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South Dakota announcer Alex Heinert works Nike Outdoor Nationals at historic Hayward Field
Midco Sports Network announcer Alex Heinert calls the action at the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Oregon.
(Courtesy photo)
Jun 17, 2024
 

By Ryan Deal 

605 Sports

EUGENE, Ore. — Alex Heinert’s voice echoed across historic Hayward Field.  

The University of Oregon’s track and field stadium has hosted iconic performances, legendary figures and world records since its inception in 1919.

A track and field enthusiast, Heinert experienced Hayward Field’s magic first-hand at the recent Nike Outdoor Nationals and USATF U20 Championships. The South Dakota announcer was part of the announcing team at the event on June 12-15. 

Heinert said it a “special opportunity,” to do what he loves at Hayward Field, which he called the mecca of track and field. 

“To call a meet there and be a part of a team for a national championship, it was as special as I hoped it would be,” said Heinert, a White River High School graduate. “To get to be there and see it was amazing. But to actually have your voice go over the loudspeaker was pretty cool.” 

Heinert landed the opportunity through his years of announcing the Howard Wood Dakota Relays and the South Dakota state track and field meet. 

Sioux Falls resident Kristi Rieger and Heinert are on the Howard Wood board of directors committee. Rieger is the meet director of the National Scholastic Athletics Foundation indoor and outdoor nationals. 

Rieger asked about Heinert's interest in being a part of the Nike Outdoor Nationals announcing team a few years ago. Spots were limited on the announcing team, but Reiger kept Heinert in mind. 

When it was announced Hayward Field would simultaneously host the Nike Outdoor Nationals and the USATF U20 Championships, that meant nearly 5,000 athletes would compete at the venue. 

It also opened up a spot for Heinert. 

“There’s 5,000 kids at this meet and from all across the country,” Heinert said. “So just the research effort and trying to keep track of what’s going on and have things to say about these kids, you just kind of need an army of people.”

Midco Sports Network announcer Alex Heinert, far right, worked the Nike Outdoor Nationals in Eugene, Oregon. (Courtesy photo)

Heinert was part of an eight-person announcing team, with his primary role giving updates on field events and calling the decathlon and heptathlon. The announcing team also had a producer. 

Heinert called it “a different beast” announcing the national meet and did his due diligence for the athletes. 

“A lot of details beforehand about these athletes or the hometowns of where they are from and some of it required a little bit more research,” Heinert said. “Because it’s new or you are talking about kids from Texas, Louisiana, California, New York, and Ohio. You have no background really on any of these kids. So the last couple of weeks I have been doing research and trying to get myself ready.”

But after Day 1, Heinert settled into his role and it was just like calling a meet at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls. 

“It was so comfortable and it honestly just felt like there was no pressure because it was so fun,” Heinert said. “The team made it so fun. We had such a great group of people who had been doing it for 20-30-40 years. One of the gentlemen in the announcing team had been a part of it since the 1980s. They welcomed me with open arms and made me feel comfortable and we had a lot of laughs and watched outstanding track and field performances. It was an incredible four days.” 

Heinert wasn’t the only South Dakotan on staff either. In addition to Rieger, there were other familiar South Dakota faces at Hayward Field.

University of Oregon's Hayward Field. (Courtesy photo)

“Thankfully, there was also a great contingent of my South Dakota track family on hand as well,” Heinert said. “Having Kristi Rieger running the show and national meet staff regulars and Sioux Falls track staples Denise Klein, Matt Kiesow, and Kaaren Huber encouraging me in Eugene made Hayward feel a lot like Howard Wood, and they contributed in a major way to how comfortable I felt from the start.”

To top it off, Heinert’s wife Kelsey and their children were in attendance to conclude the weekend, also celebrating Father’s Day on Sunday. 

“One of the main reasons my time at NON was so special was because I got to experience it with my family,” Heinert said. “My amazing wife, children and in-laws were able to attend the last two days of the meet — and my parents were watching the online stream from home — and their support means everything to me.”

On the field, Heinert’s most memorable event was the shot put showcase. It was structured as a tournament bracket, with the top eight male and top eight female shot putters seeded one to eight. In the head-to-head setting, throwers had only one throw and the best mark advanced. 

If someone fouled, they wouldn’t be able to throw again, and if both throwers fouled, the higher seed advanced. 

At Hayward Field, the shot put area is in the infield and event coordinators hype up the showcase, including walk-up songs for the throwers. 

Alex Heinert and his family at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon. (Courtesy photo)

“They turned the lights off in the arena and they had lights ring around the top of Hayward Field,” Heinert said. “So you got like this cool pyrotechnics display going on and the kids went crazy. The atmosphere was awesome. That was really special to get to see and to help be a part of it and announce that was really cool.”

In addition to the performances, Heinert’s announcing team also made it a memorable experience. 

“What I will remember most really is just the laughs that we had, and the relationships that I got to make with these people I had not met previous to this,” Heinert said. “We spent every minute of pretty much every day, from 6:30 until 9 at night for four straight days with this group of like 5-6 people. You just got really close and that was really the coolest part for me.”

Heinert also witnessed a handful of South Dakota athletes compete at the event, holding their own against the nation’s best. 

“We have seen kids from South Dakota go out and compete against the best of the best in these venues before,” Heinert said. “They did it again this weekend and it was so cool to see the kids from our state go toe-to-toe with these kids.”