Two weeks ago, I proudly and happily hosted the Let’s Just Build a Track Fundraising event in Maupin, Oregon. Michael Bergmann, project manager for the construction of the Deschutes River Athletic Complex and President of Portland Track asked if I would be willing to fill the role as emcee for the fundraising event for a state-of-the-art track and field complex in central Oregon and there was no possible way I could say no. Yes, Maupin is situated beautifully on a bend in the Deschutes River, set against a striking backdrop of one of the most picturesque volcanic mountain ranges on the planet, but more importantly, it is an Oregon town. It’s a place where legends are born and a place where people learn to work together, contribute and be part of a team. There are so many stories of small town Oregon athletes who matriculated to the University of Oregon to run for Bill Bowerman, Bill Dellinger, Tom Heinonen, like tributaries flowing into the mighty Columbia- some achieving legendary status in the sport and others hammering away as contributors, channeling their talents to give them worth. Many talented runners have come from Oregon cities, but an incredible amount cut their teeth in small towns, running back country roads and tight shoulders on two lane highways. The running culture that has spread across the country and even the globe was in many ways birthed in small, rural Oregon communities.
I grew up in rural town in central California, running dirt roads through farmland and devouring books about the Oregon running heritage and culture. Running track was my window to the outside world. Competing took me to places that I otherwise would not have travelled, to race against people I otherwise would not have had the privilege of meeting. It brought people to my hometown who otherwise would not have ventured to my neck of the woods, to experience my home and be hosted in a way unique to my team and town. They ate at my local restaurants, filled up at my local gas station, jogged my local streets on their warm-ups; if they tried hard enough to beat my teammates and I, disgraced my trackside trash cans with regurgitated food that they had previously enjoyed from aforementioned local restaurants. I took pride in my town, my community and my track when others came to visit it. I learned to work hard, to compete, and I learned to host others.
South Wasco County High School has not hosted a track meet, football game or soccer match in nearly fifty years. Holly Miles is doing something about that, leading this project in order to provide adequate training and competition facilities for herself and her teammates. The community is rallying around her to make this happen. This facility would not only be incredibly beneficial for the student athletes’ ability to train, it would allow them the ability to welcome strangers to their grounds to compete, just as they are welcomed in to experience other communities. It would allow athletes from outside of Maupin to enjoy the unique and special atmosphere that only Maupin can provide. It will provide a space for members of the community to gather and exercise and it would also provide a destination for professional athletes to come, compete and inspire.