Ducks Men and Women win Bill Dellinger Invite

The Dellinger Invitational was a rare meet for the Ducks and Assistant Athletic Director of Track and Field Vin Lananna. It was a mid-season meet without a lot of excitement. The men had a good competition with Wisconsin who was missing their top runner, Mohammed Ahmed (30th at the 2009 NCAA championships). The women were battling themselves and seeing how fast they could run.

The wins by both teams affected neither of their national rankings as the women and men held position in second and third, respectively, in the USTFCCA rankings. At the same time the Ducks were running in Eugene, most of the top teams were at the NCAA championship course running in the Pre-Nationals race in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The men opened with the eight kilometer (8k) competition and used their knowledge of the course to their advantage. Duck Junior Luke Puskedra and his senior teammate Matthew Centrowitz ran a fast early pace and were only joined by Elliot Krause of Wisconsin. Eventually the Ducks lost him as Puskedra made aggressive moves to create separation from the competition. Eventually they lost all of their competition and put a significant distance on the rest of the field in the middle of the race.

Centrowitz said after the race, "making the moves was definitely Luke." Puskedra was not worried about losing his teammate because they planned ahead to try to separate themselves from the field, "Coming into the race Centro was saying he would go with me." Luke admitted he knew the course really well and knew were to make the moves to create separation from the competition, "We do a lot of workouts especially on the k-loops."

Behind them in the middle of the race there was a group of three Wisconsin runners and a runner on the Guelph team, Alex Genest along with Duck senior Danny Mercado. Behind them were three Ducks, including junior Chris Kwiatkowski, redshirt freshman Ben Dejarnette and true freshman Parker Stinson were in a pack with other runners and AJ Acosta was behind the group.

In the last mile Mercado (23:42.15) made a valiant run to pass the Wisconsin runners and finished third behind a relaxing pair of Centrowitz (23:38.11) and Puskedra (23:38.13). Eventually Acosta joined the pack of Ducks behind the Wisconsin runners as four Wisconsin runners finished fourth through seventh, Genest was eighth, Kwiatkowski in 23:58.75 was ninth (#4 Duck) and #5 Duck Stinson (24:08.15), #6 Duck Acosta (24:13.39), and #7 Duck Dejarnette (24:14.49) finished eleventh through thirteenth. The fifth (and last scoring) Wisconsin runner finished 16th and Oregon won the competition 26 to 38 points.

Puskedra was ok that he lost to Centrowitz, "It's his birthday on Monday. He's a 3:36 guy and I like to think I am a 3:37 guy."

Lananna said after the race, "We feel really good about our top three and maybe four. I thought Danny did a fantastic job after a so-so Notre Dame race." Lananna does have a regular concern though, "Fifth man blues that's the mantra." Acosta is expected to be the fourth runner but had a bad race for him. Centrowitz said later, "He'll be there when it counts."

There is a battle but also teamwork among the potential #5 runners. Dejarnette has been the leading candidate for that position but Kwiatkowski took that position at Dellinger and discussed his development, "I have been on this team for four years and I'm finally able to contribute. I took a trip back east (Centrowitz is his best friend) and got some great training." Chris discussed how the contenders for the #5 (and last scoring slot) are good teammates, "We find each other in a race and work together. We want to key off each other in the race. It was a good finish, everyone ran hard."

True freshman Parker Stinson is still getting used to the longer collegiate cross country race, "It always hurts so bad that final mile." At Notre Dame he took the lead early, "that first mile always feels so good." He was happy to finish as the #5 Duck in this race, "It was nice to do as well as I thought I could."

Wisconsin moved up from eleventh to sixth in the national rankings after the competition. Oklahoma State took the first four positions at the Chile Pepper Invitational over the 10k course and now has an equal number of first place votes along with Stanford even though Stanford dominated the competition at the pre-Nationals blue race by accumulating 43 points (took the first three spots) to 127 for Iona (now ranked fourth nationally). Oklahoma won the white race and moved to fifth nationally in the rankings.

The women's race was evidence of the elite level of Oregon's top two runners. Jordan Hasay and Alex Kosinski ran very fast on Saturday. They ran together for the entire race and pushed each other throughout. Kosinski said later, "We came in for a hard race." In the race they fed off each other's energy and drive. Kosinski reflected, "We helped each other and we kept each other honest."

On the track Kosinski and Hasay are very inexperienced over 5,000 meters (5k) but have good prs of 15:57.83 for Kosinski (has run the 5k four times) and 16:16.02 for Hasay (run once). In this 6k race they ran 19:25.31 for Hasay and 19:25.33 for Kosinski which translates to approximately 16:11 for 5k, an outstanding 5k time, but truly unbelievable for a 6k performance. This was the first time that a 6k was run over this course and is automatically a meet record. At the 2009 NCAA Cross Country championships Angela Bizzari's winning time was 19:46.8 over the same distance on a more undulating course in colder conditions in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Running behind them was Canadian University champion Rachel Cliff of Guelph University in third at 19:50.44. Three Ducks ran in a pack behind Cliff and kicked at the end with senior Zoe Buckman using her speed to finish fourth overall in 20:05.64, sophomore Anne Kesselring was fifth in 20:08.34 and redshirt freshman Lanie Thompson was sixth in 20:09.88 as they were the #3 to #5 Ducks, respectively. All three put significant distance between themselves and the rest of the competition with a strong kick. Courtney Laurie of Guelph was seventh in 20:16.62 and then Duck junior Bronwyn Crossman had her best performance of this young season as the #6 Duck with her time of 20:33.39.

Duck redshirt senior Claire Michel made her debut after recovering from a break in her foot at the West Regional track meet this last spring. Her first land training of the season was the day before the September 3rd meet in Corvallis, the John Frank Memorial. She still has soreness in the morning and is behind her teammates in land training but she is a very good swimmer and has always cross-trained since coming to Eugene. She was the #7 Duck in 20:37.91.

Sophomore Becca Friday kicked ahead of the pack behind Michel to finish as the #8 Duck and in eleventh overall in 20:46.61 ahead of unattached Duck freshman Sarah Andrews in 20:46.99.

Hasay was impressed with the results of the Duck freshmen Thompson and Andrews, "The freshmen were outstanding. We are not sure if Sarah will run. Her workouts are going well and we will make a determination. Lanie has had a great season this year."

The teamwork in workouts has impressed Jordan, "We are all really close." After the race Thompson discussed their workouts, "In workouts we all switch off and push each other. If one feels good they push the others."

Both Thompson and Andrews have been overcoming injuries. Thompson hurt her back before last cross country season and then she had bursitis in her hip. She was finally able to start running last spring. Andrews hurt her hamstring last December. She missed last track season but was able to start running this summer. Her hamstring has bothered during training so far this year and she only had two weeks of consistent training going into the Dellinger Invite.

As for the race Andrews was surprised to run after so little training and said, "It felt great today. I had dead legs though."

Both Duck teams are poised to have a great championship season and both teams will next run at the Jefferson Golf Course in Seattle, Washington at the Pac-10 championships on October 30th. The women are very likely to trophy this year after a disappointing finish at last year's NCAA championships. The men will struggle to trophy through the end of the season because they have too many inexperienced runners, outside of the first three runners, over the 10k championship courses that will be at the West Regional and NCAA championships.

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