This is a story by Paul Merca about our buddy, Mike Fanelli, who we miss very much.

If you were one of Mike Fanelli’s 5000-plus Facebook friends, there was a better-than-even chance you’d receive a daily post of track and field trivia, the latest take on who ran the greatest 4 x 400 relay legs at the Penn Relays, posts on the latest sub-4 minute milers, etc.

Mike was a walking, talking Google (or, for you old-timers, encyclopedia) of track and field information.

As has been well chronicled, Fanelli collected running-related memorabilia, which he stored in the “Track and Field Garage” at his home in Sonoma County, California. The expansive collection had over 4,000 artifacts, including the meet program from the first indoor track meet held in the United States in 1868 and every Track and Field News issue and Runner’s World.

Mike Fanelli, photo by Paul Merca

After he passed away on November 25th, 2023, from glioblastoma brain cancer, at the age of 67, there was a celebration of life held for him in January in San Francisco, attended by many of his friends, whether in real estate, the athletic shoe industry, or most likely, fans of the sport.

Even with the celebration of life, there seemed to be not quite the closure you’d expect for a man with a passion for track and field.

Fast-forward to the US Olympic Trials in Eugene, where two events were organized by former Reebok executives Dwayne ‘Peanut’ Harms and Pat Devaney, as well as noted distance coach and former Nike and Hoka sports marketing executive Peter Thompson.

The first was the Hootie 5k on the first Saturday of the Trials, renamed the Peter Brewer-Mike Fanelli Memorial 5k to honor Peter Brewer, a longtime track and cross country coach in Northern California.

A week later, those who didn’t participate in the run gathered for a walk from the Best Western New Oregon Hotel to the fishing pond on Pre’s Trail, where a commemorative bench honoring Mike will be installed sometime in the fall.

After Saturday night’s session, a small gathering of close friends of Fanelli’s took place at the Wild Duck, the long-time post-meet watering hole and gathering place. The Wild Duck reopened in late September after closing at the end of 2022.

Tara Davis-Woodhall at the Wild Duck Cafe, photo by Paul Merca

The Wild Duck was, more often than not, where Mike made his Facebook posts and takes come to life, talking to anyone who wanted to talk track.

For the duration of the Olympic Trials, a photo of Fanelli hangs over the large table in the restaurant section where he often held court before and after meets.

Fanelli is immortalized at the Wild Duck with a small bronze plate on the back of a chair with his name engraved.

Mike Fanelli memorialized at the Duck, photo by Paul Merca

For many track and field fans, the Wild Duck was the place to assemble after a meet, whether you were a fan, athlete, official, or an immediate family member.

When Eugene was officially awarded the Trials, numerous fans wondered whether the Duck would reopen and, if it didn’t, where they would gather afterward.

Enter Charles Haasenritter, whose son, Kilo, plays on the University of Oregon football team.

Haasenritter and wife Kahea took over the business to bring the restaurant back to its glory days before the pandemic hit.

The glory days included athletes making world championships or Olympic teams toasting patrons with bottles of champagne.

Mike & Renee Fanelli, courtesy of Renee Weissberger Fanelli

The Haasenritter family, who came to Eugene from Hilo, Hawaii, did not significantly change the menu, keeping many old staples, such as wings, burgers, and salmon, patrons enjoyed over the previous 30 years of operation.

The only tweak to the menu was the addition of Hawaiian-inspired cuisine, such as spam musubi, a Hawaiian Loco Moco beef patty on rice with gravy and egg, and a Hawaiian plate that includes rice, mac and cheese, and protein options including beef teriyaki and Hawaiian fried chicken, which I tried upon Haasenritter’s suggestion.

The stars came out to the Wild Duck Saturday, including world and Olympic long jump champ Brittney Reese, who is at the meet as an ambassador for TrackTown USA.
L-R Daryl Zapata, Gary Goettelmann, Mike Fanelli, Bill Seaver, Mike Pinocci, Nike OTC 1979, from Bobby Hodge

Other notables in the house included ESPN’s Larry Dawson, three-time Olympian at 800 meters Mark Everett, and 2012 Olympic 400-meter hurdles finalist Georgeanne Moline.

Tara Davis-Woodhall and Monte Nichols, who finished 1-3 in Saturday’s long jump finals, were saluted by the patrons with champagne for punching their tickets to Paris.

Whether it’s an early spring University of Oregon home meet or a big meet like the Olympic Trials, the Wild Duck is a must-visit!
As Mike often said, “Solid!”
Peter J. Thompson, Larry Eder, Larry Rawon, Paul Merca, Pat Devaney, photo courtesy of Paul Merca

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