Oregon Women try to repeat at NCAA indoor

This weekend the Oregon women will be pursuing their second consecutive NCAA indoor title. The men, in contrast, lost members of the team that contributed to 36 of the team's 44 points from last year's NCAA indoor meet and are using this meet as a jumping board for the outdoor season.

The Duck women lost some big points when senior Alex Kosinski was lost from the meet due to a stress fracture in her back. Kosinski came into the meet ranked second in the 5,000 meters (15:44.60) and ranked fifth in the 3,000 meters (9:08.60). The Ducks lost Nicole Blood (5th in the 3,000 meters) and Keshia Baker (2nd in the 400 meters and anchor of 4x400 meter champion).

What the Ducks have added in experience and with newcomers to the program may more than make up the losses. Defending NCAA indoor champion Brianne Theisen will have a shot a breaking her own collegiate record and attempt to reach the Canadian national record by Jill Ross-Giffen of 4550 points set in 1982. Duck sophomore Jordan Hasay is the top seed and top returner (fourth in 2010) in the mile with her personal record (pr) of 4:34.75. Sophomore Anne Kesselring is the number three returner (sixth in 2010) and third seed this year with her pr of 4:36.32. Kesselring and Hasay are scheduled to help the fifth seeded, 11:02.15, Distance medley relay (second in 2010) along with freshman Chizoba Okodogbe and sophomore Becca Friday. The top returner in the pole vault, senior five-time all American Melissa Gergel (second in 2010), has jumped well at 4.36m, 14-3 ½, and is seeded fifth. Oregon's biggest threat in the team competition, Arkansas, has the top seed in the pole vault, Tina Sutej at 4.54m, 14-11.

Five time all-American and senior Jamesha Youngblood (also a five-time Pac 10 champion) looks to overcome her travails at last years NCAA indoor championship (three fouls) to improve on her fifth place indoor finish from 2009. Last year she jumped 6.63m, 21-9 at the Tyson Invitational but had a slow start to this year as she and her coach tried to adjust her approach. For the Husky Last chance meet she went back to her normal approach and was able to qualify for the NCAA meet with a last jump of 6.46m, 21-2 ½ and is the third seed coming into the NCAA meet.

2008 world junior competitor and Olympic Trials competitor Laura Roesler is ranked eighth (2:04.93) in her freshman year as a Duck. Senior Zoe Buckman (just indoor eligility left) will try to finish off her Duck career with her first individual track all-American award (won two in the distance medley and one on the cross country team). Jordan Hasay will attempt to come back in the 3,000 meters (fourth seed at a school record 9:05.42) if the team race is in doubt as the race is only followed by the 1,600 meter relay on the track and maybe the end of the pole vault will still be in progress.

Junior Amber Purvis will try to add to her fourth place finish at the US outdoor championships in the 200 and her fourth place finish at last year's NCAA indoor meet (her only individual track award). She was tenth in the 60 meters last but is the fourth seed in the 60 meters this year (school record 7.23). She is just off her indoor 200 meter time of last year (23.21 in 2010 and 23.27 this year) but the competition is more intense in that event this year and she is the 15th seed going into the meet.

One of Oregon's top competition in the team race, LSU, has three of the top four seeds in the 200 meters and that event could indicate whether the Ducks will have to push themselves in the 3,000 meters and 1,600 meter relay to win the meet. The Ducks will bring two runners, Theisen and Purvis, that helped Oregon with relay duty last year and two freshmen, Okodogbe and Roesler. All athletes will have competed in at least two races (Okodogbe) and as many as five (Purvis) and even eight (Theisen). The biggest threat is Arkansas, the second-rated team in the 1,600 meter relay. They have three of the top seven seeds in the 400 meters and the top seed in the pole vault.

The men will bring a small group of competitors but it is very possible that all could win their events. The Ducks were runners-up in the team competition after some injuries and exhaustion affected the team's overall performance.

The Ducks come into the meet with the top seeds in two events. Sophomore Elijah Greer ran 1:47.33 at the Husky Classic last year and had a femoral stress fracture that slowed him at the NCAA meet. He made the semifinals of the US championships last year and ran 1:46.99. At the Husky Classic he beat four automatic qualifiers to clock his indoor pr 1:47.02.

Oregon is the two-time defending champion in the distance medley relay (DMR). This year they ran the second fastest collegiate time ever recorded indoors, 9:26.78, to win the MPSF championship. Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna admitted after the meet that the team we looking for a time so that they could automatically qualify for the NCAA meet. Oregon has lost the anchor from the last two years (Galen Rupp and Andrew Wheating in the miles) but Centrowitz anchored the school record. Fleet is starting to ran well and put the Ducks in good position at MPSF. Freshman Mike Berry ran faster (46.67) at the UW Last Chance meet than some of the qualifiers from last year but it is a fast year in the men's 400 meters. Berry has run in the low 46s in his DMR and 4x400 meter legs this year. Greer has run two 1:46 legs this year on this relay and by the time Centrowitz received the baton he had a large lead at MPSF. The next three teams, Arizona, BYU, and Stanford have also run under 9:30 and have runners with excellent kicks and have qualified for the NCAA meet in individual events of a mile or 3,000 meters.

Oregon's top individual NCAA returner is sophomore Mac Fleet. Last year he finished second in this meet but a navicular fracture that he had been running with for a year finally worsened at the Penn Relays and slowed the finish of his season. He missed the cross country season and has two screws to hold together the bone. He has slowly come around this season and was 17th ranked but the 16th qualifier for this meet (3:59.03 at the UW Last chance meet). Don't count out the indoor school record-holder (3:57.70) who finishes fast.

Junior Matthew Centrowitz also had a slow start indoors after his tenth place finish at the NCAA cross country meet. At the Husky Classic he ran against a top national and collegiate field as was the top collegiate finisher in 7:50.59 and is second ranked coming into this meet. Injuries have slowed him the last two years but a healthy Centrowitz is hard to beat.

Junior Luke Puskedra should probably throw last year away (at least mentally) he realizes he didn't take a break but he has this year and as a result he was third at NCAA Cross country and looked fantastic in running a near pr 13:46.70 all by himself (.18 off his pr). He is seeded eleventh after his one indoor race. He should finish in the top four at this meet as the third seed is only six seconds faster and the top two seeds have run 13:37s (Sam Chelanga of Liberty and Elliot Heath of Stanford).

Senior David Klech has an opportunity to surprise a number of prognosticators. He is competing in the heptathlon for the second time in his career as a collegian. He was a two-time (2005 and 2006) California Gatorade athlete of the year (AOY) and was a national AOY in 2006. In his senior year of high school he was ranked in the top ten of five events (four of them are in the seven event Heptathlon). He is the 13th seed (5685) but is only 57 points short of the eighth seed and 131 points short of the second seed.

It is highly unlikely Oregon will win every event and even if the team did that would be 60 points, short of the points Florida is predicted to score. Coach Lananna said before the meet that anything over 30 would be a good meet and that would put them in contention for a trophy (top four).

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