Now those are track fans.

It was absolutely hysterical to hear. And even more wonderful.

But there was one problem for all those college track coaches hoping. She's only a junior.

2008-07-05-Hasay2.jpg
[Photo credit: Los Angeles Times]

Jordan Hasay was supposed to have flown to Poland on Friday, to run in the USA Juniors track-and-field world meet. She got special dispensation for U.S. officials who re-booked her flight, so that she could leave on Monday.

The Olympic finals in Oregon are on Sunday.