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Making tracks to World Indoor

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TRIBUNE PHOTOS: JAIME VALDEZ - Shannon Rowbury of the Nike Oregon Project takes the women's 3,000 title during the U.S. Indoor Track and Field Championships last weekend in the Oregon Convention Center. Ryan Bailey has had March 17-20, 2016, circled on his mental calendar since it was announced in November 2013 that Portland would be play host to the IAAF World Indoor Championships.

“I knew I had to be there,” Bailey says.

Bailey, an Olympic sprinter who graduated from McKay High School in Salem and lives in Sherwood, hoped he would attend the meet as a qualifying athlete.

But last Friday, Bailey false-started in the preliminaries of the 60-meter dash and failed to advance to Saturday’s final of the U.S. Indoor Track & Field Championships at the Oregon Convention Center.

That disappointment means he won’t compete this week. But it hasn’t diminished Bailey’s excitement for this week, when many of the world’s best track and field athletes will descend on the Rose City.  

The world indoor meet, which begins Thursday and ends Sunday in the OCC, is in the United States for the first time since Indianapolis hosted in 1987.

“I’m super happy it’s in Portland, and I’ll be back here watching in the crowd for sure,” says Bailey, who won a silver medal in the 100-meter dash at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. “I love what I do, love the sport. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Bailey can’t wait to cheer on his fellow U.S. athletes as they take the first major step toward the ultimate goal of winning a gold medal at the Summer Olympics in August in Rio de Janeiro.

Former University of Oregon coach Vin Lananna will be the U.S. track and field coach for the Summer Olympics. As president of TrackTown USA, Lananna has his promoter’s hat on this week as his local organizing committee prepares to host a world championship for the first time.

“We’re going to create a new day for track and field in the United States,” Lananna says. “I think our event presentation will (make people) see a track and field event differently than it’s ever been seen before. All of our athletes will be introduced the same way that all major sports athletes are introduced.

“They’ll get a sense of how good the athletes in the United States are, and I think we’re going to carry that same enthusiasm for this facility out to Pioneer Courthouse Square for that medal ceremony.”

The square, which often is referred to as the “living room” of Portland, will serve as the site of a free four-day track and field party. Instead of having the medal ceremonies at the venue in the OCC, they will take place in Pioneer Courthouse Square and feature an orchestra that will play the national anthem of each winner’s country.

In addition to local food and beer options and free concerts, spectators can watch the action on large screens showing live feeds of the world meet taking place about two miles away.

Lananna expects the temporary 7,000-seat arena in the OCC to sell out and is hopeful that other fans will take advantage of downtown Portland’s “medal ceremony plaza” to watch it unfold.

“I think it’s really going to be something spectacular,” says Lananna, who says Salt Lake City did a similar off-site medal ceremony for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Former Ducks standout Laura Roesler will participate after qualifying in the women’s 800 with a second-place finish at the U.S. national meet last week. Roesler was thrilled with how the OCC venue was set up and with the positive reaction she felt from the Portland fans.

“It’s always fun for me when I’m able to get a little bit more cheers because I’m an Oregon girl,” says Roesler, a Fargo, N.D., native and former NCAA champion with the Ducks. “When you hear that, it makes you feel a little bit special, like a princess. And I’m assuming that next weekend at worlds is going to be even better.”

Fellow former UO standout Matthew Centrowitz, who qualified for the world meet with a thrilling U.S. national title in the men’s 1,500 on Saturday, expects the local cheering to be for the entire U.S. team as it prepares to make a statement to the rest of the world.

“This year is all about winning championships,” Centrowitz says. “I think we’re all going to put on a good show for everybody and show them how fun track and field can be to watch in person.”

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  • IAAF World Indoor Championships

    When: Thursday-Sunday

    Where: Oregon Convention Center

    Schedule: Thursday’s only events are the men’s and women’s pole vault finals, both at 7 p.m. Competition on Friday is from 10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., and again from 5:15 p.m. to roughly 9 p.m. On Saturday, the morning session is from 11 a.m.-1:30 p.m., and the afternoon session goes from 5 p.m.-about 8 p.m. The Sunday schedule packs nine finals into the OCC from 12:40 p.m.-3 p.m.

    More info: Portland2016.com