Lananna hopes to apply expertise at higher level
EUGENE — The 2016 election cycle isn’t over just yet for Vin Lananna.
The TrackTown USA president and Oregon associate athletic director is in his final days of campaigning for the position of U.S. Track & Field president.
His opponent is all-time track and field great Jackie Joyner-Kersee, with the winner being selected by member vote on Saturday during the USATF annual meetings in Orlando, Florida, at the Walt Disney World Hilton.
Lananna, 63, has spent the past 11 years returning Eugene and Oregon to its place as the center of United States track and field. He was instrumental in bringing the 2008, 2012 and 2016 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials and the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships meet to Hayward Field, the 2016 World Indoor Championships to Portland, and winning the rights to host the World Outdoor Championships in Eugene in 2021 — the first time the meet will be held in the United States.
Lananna, who coached at Oregon from 2005 to 2012, now wants to have more of an influence with track and field’s national governing body.
“I’ve had a lot of people over the years ask me to be involved in the leadership level in a more formal way as opposed to doing the things that we do here,” said Lananna, who coached the U.S. Olympic men’s team in Rio last summer. “For me, it’s never been about Eugene. It’s been about a broader scope. I think Eugene is the perfect model for it, but everything can’t happen in Eugene, Oregon. We have to have a bigger footprint for the sport of track and field.”
At the top of his campaign platform is creating an “American renaissance for the sport” through youth engagement, increasing the number of professional meets in the U.S., and boosting programs that help support the athletes, financially and otherwise.
“We have the world’s No. 1 team, and to continue to have the world’s No. 1 team we have to make sure we’re compensating the athletes and making sure we’re putting them in a position to stay involved in the sport, and to do that they have to live above the poverty line,” Lananna said.
“I don’t think it’s a matter of just throwing money at it. It’s being sure the athletes can build their own brand, to have domestic opportunities in the United States and not just in the Olympic cycle every four years.”
Lananna has recently been getting support on social media from numerous athletes, including Olympians Brenda Martinez, Andrew Wheating and Alexi Pappas, to name a few.
In November he was endorsed by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.
“We believe that he firmly understands and values the importance of collegiate programs and collegiate coaches to the success of Track and Field and Cross Country in this country,” USTFCCCA president Damon Martin wrote in his endorsement.
“We believe that with his tremendous success as a coach and administrator, he is uniquely qualified to serve as USATF President.”
Joyner-Kersee, 54, has been a member of the USATF board of directors since 2012. A three-time Olympic gold medalist, she is also the world record-holder in the heptathlon and the American record-holder in the long jump. The USATF women’s athlete of the year award is named after Joyner-Kersee.
“I think she’s a great person, a fantastic person,” Lananna said. “We’re friends, and I think she’s a great ambassador for the sport.”
The USATF president is a voluntary position and won’t require Lananna to abandon any of his job titles. Current USATF president Stephanie Hightower is reaching the end of her second four-year term and can’t run again.
“I feel like I’ve been looking at this for a long time,” Lananna said. “I’ve always felt like I wanted to give back to the sport and I think we have an opportunity to galvanize the organization to build around 2021.”