Top Ducks return for Oregon Relays

This weekend's Oregon Relays is a great look at the past, present and future of Oregon track and field. There will be competing or coaching at least two athletes in the top ten of every event in Duck track and field history.

Recent graduate and Heptathlon world record setter, Ashton Eaton, will compete in an array of events to continue his preparation for the US championships in late June. He will compete in the 110 hurdles (#2 all-time at Oregon at 13.54), long jump (#2 all time with a personal record of 26-4 ½) and the discus throw (recent pr of 152').

He is excited about competing at Hayward and for him the hurdles (may compete in the pole vault instead of long jump) is a great place for him to start with in his return to Eugene as a professional, "I'm really glad I'm starting out running that race at Hayward. Because if I were to go to any other meet I would not be as excited."

Eaton competed at Mt. SAC against his former NCAA competition but did not feel he was connected anymore, "At Hayward I always feel a part of the group." His first Decathlon of the year will be at the US Championships in Eugene and his schedule and goals have changed since he became a professional, "My goal is the Olympics, at this point there is nothing else to strive for."

Fan-favorite Jordan Kent is returning to track competition after playing professional football the past five years. He is training with Churchill head coach and former Duck sprint coach George Walcott (third all-time on the Ducks' 200 meter list). He is still ranked in the top-ten in the 100 meters (tenth all-time) and 200 meters (sixth all-time) for the Ducks but the thought has always been that he could be a great 400 meter runner (part of Oregon's school record 4x400 meter relay 3:00.81 from 2005). He is entered in the 200 meters (pr 20.82) and 400 meters (pr 46.95 and a 46.3 first leg on a relay). He will run against Duck freshman sensation Mike Berry in the 200 meters (pr 21.08 at the UCLA dual) and 400 meters (ranked fifth all-time at 45.72).

A group of 20 Japanese distance runners has entered meet and the top-ten seeds in the 5,000 meters are in this group. The top two seeds are Takayuki Matsuniya (13:13.20) and Kensuke Takezawa (13:19.00). The women's 5,000 meters is also loaded with former Duck all-American Nicole Blood (pr 15:38.61, fifth all-time) running against former NCAA champion and current OTC Elite teammates Bridget Franek (steeplechase), and Julia Lucas. Brianne Felnagle has returned from her all-American collegiate days at North Carolina to run for her high school coach, Matt Ellis, at Bellarmine Prep and is running for Adidas now. Japanese entrants Kumi Ogura and Miho Ihara along with Duck Bronwyn Crossman will join in what should be a fast race.

The men's 1,500 meters is being set up to be a fast race with pace-setters helping top collegians. Ducks Matthew Centrowitz (fourth all-time at 3:36.92), AJ Acosta (school record 3:36.48), sophomore Elijah Greer, and freshman Cole Watson will be joined by Patrick Casey of Montana State, ex-Duck all-American Jordan McNamara, Kevin Chelimo of OTC Elite, and Kazuya Watanabe of Japan. Sally Kipyego of OTC Elite and Lauren Johnson of Nike will likely have a fast women's 1,500 meters.

The women's 800 meters will be led by three international level competitors Geena Gall of OTC elite (former NCAA champion), Andrea Ferris of Panama, Celia Brown will likely lead Ducks Anne Kesselring, Becca Friday and Phyllis Francis to fast times.

Duck women's sprinters will have tremendous times competing against each other. Recent school record-setter freshman English Gardner (11.30) will compete against teammates Mandy White (third all-time at 11.57) and Lauryn Neson and Alex Davidson along with speed Portland State competitors Geronne Black and Karene King. In the 200 meters school record holder Amber Purvis (22.74) is expected to run her first 200 of the year against recent pr setter Mandy White (23.59), Lauryn Newson, and English Gardner. They will run against Canadians Shai Davis and Katie Reid of Kajaks Track Club.

School record holder Jamesha Youngblood will compete in the long jump (21-9) and triple jump (43-5), Melissa Gergel returns from injury to compete in the Pole vault with teammates Jordan Roskelley and Kortney Ross. All-American Michele Williams returns in the 200 meters and 400 meters (second at 2010 Pac-10, seventh all-time for Ducks 53.36). Four-time NCAA champion Briane Theisen returns from back troubles to compete in the 400 meters and shot put.

Three-time top-four NCAA finisher Krista Woodward (ex-Georgia) has joined Kajaks track club the last two years (after missing 2008 and 2009) and will throw the javelin (top seed of 192'). Also competing are former Cottage Grove high school athlete Jordan Brunetti (Lane CC) and Ali Super (West Linn High School) of Clackamas Community College.

Future Ducks Greg Skipper (Shot Put, Discus Throw, and Hammer Throw) Jack Galpin (200 meters) and Matt Melancon (3,000 meters) will compete. Also competing is the top high school junior thrower in the country in the shot put (47-5) and javelin throw (176-0), Avionne Allgood of Centennial High School in Las Vegas. Five-time NCAA pole vault champion and Skipper's uncle Tommy will be coaching the pole vault for North Eugene high school.

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