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TrackTown looks to expand the sport's fan base in coming years

Competitors take off at the start of the 1000 meter race. This was the final event in the IAAF World Indoor Championships heptathlon. Photo by Amanda Butt

EUGENE, Ore. - Professional track and field takes the national spotlight every four years when the Olympics come around. But in non-Olympic years, the sport holds a niche following in the United States.

TrackTown U.S.A. President Vin Lananna said they hope to make the sport more innovative and more accessible. Doing that in a crowded sports environment dominated by football, baseball and basketball is easier said than done.

The recent IAAF World Indoor Championships in Portland were one step toward gaining a larger following.

"The new way we have provided this rock star mentality for the athletes has been good," Lananna said.

The IAAF World Indoor Championships glorified the finalist athletes by letting them run down a ramp surrounded by smoke and colorful lights. It was something more often seen at an NFL game.

"I do think they are trying new things, which is, as athletes, we try to do that. So it makes sense," Lananna said.

If the sport needs a role model to help get more kids involved, there might not be a better choice than world champion and Olympic gold medalist Ashton Eaton.

"Hopefully there were young kids in the audience that saw there was a kid from the town where I'm from and, man, he did something cool. Hopefully they all believe that they can too. Girls and boys - there should be no limitations based on where you're from ," Eaton said.

Team U.S.A. won a record 13 gold medals at the event. But to get the sport more national attention will take more than just gold medals.

"In 2021 we are going to host the world championships and we have to make sure it's the best, most exciting thing the United States will ever host," Lananna said.

Lananna said TrackTown will soon announce a summer series of events featuring mostly American athletes. This is an effort to build momentum toward the world outdoor championships coming to Eugene in five years.

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