The TrackTown Summer Series had its grand debut in Eugene, Ore. this past Friday.
Back in June, athletes were drafted onto four teams – New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Portland – that would participate in the Summer Series, with (at the time) five HepsNation athletes getting picked. Since then, a sixth HepsNation athlete had been recruited to fill out his team. Only one meet was scheduled in time for the 2016 summer as the promoters aim to have more lined up for the 2017 season.
The event debut received rave reviews from track fans and competitors alike, as fans were allowed on the infield to watch the events and interact with the athletes while athletes got a taste of the team scoring aspect once again. “It’s been so fun (tonight) after something so nerve-wracking as the Trials,” Ashley Higginson shared with Steve Richie of TrackTownUSA at the meet, “I think it’s really wonderful to be with competitors in a different experience as teammates. It’s just good for the sport in our country going forward to have something so new.”
Kate Grace and Donn Cabral won their respective events in a similar manner to their Olympic Trials performance, giving them a good final meet as they start their Olympic Games preparation.
Grace moved up from the 800m to race the 1,500m and score points for Team Portland. The women’s 1,500m was a good close pack throughout the race, Grace sitting among the top three while Morgan Uceny – representing Team Philly – sat near the back of the six-woman race. Grace waited until 100m to go to make her move, finding an opening that allowed her to power through and charge away for the win in 4:09.92, holding off a strong finishing Kate Mackey by 0.05 seconds. Uceny finished sixth with a time of 4:11.14.
In the men’s steeplechase, Cabral bided his time during the first 2,800m, allowing Mason Ferlic and Andre Bayer to control the pace of the race. Cabral had the best final water jump, where he was able to pass Bayer as Bayer stumbled in the pit. Cabral powered to a new season’s best time of 8:20.72, cheering as he crossed the finish line and winning points for Team New York.
Higginson was part of a team effort in the women’s steeplechase, as she and New York teammate Stephanie Garcia finished with the maximum number of possible points in the event. Garcia won while Higginson was the runner up in 9:42.52. Higginson informed the media during the meet that this steeplechase race would be the last in her career as she will
Kyle Merber and John Gregorek continued their 1,500m-world tour at the Summer Series – Merber representing Team Portland while Gregorek was on Team New York. They did well in the competitive field, as Merber finished fourth in 3:35.83 and Gregorek was sixth in 3:36.04.
In the end, Team San Francisco won with 167 points, followed by Team New York (159.5 points), Team Philadelphia (156 points), and then Team Portland (137.5 points). The Summer Series will return next summer.