Jake Willard at Olympic Trials

TrackTown USA intern Jake Willard at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials

Editor’s note: This is the first post in a two-post series covering this summer’s TrackTown USA events from the viewpoint of its student interns. Read the second post in the series, “The Snapchat Queen of TrackTown USA,” by Polly Irungu. 

There are two reasons why I knew the University of Oregon would be a perfect fit for me: the School of Journalism and Communication and track. And after only one year here, I have already had amazing experiences in the SOJC and the track world.

These two pillars of my college career came together this summer, when I got to intern with TrackTown USA. TrackTown is the company responsible for hosting all the big track meets at historic Hayward Field. This turned out to be the best year ever for running nerds like me to intern with the company, since TrackTown USA put on the USATF Indoor Championships, the IAAF World Indoor Championships, the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in addition to helping with all the UO home track meets and the Prefontaine Classic.

As an intern with TrackTown, I have had the opportunity to learn and help out in several ways with each meet. At the House of Track in Portland, I was responsible for taking photos for the TrackTown USA Twitter account. Check out some of my photos on my @jwillphotography Instagram account.

House of Track, Portland

House of Track, Portland

At the USATF Indoor Championships in Portland, I gathered quotes from athletes in the mixed zone and transcribed them for the media. For the UO meets, I either attended the premeet press conferences to gather quotes from the UO athletes for preview articles or wrote event recap articles. This role was particularly exciting for me because I got to talk to some amazing people. Asking Edward Cheserek, the best runner in NCAA history, questions was definitely an awesome moment for me. But the list of special encounters did not end there. Probably one of the coolest people I talked to was Mike Spear, head of weights and measures at Hayward Field. This year marks his 50th year as an official, and he was honored at the Oregon Twilight meet. Hearing his stories about Steve Prefontaine, Mac Wilkens and Bill Bowerman is something I will never forget.

At World Indoors, I worked at the Media Service desk, making sure results were printed and distributed to the media. I also helped the photo marshal ensure photographers were in the proper areas during competition. I even got to Snapchat the Pole Vault competition trackside for TrackTown USA. And my biggest responsibility was organizing the program sales, which included working with volunteers.

Even with all the tasks I had each day of competition, I was able to watch a good portion of the meet from some of the best seats in the house. TrackTown USA hosted the World, and it hosted them well. Although I was exhausted after four days of work, I still had the time of my life.

English Gardner won her qualifier at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials and will be representing Team USA in the 100-meter in Rio.

English Gardner won her qualifier at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team Trials and will be representing Team USA in the 100-meter in Rio.

Then came the Olympic Trials. I couldn’t believe I was at a meet I had been looking forward to attending since watching the 2012 Olympic Trials on TV in high school. I was also lucky to have an article I wrote, “Track 101,” published in the souvenir program that was sold at the event. This was an enormous accomplishment for me, since it was the first time I have seen my writing in print. Opening a publication and seeing your name in a byline is a really cool feeling, especially for an event that’s so important to me.

I also developed the TrackTown USA Guidebook app. It served as a spectator tool that had competition schedules, live results, and several other features meant to ensure attendees had a complete Olympic Trials experience. The app was quite popular at the event, with 3,884 downloads and over 7 million seconds spent using it. Some people even tweeted to TrackTown USA about how much they enjoyed it.

Finally, I was responsible for organizing all program sales on site at the trials as well. This involved working with the volunteers, vendors, and VIP suites to ensure they had the correct amount of daily and souvenir programs.

Overall, the trials were the best track meet I have ever had the chance to attend and an experience I will always cherish. My memories from the event are strong, but the working experience I got — and the impact it will have on my future — is even stronger.

Story and photos by Jake Willard ’19