Matt Miner thought he had seen the last of Hayward Field after claiming two state titles there as an Ashland High senior.
Now, Hayward is home to the former Grizzly.
Five years after claiming the 1,500- and 3,000-meter OSAA Class 5A state championships at the historic University of Oregon track stadium, Miner's back in Eugene, this time sporting green instead of red as a member of the Oregon Ducks track and field team.
Miner transferred to Oregon for his final year of college eligibility after earning a bachelors degree in neuroscience from Dartmouth College last year. He competed for the Big Green, but says of his time there "I honestly wasn't that good my first three years at Dartmouth."
That's not what kept him from completing his track eligibility at the Ivy League school in Hanover, N.H., however. The Ivy League requires that all student-athletes must be enrolled in an undergraduate program, and since Miner had already earned his degree he was forced to look elsewhere if he wanted to run again in college while pursuing a masters in chemistry.
The former Ashland great wasn't confident that he'd be able to sell himself — this is, until his senior winter, when he uncorked a 4-minute, 4-second-mile. That proved to be enough to get Miner a shot at Oregon, where he's flourished under distance running coach Andy Powell. He lowered his mile time to 3:59.01 to qualify for the NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field National Championships — he wound up placing 15th in the preliminaries — and at the prestigious Stanford Invitational three weeks ago he completed the 1,500 in 3:42.60, currently the fourth-best mark in the country.
Miner is humble, and cerebral, about his recent success and said Powell deserves most of the credit.
"I think there was definitely potential," said Miner, who has helped the Oregon men climb to No. 4 in Tuesday's NCAA men's top 25 Division I team rankings. "I made a lot of mistakes in my training (at Dartmouth) and just how I approached the sport in general. So coming to Oregon was a chance to reset it and get my head on straight. On top of that, Andy Powell is easily one of the best in the country if not the world, so I really trust what he does and have a lot of faith that he would do the right thing for me."
Miner thought that his state championship runs as a member of the Ashland High track and field team would likely represent the peak of his Hayward experience. Now, he's ecstatic that he's been able to prove himself wrong.
"It's been great," he said. "Eugene is 'Track Town USA', and it's really lived up to that. They've been very supportive — not just the team and the coaches, but the entire city.
"When I won the 800 a few weeks back at the Oregon Preview, I got to take a victory lap. To do that in front of the home fans … we feed off their excitement and they feed off ours. Coming down that last 100 meters, the crowd is carrying you, especially if you're wearing an 'O' on your chest."