More than a century before Bend native Ashton Eaton won decathlon gold and tied the Olympic record in Rio de Janeiro, a 5-foot, 4-inch high-jumper from Portland became the first Oregonian to medal at a world track and field competition.
His name was H.W. Kerrigan, and on his way to the 1906 Olympic Games in Athens, he was injured by a wave that hit the boat he was traveling in, threatening his hopes of making the podium. But Kerrigan’s determined Oregon spirit would prevail. Despite his injury, he won bronze in the high jump and began a tradition of track and field excellence in Oregon. He is one of the inspirations for the Oregon22 Heritage Trail, comprised of plaques installed across the state honoring 22 Oregon athletes in the towns that hold meaning for each of them.
The figurative trail showcases the lives of Oregon athletes who have won a track and field medal at the Olympics, World Athletics Championships or Goodwill Games and meet certain criteria. Each athlete’s accomplishments are commemorated with a silver-plated brass plaque in their birthplace or adopted Oregon hometown.
Here are the 22 athletes who are featured on the Oregon22 Heritage Trail, and where you can find their plaques. See the website for a map if you’d like to take a road trip.
Baker High School, Baker City
A Baker City native and son of a blacksmith, Dan Kelly won silver in the long jump at the 1908 Olympic Games, and he held the world record in the 100-yard dash for 23 years. His coach may ring a bell: Bill Hayward, for whom University of Oregon’s Hayward Field is named.
Pilot Butte Middle School, Bend
Ashton Eaton won two Olympic gold medals and three world titles in the decathlon — where athletes compete in 10 consecutive events over multiple days — including a gold medal and world-record performance at the 2015 World Athletics Championships in Beijing. Eaton grew up in La Pine and Bend, and moved to Portland after retiring in 2017, where he works analyzing human motion at Intel.
Beaverton High School, Beaverton
Mac Wilkins qualified for four Olympics teams, won gold in the discus at the 1976 Olympic Games, and once broke the world record three times in a single day. Wilkins was teammates with distance-running legend Steve Prefontaine at the University of Oregon, and he’s featured as a character in the movies “Without Limits” and “Prefontaine.” His plaque is at his former high school.
George Rogers Park, Lake Oswego
Shalane Flanagan won silver in the 10,000 meters at the 2008 Olympic Games and bronze at the 2011 World Cross-Country Championships. She has also co-authored a series of cookbooks for runners and completed all six major marathons in just six weeks.
Sport Oregon Building, Portland
Martin Hawkins won bronze in the 120-yard hurdles at the 1912 Olympic Games and twice tied the world record in the event. After graduating from high school in Portland, Hawkins captained the University of Oregon track and field team and later became a judge in Portland.
Gilbert House Children’s Museum, Salem
Salem native A.C. Gilbert won gold in the pole vault at the 1908 Olympic Games. As a toymaker, he inspired the movie “The Man Who Saved Christmas.” His plaque is installed at his former house, now one of five historic houses that make up the innovative Gilbert House Children’s Museum in Salem.
Sheridan High School, Sheridan
Joni Huntley won bronze in the high jump at the 1984 Olympic Games, and as a 17-year-old senior at Sheridan High School, she became the first American woman to clear 6 feet in the high jump.
Crescent Valley High School
Dave Johnson won bronze in the decathlon at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona after co-starring with fellow Oregonian Dan O’Brien in the famous “Dan and Dave” Reebok ad campaign. However, only Johnson made the U.S. Olympic team that year. A mishap in the pole vault cost O’Brien at the Olympic Trials, forcing him to wait four more years to compete for (and win) Olympic gold.
Arts and Technology Academy track
A featured athlete on Eugene’s Strides for Justice Black-history route app, Margaret Johnson Bailes endured racism and sexism growing up in Eugene as a Black female athlete. But she won gold in the 4×100-meter relay at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City and was the first Black woman inducted into the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. She still holds the Oregon high school records in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash.
Charnel Mulligan Park
Kelly Blair LaBounty won bronze in the heptathlon at the 1998 Goodwill Games and qualified twice for the Olympic Games. She also played college basketball at the University of Oregon before giving it up to focus on track.
Alton Baker Park
Lance Deal won silver in the hammer throw at the 1996 Olympic Games. He later coached at the University of Oregon for eight years and became director of track and field venues and program support, overseeing the Hayward Field renovation and events. In his spare time, he invented a new design for discus and hammer cages.
Springfield High School
Bill Dellinger won bronze in the 5,000 meters at the 1964 Olympic Games and set six American records during his career. He later coached at University of Oregon, where he led the Ducks to five NCAA titles in cross-country and track and field over 25 years. He also helped redesign an Adidas running shoe with an innovative shock-absorbing sole.
Shelton McMurphey Johnson House
H.W. Kerrigan won bronze in the high jump at the 1906 Intercalated Olympic Games. He was the first Olympic medalist from Oregon.
Shana Barr Trail Marker at Willamalane Park
Maria Mutola was born in Mozambique and graduated from Springfield High School. She is considered one of the world’s best female athletes in the 800 meters. In that event, she won gold at the 2000 Olympic Games and many other indoor and outdoor world titles over her career. After retirement, she played professional soccer in Africa. Fittingly, her plaque is placed at a 800-meter running path in the park.
Pavilion Park, Coburg
Annette Peters won bronze in the 3,000 meters at the 1994 Goodwill Games. She also helped lead the Oregon Ducks to an NCAA cross-country title in 1987. After retirement, she taught elementary school in Springfield.
Another world-class 800-meter track champion, Nick Symmonds won silver at the 2013 World Athletics Championships and placed fifth at the 2012 Olympic Games in one of the fastest 800-meter races of all time. An entrepreneur off the track, Symmonds founded the caffeinated chewing gum brand Run Gum and used his platform to push for more athlete-friendly sponsorship policies.
Brianne Theisen-Eaton won four global medals for Canada in the heptathlon and indoor pentathlon, including bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. She and her husband, Ashton Eaton, now live in the Portland area with their son, but her plaque memorializes her time running at the University of Oregon.
Cathie Twomey Bellamy won a team gold medal at the 1984 World Cross-Country Championships, and she qualified for four U.S. Olympic Trials. Twomey Bellamy continues to run every day and has been coaching the Eugene Running Club for more than 30 years.
Hill-O’Brien Field at Henley High School, Klamath Falls
Ralph Hill won silver in the 5,000 meters at the 1932 Olympic Games, where he narrowly missed gold in a controversial finish involving another athlete who cut him off. Hill, who was raised in Klamath Falls, also set the American mile record while training under Bill Hayward at the University of Oregon.
Dan O’Brien won consecutive decathlon world titles in 1991, 1993 and 1995 before winning gold at the 1996 Olympic Games. Raised as one of seven children on a farm in Klamath Falls, the Olympics ambassador and author also broke a world record in hopscotch, the children’s game, in 2009.
Lithia & Driveway Fields, Medford
Dick Fosbury won gold in the high jump at the 1968 Olympic Games. An inductee in multiple Halls of Fame, he was also the first competitive high-jumper to go over the bar backward, a technique now known as the Fosbury Flop and widely used in the event. He attended Medford High School.