Maupin Track rendering

An artist rendering shows what the new track, with surrounding facility improvements, might look like. Contributed graphic

Track and field may be a future link between Maupin and world class athletes; the sport definitely is what linked Michael Bergmann and the small town on Highway 197 near the Deschutes River.

South Wasco High wanted a new running track and Bergmann’s background in the sport — including his ability to lead efforts to redo school facilities in Portland — connected him to the community. Two years later, construction on the Maupin Deschutes River Athletic Complex, which includes that track, is underway.

But that might not be the end of the story.

Bergmann talks in broad strokes when envisioning opportunities for the state of Oregon during the next 360 days. His vision is based around track and field and the sport’s 2022 World Athletic Championships, but it also incorporates cycling and whitewater rafting and numerous other outdoor recreation activities the state — and specifically this region — has to offer. Maupin is one of a number of communities which Bergmann thinks could benefit from next year’s track and field championships to be held at University of Oregon’s recently renovated (at an estimated $270 million) Hayward Field.

At an estimated $1.6 million, the DRAC is a bit more modest of a project, to say the least, but here’s one of Bergmann’s ideas: Hundreds of the world’s best track and field athletes will be descending on Oregon less than year from now. The competition will bring numerous support staffers and families of those athletes, not to mention thousands of spectators bent on witnessing the first world championship held in the United States.

The athletes will need places to train leading up to the event. Bergmann reasoned that Maupin, two hours away from Eugene, is void of the distractions of crowded metropolitan areas. A small town with a good training facility might be an appealing, quieter option for athletes, who need to focus on getting race ready.

“Create an opportunity, that’s always been kind of the vision with Maupin,” Bergmann said. “Build this world-class track and event venue that is absolutely stunning overlooking the (Deschutes) river. A goal would be bringing a small team out there to train and experience Oregon. Not Oregon — Eugene or Portland — but rural Oregon. It’s beautiful out here.

“If I was going to paint a scenario? Actually, I’m the right person to be talking about that. Ideally, we have these quality facilities around the state. You have 214 countries coming into the state of Oregon. I don’t feel the world should see Oregon through the eyes of Hayward Field only. We could have communities adopt a team, for example.

“Those are big, grandiose ideas. Fundamentally, we want a track for the kids in the community to use.”

But then in the next breath: “If we create a multi-use venue with food carts, a potential camping area for Cycle Oregon, we could have events there outside of the track world.”

Or inside that world. The past year, with COVID shutting down or at least disrupting most athletic events, Bergmann was instrumental in starting “pop-up”, distance-running based track meets in the Portland area. There was no advanced notice to the general public. Bergmann, through his connections — including 30 years working at Nike — and as president of Portland Track, helped schedule those impromptu races between world-class athletes.

The athletes just wanted to compete, and Bergmann helped them scratch that itch. Athletes would be invited, a time schedule set, a facility secured, and under the cover of darkness — and, sometimes, lights — a handful of races would be held. The races, including ones held at Portland’s Jesuit High and Newberg High School — were live-streamed to the world. There was a bit of intrigue surrounding the races — subtle things to pique interest — including the wearing of headlamps, for example.

“We could do that here,” Bergmann said about South Wasco High, sans the need for headlamps. “We’ll have a track built to international standards. The town’s high-speed internet allows for top quality live streaming.”

Bergmann said hundreds of athletes, who didn’t qualify for the world championships, will still want to compete. Those training for the championships will need to run competitively leading up to the big event.

“How cool would it be to have a world class 10K race — maybe it’s not even the people who are competing in the worlds,” Bergmann said. “We could, in theory, have the world’s best track and field runners competing in Maupin.”

The world meet is scheduled July 15-24, 2022, and is promoted regionally as WCH Oregon 22. It was supposed to be held in 2021, but COVID postponed it a year. WCH Oregon 22 is essentially a track and field meet, governed by World Athletics, that invites the best in the world. World Athletics is the international governing body for track and field, cross country, road racing, racewalking, mountain running and ultra-running.

Corbin University in Salem this summer is building a track and field complex which Bergmann also thinks could be used by athletes training to compete in the world meet.

Bergmann said Maupin, with the Deschutes River recreation opportunities and attractive cycling routes, is an appealing option for future events — in addition to track and field. Bergmann has plans to incorporate a cycling race based in Maupin this fall, with fundraising ties to DRAC. He said Cycle Oregon, the annual fundraising bike ride through central and eastern Oregon, has been pitched on the idea of using DRAC as a stopover for its next ride.

“Runners don’t have any money,” he quipped. “Now cyclists, they spend $20,000 on bikes.”

Bergmann earlier this month invited a dozen of his cycling friends to ride the Oregon Scenic Byway skirting the Deschutes River.

“A lot of people don’t even know that Maupin is gorgeous,” he said. “I took 12 of my buddies out and they were absolutely blown away. There are no cars; the roads are great. They couldn’t believe it. Two or three of them have been back already to ride it again.”

By this fall, Bergmann said the footprint of the new track will be in place and the cycling race will be a way to showcase it — and the subsequent phases of DRAC — to visitors.

“People will get to see it and get to donate” to the track project, he said. “Let’s activate this beautiful area; let’s figure out how to get people out there in October and November. Then let’s bring them back next year for some track meets.”