Eugene, Ore. -- The Pac-12 Championships, the Prefontaine Classic and the U.S. Olympic Team Trials were Eugene’s biggest sporting events of the summer. All have been wiped away from the COVID-19 global health crisis. One man, however, has found a way to make up for it.
Every Monday during the month of June, two-time Olympian Nick Symmonds has hosted a public track meet at South Eugene High School.
“People already had trips planned to Eugene before the pandemic hit. So why not host something to fill that hole? This is their chance to come to the running mecca,” said Symmonds. “Maybe they can’t see the Prefontaine Classic but they can participate in one of my little events.”
Those little events have become a big hit on YouTube, tallying hundreds of thousands of views and attracting dozens of runners to compete. Some athletes are local while others come from out of town or even out of state.
“I follow [Nick Symmonds] on social media,” said Kentucky native Kadin Engle, who had plans to attend an Oregon summer camp. “I figured I was going to be down at this time anyway so I guess I might as well show up.”
Symmonds’ most recent video displayed 42 people packed together at the starting line. While some people were fine with the display, others blasted Symmonds on Twitter.
One response reads, “apparently coronavirus ain’t a thing no more.”
Another comment said, “please do a better job at setting an example for your subscribers.”
“We are practicing social distancing and we are being smart about it. I’m not trying to get anyone sick,” said Symmonds, who wore a mask during today’s 5K race. “I love this community. In lane county, we have very low cases and we are trying to keep it that way.”
“Even in events like this, there’s not one person who doesn’t have [COVID-19] on their mind. Like they are here. They know the threat,” said local runner and Eugene resident Tony Clement. “We are going to get out of here. We got our enjoyment out of this and this is what we love. It’s so rare to actually have something like this.”