DUCK WOMEN MAKE IT AN NCAA SWEEP
EUGENE, Ore. – After a disqualification in the 4×100-meter relay, and zero points in the high jump and 1,500 meters, the Oregon women’s track and field team was in desperate need of a spark.
Enter Jenna Prandini.
And, for the second year in a row, the dynamic UO junior was up to the task.
The native of Clovis, Calif., overcame a poor start with a strong close to win the 100 meters in a photo-finish over Texas junior Morolake Akinosun in a wind-aided time of 10.96 seconds. Akinosun hit the tape in 10.97.
That’s all the Ducks needed to get them started and they never let up in scoring 59 points to claim their first team title at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 30 years.
The victory was witnessed by an appreciative crowd of 11,734 at historic Hayward Field on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The four-day attendance total of 42,544 is reportedly the second-best in NCAA meet history.
Prandini, the lone entrant to qualify in four events at this meet, would later take second in the 200 meters in a wind-legal 22.21 – Kentucky’s Dezerea Bryant was first in 22.18 – to finish as the high-point scorer for the second straight year with 26 points.
“To come out and win the 100 has always been one of my dreams, so it’s pretty awesome,” Prandini said. “I knew that if I just stuck to what we do every single day in practice that I could get the win in the end.”
Prandini wasn’t the only UO woman to claim an individual NCAA title on Saturday.
True freshman Raevyn Rogers, a native of Houston, gave the Ducks a huge lift by winning the 800 meters in a near-2-second PR of 1:59.71 – the fourth-best time in UO history.
Rogers, the U.S. junior 800m champion who competed at the IAAF World Junior Championships last summer, was quick to give credit to the Hayward Field crowd for her performance.
“The crowd is so supportive,” she said. “I don’t know where I would be or how happy I would be without Hayward. The fans are amazing and this city is like family …
“At the beginning of the season our coach asked us to record in a notebook what we wanted to accomplish, and I was a little hesitant to write down, ‘win nationals,’ at first, but here we are, so it’s all pretty surreal to see how far we’ve come.”
Oregon entered the final day of competition with 31 points thanks to a 2-4 finish from Prandini and Jasmine Todd in the long jump; a 4-5 finish from Molly Grabill and Waverly Neer in the 10,000 meters; a fourth from Jillian Weir in the hammer throw and a fifth from Brittany Mann in the shot put.
In the end, for the second time in less than 24 hours, UO coach Robert Johnson gladly endured an ice water bath as he stood on the awards podium being interviewed by ESPN.
“We’ve been after this one for a while,” Johnson said of the NCAA outdoor title. “To finally get it is pretty special … we started the meet on a down today, but to watch our team battle back and rally is a true testament to our coaching staff and our athletes. They went out there and did their thing.”
DUCK MEN CLAIM BACK-TO-BACK NCAA TITLES
EUGENE, Ore. – For the second straight season, TrackTown turned into TitleTown.
Before a packed house of 11,168 at historic Hayward Field on Friday, the Oregon men put the finishing touches on a dominant performance to claim back-to-back team titles at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
The Ducks clinched the seventh men’s national outdoor crown in school history with a thrilling 1-2-4 finish in the 5,000 meters from Edward Cheserek, Eric Jenkins and Will Geoghegan.
Oregon’s winning total of 85 points was the second-best ever under the current scoring system, trailing only last year’s 88 points. Florida placed second with 56 points, followed by Arkansas (53), LSU (45) and USC (40.5).
“This one was special,” said UO coach Robert Johnson, moments after getting doused with water on the awards podium surrounded by his jubilant UO squad. “It’s an amazing feeling to do this in front of the great faithful here … the guys rallied ‘round each other all year long and this is the fruit of our labors.”
On Friday, the Ducks outperformed the form chart in every event they competed in, beginning with true freshman Blake Haney’s third-place finish in the 1,500 meters in 3 minutes, 55.12 seconds..
“I wanted to fly under the radar this year, so being overlooked is an advantage,” Haney said. “It’s a lot less pressure and I got to go out there and run my race.”
So did Oregon senior Johnathan Cabral in the 110-meter hurdles.
With teammate and reigning NCAA champion Devon Allen sidelined by knee surgery this year, Cabral stepped up and closed out his career with a second-place finish in 13.22. Moments later, UO sophomore Marcus Chambers used a strong surge on the homestretch to take second in the 400 meters at 45.59.
At that point, there was very little suspense as to which team would be standing atop the awards podium at the conclusion of the meet.
For the Ducks, all that remained was the 5,000 meters, and they finished it off in style as Cheserek won his eighth individual NCAA title in 13:48.67, a mere stride in front of Jenkins at 13:48.92. Arkansas’s Kemoy Campbell broke up the sweep in third (13:49.23), barely edging Geoghegan at 13:49.35.
“We knew that we needed a big day to put it away,” Geoghegan said. “I was trying to replicate what I did at indoors. I wanted to beat anyone who wasn’t wearing an Oregon uniform.”
The Ducks scored 23 points in the 5,000, and when combined with a 1-2 finish in the 10,000 meters from Cheserek and Jenkins on Wednesday, they piled up 41 points in those two events – good enough to place fourth overall in the team standings.
Oregon started the day with a commanding 40-16 lead thanks to the 1-2 finish in the 10,000, Sam Crouser’s victory in the javelin, and third-place performances from both Greg Skipper in the hammer throw and Dakotah Keys in the decathlon.
All in all, it was a victory that will long be long remembered.
“When you start to compare anything from the past with anything we’re doing now, it’s pretty special as far as history, tradition and legacy go,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of super studs our there right now and them being here is really making this thing we’re doing now even more special.”