Duck women seek trophy at NCAA cross

The sixth-ranked Oregon women have had an exceptional season this year. Oregon was second in 2007 and 2008 but struggled last year. The women have overcome the loss of all-American and 2009 West region champion Nicole Blood through the improved performance by every runner and the development of 2010 Pac-10 and West Region champion sophomore Jordan Hasay.

Hasay admitted to nervousness during last year but so far she has shown that she can challenge for an NCAA championship this year. In her only loss of the year at the Notre Dame Invitational she was in the lead pack and her shoe came partially off with 800 meters to go. She decided not to stop because it was close to the end of the race and finished with her teammate, senior Alex Kosinski, as they finished eighth and ninth. Since then she won the Bill Dellinger Invitational in a sensational time over 6,000 meters (6k) and then out-kicked her competition to win the Pac-10 and West Regional titles.

She joined elite company in Duck history by becoming the fourth Duck woman to win the Pac-10/NorPac conference title and West Region title in the same year joining Kathy Hayes (1983 NorPac), Penny Graves (1986 Pac-10) and Annette Hand (1987 Pac-10). If she continues to win both titles she will be the most successful Duck in history but won't surpass Amy Skieresz of Arizona who won both for four consecutive years from 1995 to 1998. With no solid favorite this year, the two-time Footlocker high school national champion will be in the mix of about ten to twelve runners to win the NCAA title.

Jordan feels confident after her experiences as a freshman, "I am definitely glad that I was able to run at the NCAA meet last year. You can't really explain it to someone you just have to run it. I just wasn't able to relax and this year I will be able to relax a little better and save it for the finish."

Last year Kosinski started well with a great run at the season-opening Bill Dellinger Invitational but illness slowed her during the middle of the season. She recovered well enough at the Pac-10 and West Regional meets but more trouble slowed her at the NCAA meet. About 600 meters into the race a runner from West Virginia fell in front of her and she had to leap over her. In Kosinski's two previous runs at the NCAA championships she had finished no worse than 13th. Last year she didn't make all-American (top 40). An achilles tendon injury in December forced her to redshirt indoor track but she recovered well enough to qualify for the NCAA outdoor finals in both the 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters (5k) and earned her first scoring finish (third in the 5k). She has run well in every race this year and she will be a key part of helping Oregon earn a team trophy. If she finishes in the top 13 again she will join former Duck Penny Graves as the only Ducks to finish in the top 13 three times (1986-1988) at the NCAA meet. Confidence is a key for her, "I am really confident I will peak really well."

This year the women's team as a whole has done as well as the #3 through #5 Duck runners have done. Hasay and Kosinski have consistently been very good but the success of the team is reliant on the finishes of five runners. Oregon's #3-#5 runners have consistently run together in races this year to help push each other. In order for the Ducks to succeed these three runners need to be in the 30s or better for Oregon to get a trophy this year.

In 2007 Oregon's runner-up finish at the NCAA meet was aided by the surprising run of NCAA 800 meter all-American Zoe Buckman (39th). The senior had not run as well as that performance this year until the West Regional meet where she finished tenth (previous best was 21st in 2007). Her exceptional kick has consistently moved her a significant number of places in every race and if she is in a good position she can help the Ducks move up in the team race.

2010 NCAA 800 meter all-American and sophomore Anne Kesselring has been a consistent #4 runner for the Ducks this year. Last year she did not score (as a top five runner) for the team at the NCAA championships but has shown significant improvement in every race compared to last year. Along with Buckman and Kesselring, redshirt freshman Lanie Thompson is emerging as one of the most talented distance runners on the team. She missed all of last year with hip bursitis after a back injury affected her during the summer. On the track during her junior high school year in 2008 she had the fifth fastest 3200 meter/2-mile time in the nation among high school athletes and she is now showing that ability that indicated she will be a significant contributor on the Ducks in cross country and track and field.

Freshman Sarah Andrews won the PanAm junior 5k title (16:42.38) after her junior year at the The Woodlands High School in The Woodlands, Texas. During the summer of her senior year she started having difficulties with her hamstring. She missed her senior track season and had a good summer of training but started having occasional trouble again when training started with the Ducks. She ran well enough to be the #6 Duck at the Pac-10 meet and did not run at the West Regional meet. If she has been healthy she may challenge the members of Oregon's top-five at the NCAA meet.

Redshirt junior Claire Michel won last year's Pac-10 steeplechase title but in the interim between that race and the West Regional meet in Austin, Texas she developed a foot problem that became a break and kept her from running the entire summer. Her first running was at the start of September. In 2009 she was Oregon's #4 or #5 runner for most of the season but even though she cross trains by swimming regularly it has been an uphill battle to get back into high-level racing shape. She was Oregon's #6 runner at the West Regional meet ahead of sophomore teammate Becca Friday. Neither of Oregon's #8 and #9 runners sophomore Taylor Wallace and junior Bronwyn Crossman.

Defending champion and top-ranked Villanova has looked every bit as good as last year. All five of the Wildcat runners last year finished in the top 30 and the team scored 86 points to the 133 for Florida State. They replaced the #5 runner from that race with a faster runner. Second-ranked Florida State lost their top runner but is ready to take another run at a title. 2008 NCAA team champion and fourth-ranked Washington finished third last year and lost two of their top runners but added the top recruiting class in the nation. Oregon lost to Washington in the West Regional meet but has run well all year in addition to Pac-10 champion and seventh-ranked Stanford and runner-up Arizona (ranked ninth).

"Our team has a really great shot of placing in the top couple. It would be really great to finish in the top couple as a team. If we all have a good day on the same day we could do something special." She knows there is unfinished business from last year, "I think we had an off year. We all did not have our best races." From year-to-year teams can mesh and Alex is excited about this group, "There is a really great team chemistry this year."

This year has been impressive for Jordan and associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna admits Jordan's potential for taking the individual title, "Jordan has been having a great sophomore year. Our focus is on the track season and I am really excited about how she looks now. Jordan Hasay is a great competitor, she is a gamer."

Hopefully everyone on Oregon's team follows Jordan's example and she can lead the team to a trophy and even the team title.

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