The Ledbetters live across the street from a grade-school playground. "When we first came here," says Lili, "my father used to run with me because my parents wouldn't let me run alone. But now I usually do. Except long runs. Long runs are impossible to do alone." Fortunately, Paul Slovic, 36, and his sons, Scott, 14, and Steve, 12, who live in the next block, provide Lili with companionship for that. In August their runs are interrupted by stops at blackberry patches, which crop up all over town. And last year Lili managed to crowd half a dozen other pursuits into the long summer. "I was in the university's sports school, but it was a gyp," she says. "The girls only had a month, but the boys had two. We had canoeing and swimming and gymnastics and track, but none of it was hard enough.
"And I played soft ball—second base and outfield. Our team didn't have a name. Dr. Hackett, he's a dentist, suggested the Mighty Molars or the Courageous Cavities, but we never picked a name. And Steve and Scott and I were in a computer programming class. Oh, and Steve and I had a cherry business for about a week. We bicycled 30 miles one day delivering cherries." And still she had energy left to run at 5:45 in the morning. But on the day of a race even Lili Ledbetter sleeps in.
Today the Oregon Track Club is putting on the Hayward Field Restoration Meet. By five p.m. a crowd jams the bleachers of the East Stands. Across the infield, rubble is all that remains of the West Stands, reason for the Restoration. The program promises to be the best evening of track and field anywhere since the '72 Olympic Trials—and it is.
In the first race Debbie Quartier leads all the way to an American record in the 5,000 meters while Lili Ledbetter and running pal Janet Heinonen, 23, struggle at the back of the pack. They tie for last. "You know, if I had outkicked you, everybody would have thought I was a real ogre," says Janet.
Francie Larrieu and Steve Prefontaine set American records in the mile and three-mile respectively, and Rick Wohlhuter, up on his toes like a sprinter and knees pumping like a drum major's, flies to a world-record 880.
At most meets the crowd begins to leave after the last running event, and now it is getting dark and chilly as well. But people are pulling on jackets and pouring onto the infield to form a ring on the grass around the high-jump pit.
With Mayor Les Anderson officiating and Flop inventor Dick Fosbury putting up the crossbar, Dwight Stones psychs himself up for three tries at 7'5". But three times the bar falls. Now it is the women's turn. There is very little light, and the ring of people moves closer to watch as Joni Huntley, 17, of Sheridan, Ore., betters her own American record by leaping 6�. Then, at last, everyone goes home.
Restoration meets and national-caliber competition are extraordinary occurrences, even in Eugene. But throughout the year the Oregon Track Club supplies a certain amount of challenge in the form of a road race on the second Sunday of each month. In the summertime these take on added fervor because many of us are getting ready for the All Comers Meets that begin in mid-July.
In 1973 the OTC's July run was called Storm the Butte, and 300 runners did just that, disappearing into the trees and attacking a steep, narrow, rocky trail, through lush patches of poison oak. The next day's paper showed bodies scrambling all over the hillside, destroying delicate ecosystems. Many conservationists howled. So did the runners who got poison oak.
This year the run has been renamed Butte-to-Butte. It starts in the same place, but instead of running uphill and destroying nature, we will head downhill on the unfeeling pavement. Down, down, down and down. Then, having effectively destroyed ourselves, we will totter through town, across the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks into Skinner's Butte Park, an eminently civilized strip of green along the river. The propaganda promises that we will finish the trans-Eugene 10,000 meters in time to watch the Fourth of July fireworks bursting over the football stadium.