Any visit to the Willamette Valley starts with the memory of legendary University of Oregon distance runner Steve Prefontaine, a native Oregonian who transformed the world of track and field in the early 1970’s. After his death, Pre’s legacy would live on as Eugene and Hayward Field hosted countless world-class track events, including the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1972, 1976 and 1980.
In 2008, Eugene emphatically reclaimed its “Tracktown, USA” title with a magnificent staging of the Olympic Trials that connected the sport’s past, present and future. Hayward Field subsequently hosted the 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials, and is also the long-term home of the NCAA Track & Field Championships. In 2014 Eugene stepped onto the world stage as the IAAF World Junior Championships attracted nearly 2,000 young athletes traveling from approximately 200 foreign countries. And in 2021, Eugene will host the IAAF World Outdoor Championships — Oregon21, the first time the U.S. will host one of the biggest and most prestigious events in all of sport.
Best known as the tranquil setting for Oregon’s wine country, the expansive Willamette Valley is now home to its very own Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon, held annually on Labor Day weekend. Runners from across the country have a chance to experience both the magnificent scenery and the renowned wineries of the Yamhill Valley, as the course winds through the Dundee Hills and concludes in winery-laden downtown Carlton, where a finish line festival of wine, food and fun awaits.
The otherwise serene Willamette Valley becomes a true hotbed for college football on Saturday afternoons in the fall as the University of Oregon and Oregon State University play host to raucous crowds and big-time foes. The University of Oregon also boasts one of the finest college arenas in the nation, Matthew Knight Arena. Highlighted by Oregon State University’s dramatic run to back-to-back College Baseball World Series titles, the Willamette Valley has quickly grown into a baseball and softball hotbed.
In addition to NCAA baseball and softball regionals, the region has hosted the American Legion Baseball World Series and NCAA Division II Softball Championships. The region is also home to “the world’s best skatepark” in Newberg, an annual Covered Bridge Regatta rowing event at Dexter Lake and countless recreational opportunities for cycling, canoeing/kayaking and snow sports.