EUGENE, Ore. — Kelly Blair LaBounty kneeled outside of Hayward Field on Friday, helping her two sons jump over practice hurdles.
Ten feet away, a man paused to snap some pictures.
Such is the life of being a two-time Olympian at the U.S. Track and Field Trials in Eugene.
Blair LaBounty, a 41-year-old Prosser native, may not compete in the heptathlon anymore, or coach it, but she still is famous, as evidenced by the man with the camera, and her legacy in the sport shines brightly.
As you go on, you think that as you get older you know, new generations not knowing as much about you it is surprising that people still recognize you, she said.
Blair LaBounty always will be recognized in Track Town USA for her own triumphs on the famed Hayward Field track and for her work as an assistant coach for the Ducks.
She qualified for the 1996 and 2000 Olympic Games, won the 1996 U.S. Trials beating gold medalist Jackie Joyner Kersee and took eighth at the 1996 Atlanta Games in the heptathlon. She held the school record in the heptathlon at Oregon until recently, and is referred to as one of Oregons greatest female student-athletes ever on the schools website.
She won the NCAA title as a junior in 1993, scoring 6,038 points, and was second as a senior.
She could do it all, even in high school, said Jack Hoyt, a Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo track and field assistant coach who worked with Blair LaBounty at Seattle Pacific University after she graduated from Oregon.
Even in high school, she was just a good jumper, sprinter and hurdler. Add in the throwing events in college and she got better and better, and had an understanding of the events, Hoyt added.
The heptathlon is a seven-event competition made up of the 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200 meters, long jump, javelin throw and 800 meters. Predetermined amounts of points are awarded based on times and marks in each individual event, accumulating to decide a winner.
Anyone who makes two Olympics is highly regarded, Hoyt said. We are all trying to find people like her with those kinds of tools.
Beyond her personal accomplishments, though, Blair LaBounty also will be long remembered for her brief coaching stint at Oregon.
She helped recruit Canadian Brianne Theisen to come to Eugene and compete in the heptathlon. Theisen qualified for the Canadian Olympic Team in the sport this week and is engaged to Ashton Eaton, the American who set a world record in the decathlon last weekend at the U.S. Trials.
I remember (Theisens) freshman year. At the (team) banquet, I said, She is going to break my record, Blair LaBounty said. I recruited her seeing that and it is funny, my son is like, Mom, if you hadnt recruited Brianne, youd still have the record.
But that was neat. I feel like Im still a part of that legacy. And my record was broken, but it was broken by someone amazing, and truly deserving of breaking it.
Blair LaBounty also worked with Eaton, who forever will be remembered as the star of these Olympic Trials. He not only shattered Dan OBriens American decathlon record, which stood for 20 years, but also set the world record in the event.
Eatons mom and fiancee met him at the finish line of the 1,500, the decathlons final event, as his home state fans showered him with thunderous cheers.
It is pretty exciting to see them doing so well, Blair LaBounty said. We were at Lake Chelan during the decathlon, so Brianne was actually texting me during his whole competition. That wouldve been really neat to see him break the world record.
Blair LaBounty never set any world records, but she did upset Joyner-Kersee at the 96 Olympic Trials.
She qualified for the 2000 Games in Sydney, but days before the competition she re-injured her back an injury that had kept her from competing at all in 1999.
I just look back at the memories, and I think you appreciate it and think about how incredible it is, she said. And think about what you did and how much training you did, and what it entailed. It was just a ton of amazing work, and strength.
Id done it. Id been (to the Olympics). Id accomplished what Id set out to do. It was such an amazing experience, which was what convinced me to do it another four years. So to be on (the Sydney) team, but not being able to participate now I can look back, but it was devastating then.
The years since then have helped ease the pain of the herniated discs and the agony of being so close to competing on the world stage again.
These days, she juggles more than seven events traversing Eugene, driving her 8-year-old son Jacob and her 4-year-old son Lucas from sport to sport. She also volunteers at Lucas school, helping out with physical education as budget cuts have reduced it to two days a week.
She continues to live in Eugene with her husband Matt, a former NFL player for three teams, including the Seahawks. He works at a local high school and played football at Oregon.
While the University of Oregon eliminated Blair LaBountys job in July 2008, in order to hire another distance coach, she hopes one day to get back into coaching.
For now, though, she is happy helping with clinics teaching kids basic fitness and fundamentals, as well as playing basketball in a local YMCA league.
She spent Friday afternoon losing to her youngest son in a 20-yard hurdle race at the festival outside the trials, as Matt and Jacob watched.
She still pines for the atmosphere inside the stadium, though.
I wouldnt want to go back to that lifestyle again, but this is the part that you miss, she said while gesturing at Hayward Field looming behind her. Obviously the highs of the competition, and making Olympic teams and traveling.
She might not get to do that this summer, but her legacy certainly will travel to London with this team.