Saturday, 01 July 2017 00:45

For track and field champions, the search for Olympic gold starts at SoCal's Mt. SAC

As Los Angeles awaits an answer about hosting the 2024 Olympics, the track and field road to the next Summer Games will be going through ...Walnut, California.

Athletes representing the U.S. in Tokyo three years from now will first have to qualify at Mt. San Antonio College.

Mt. SAC Relays have been a track and field event for almost six decades.

Twenty world records have been set there, and now the stadium is going to go through renovations, expanding its seating capacity to accommodate the Olympic trials.

Brian Yokoyama is an executive board member of the Mt. SAC Project 2020 and the college's assistant track and field coach. He spoke to A Martinez about the history and importance of the venue in the track and field world.

WHAT'S THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TRIALS?

"For an athlete to qualify for the U.S. Olympic team, it is a long process. The top three in each event will have an opportunity to qualify for the Olympic team, provided that they make the IAAF, which is our governing body, or Olympic standard. So as long as they have the Olympic standard and are top three in the United States, they will qualify for the U.S. Olympic team that represents us in Tokyo.

That's an unusual thing in the United States where it's head-to-head competition. Other countries just select athletes, ours is based solely on head-to head competition at the Olympic trials and that's what makes the trials such an exciting event to watch."

WHAT MAKES MT. SAC SO SPECIAL?

"Through the years, because of the Mt. SAC relays and other events, we had a day where we had six world records in a pre-meet in 1960. Six world records broken or tied, which has never happened in the history of the sport. Also, Carl Lewis, jumped six times over 28 feet and that has never ever happened or ever been redone, during the Mt. SAC relays. You know, so many national records, so many memories ... it's really a track & field hub for Southern California."

WHY HAVE TRACK & FIELD FALLEN OFF?

"Back in the early days, in the '60s, '70s, the sport of track & field could pack the Coliseum out ... The sport itself has gone through a big transformation. Unfortunately, it hasn't quite met the modern sports culture and that's what we're going to try to do with this trial. We're going to try to bring the modern sports culture in with track and field and do some unique things...

When you go to Dodger Stadium, you watch a baseball game, but there are also other things going on. It makes it a great fan experience and I think the sport hasn't done that. The trials are a unique thing, because of the way it's split up, you don't have to sit there and watch a 10-hour track meet. They'll be blocked into four-hour time blocks. We're hoping that we get some well-known artist to perform in a concert right after the event occurs, and also have interactive exhibits for fans to see while they're at the event."

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