AUSTIN, Texas – Friday at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds, the rain came in droves. Saturday it was the Ducks advancing droves to the NCAA Track and Field Championships June 5-8 in Eugene; a flock of 29 – including all four relays – made it out of Austin, including 15 entries on the final day of the West meet.
The Ducks advanced competitors in everything from the 110 hurdles to the 5,000 meters, the hammer and the javelin, and added a trio of football players and a four-sport standout to an impressive roster that will now head home for the national championships.
“That’s what we came here to do – advance and get back home,” said head coach Robert Johnson. “We were a really good team - emphasis on team - all week.”
Oregon was particularly effective in the relays with all four squads advancing to the NCAA Championships.
The Ducks opened the running events with a solid victory in heat one of the women’s 4x100 meter relay. Phyllis Francis led off, and Oregon drew even on the field on Gardner’s second leg. Jenna Prandini gave the Ducks a significant lead around the bend on the third leg, before Chizoba Okodogbe coasted home just ahead of USC in 44.31 to automatically advance to Eugene. The Trojans closed hard and were second in 44.38.
Gardner came back later in the day to place second in her 200 meter quarterfinal heat in 23.34, as the junior from Voorhees, N.J., is a national qualifier in the 100 and 200, becoming the first Duck to accomplish that feat.
Oregon’s football contingent then followed the women by qualifying for the NCAA Championships on time in the men’s 4x100 relay.
Dior Mathis, Arthur Delaney, B.J. Kelley and De’Anthony Thomas were fourth in their heat in a season best 39.96, but were able to advance to Eugene based on time thanks to a strong anchor leg by Thomas. That was the sixth fastest relay in school history.
The Ducks came back at the end of the night in the mile relay with a pair of scintillating performances.
In the women’s race, the Ducks finished second after some heavy lifting by Laura Roesler and Francis. Okodogbe led off and had the Ducks in the middle of the field before handing off to Annie Leblanc. Oregon was near the back of the field at the second exchange, but a determined leg from Roesler boosted the Ducks into third place. Francis continued the charge as she ran down Baylor in the final 10 meters to finish second in 3:32.36. That was the No. 8 time in school history as that team marched on to Eugene.
The in the men’s 4x400, Oregon ran a season best 3:04.16 to finish second and advance. Jack Galpin led off and had the Ducks in the middle of the field. Delaney then pushed Oregon up into second before Kevin Anding improved Oregon’s spot to third. Berry anchored in his trademark fashion, coming on strong to take the Ducks up into second and on to Eugene.
Oregon was also successful in the longer distances.
Perhaps the signature performance of the night came from 17-time all-American Jordan Hasay, who left no doubt about extending her University of Oregon career for one more race. In the second heat of the women’s 5,000 meter national semifinal, Hasay blasted away from the field with 600 meters to go and was never challenged the last lap and a half. The senior from Arroyo Grande, Calif., who placed a disappointing 18th in the 10,000 meters on Thursday, won in 16:00.84 to advance to the national championship.
“I felt great today,” said Hasay. “I bounced back really well, and everyone helped me get ready for the race.
“I wanted to come out and do well for the team and I’m excited to go home and run my last race as a Duck at Hayward Field.”
The Ducks executed flawlessly in the women’s 1500. In heat one, senior Anne Kesselring broke with the leaders on the final lap and finished in second in 4:13.90. In heat two, the leaders made their move on the front stretch, and senior Becca Friday held her position through the finish to place fourth in 4:19.30. Both Ducks automatically advanced to Eugene.
Oregon was nearly as successful in the men’s 1,500 where three runners made it through to Eugene. Patrick Todd was the runner-up in heat two, pulling clear of the field with two other runners just in front of a crash at the finish line. Todd, a senior from Dallas, who began his collegiate career at the University of Texas, crossed the line in 3:49.33.
Senior Matt Miner was ninth in that heat in 3:51.67 and did not advance.
In heat two, both Mac Fleet and Chad Noelle advanced in the faster of the two heats. As the leaders began to string things out on the final lap, the two Ducks stayed in the top five to claim two of the automatic spots. Fleet took fourth in 3:45.08, with Noelle 5th in 3:45.43.
Also in heat two, sophomore Colby Alexander was 10th in 3:47.72 and did not advance.
In the men’s 110 meter hurdles, Johnathan Cabral got out of the blocks quick and was clear of the field early to win his quarterfinal heat and advance in 13.47. That was just .02 off a legal best for the sophomore from Calabasas, Calif.
In the women’s 100 meter hurdles, Alyssa Monteverde was eighth in 13.83 as the freshman from Clovis, Calif., capped a solid freshman season.
Parker Stinson fell just short of moving on in the men’s 5,000. He finished ninth in 14:05.00 in heat two, while freshman Matthew Melancon was 21st in that heat in 14:59.16. However both runners qualified for the national meet in the 10,000 meters two days earlier. In heat one, freshman Jeramy Elkaim finished seventh in 14:16.63.
The field events were also fruitful for the Ducks.
Greg Skipper, Sam Crouser and Elizabeth Brenner used big throws in the field to advance to Eugene.
Crouser used a quick lightning strike on his first and only attempt in the men’s javelin to move on. The sophomore from Gresham, Ore., posted a mark of 257-7/78.53m to eventually finish third overall behind Sam Humphries of Texas A&M, who impressed with a throw of 268-8/81.90m., and Tim Glover of Illinois State (258-0/78.65m).
Knowing he had a trip to Eugene locked up, Crouser passed on his final five throws but not before posting a season best, as well as hitting his personal best mark in collegiate competition. His overall top throw, 265-1, came at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials.
Also in the javelin, Ethan Powell just missed the finals with a throw of 213-11/65.20m. The junior from Tenmile, Ore., had a strong finish to the 2013 season, placing 18th on Saturday after taking third at the Pac-12 meet two weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Skipper was sixth after the preliminary rounds of the men’s hammer before unleashing a thunder bomb in round four of 217-5/66.27m to jump to third in the final standings as the freshman from Oregon City, Ore., joined Crouser on the Ducks’ NCAA Championship team.
Brenner made it three throwers moving on to Eugene with a huge PR in the women’s javelin. The multi-sport star let loose a throw of 160-10/49.03m on her third attempt and that stood up for seventh overall. That was also the seventh best throw in school history for the freshman from Portland, Ore.
More impressively, in the span of 12 months Brenner will have competed in the NCAA volleyball national title game, the softball College World Series and the NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Also in the women’s javelin, freshman Annie Whitfield had a best throw of 132-2/40.28m and placed 42nd.
In other field events, Austin Ouderkirk finished his Oregon career on a high note by clearing a personal best 17-0.75/5.20m in the men’s pole vault on his third and final attempt. The senior from Newport, Ore., just missed on his third vault at 17-4.5, but still cleared 17-0 for the first time in his career. Ouderkirk finished 30th overall.
In the men’s triple jump, senior Tyler Pinkney had a best leap of 49-0.25/14.94m, while sophomore Trevor Ferguson went 45-10/13.98m. Pinkney finished 33rd overall, while Ferguson was 43rd.