Duck Women look for first title in 26 years

This year's Oregon women's team has shown resiliency in overcoming adversity the last two years. Most of the key contributors to the last two year's NCAA indoor championships will lead the Ducks to another attempt at an NCAA outdoor title.

Last year the Oregon women set a record for points at an Pac-10 championship with 215 points. Ducks won every flat race plus the steeplechase, 4x100 meter relay, the long jump and triple jump and heptathlon. Seniors Keshia Baker and Nicole Blood combined for three titles and were expected to be gone this year but the Ducks have lost four-time NCAA combined events champion senior Brianne Theisen and five-time all-American senior Alex Kosinski unexpectedly to injury.

To compensate for their losses the Ducks have developed new talent and many of the veteran Ducks have gotten personal records (pr) this year. The Ducks won the Pac-10 title 154.5 to 150 over Arizona after trailing the Wildcats by 57.5 points at one point during the final day. It took a double by sophomore Jordan Hasay and a season-best time and meet record of 3:29.63 to win the 4x400 meter relay.

Sophomore Hasay has been everything that was expected in her second year with the Ducks. She was third at the NCAA cross country championships and followed that with victories in the Mile (4:33.01, school record) and 3,000 Meters (9:13.71) at the NCAA indoor championships. So far outdoors she leads competitors this year with her personal record in the 1,500 meters, 4:10.28 at Mt SAC and she is the top seed in the 5,000 meters with her pr 15:37.29 from the Stanford Invitational. She will battle with NCAA cross country champion Sheila Reid of Villanova in both events.

She is confident about her chances of success in the double, "I was happy the way regionals went. I came off Saturday really well on Sunday. One race a day will be nice." Assistant Athletic Director Vin Lananna said of her, "She's a winner. She's a great competitor. She does everything right."

About the double, it took a little to convince Lananna, "Vin he told me if I had a double at Pac-10s there was no way I would be able to double at the regional meet. I guess I kind of convinced him the other way." Vin said later that she came to him, "Anyway I can run the 1500 and 5." He told her, "don't go crazy in the 5,000 meters (at regionals) and just settle for qualifying whatever it is." It all worked out.

Oregon has no other favorites but several competitors that could score and potentially win a national title. The Ducks will have two competitors with world junior experience in the 800 meters. Sophomore Anne Kesselring is already a five-time all-American. She finished well at the NCAA indoor championships to get fourth in the mile (4:34.96 fourth all-time among Ducks). Last year she was sixth in the 800 meters (2:05.41) at the NCAA championships outdoor, the same year she won the Pac-10 title. She ran a nation-leading and pr 2:02.44 at the Oregon Relays. She will challenge for the title.

Anne is aware of the task ahead of her, "There is no clear favorite. I will definitely run the prelim hard." She knows the importance of the team competition and the sacrifice that Hasay (her roommate on road trips) is making, "It is really encouraging to know that one of your teammates is willing to actually do the double and do so much work at all of those meets. We talk about her doing the double, she is excited about that. It pushes all of that."

Freshman Laura Roesler made the semifinals at the 2008 Olympic Trials in the 800 meters and has been on the national scene since. She finished third at the Pac-10 meet and ran a personal collegiate-best 2:03.12 to finish second in the West Region quarterfinal. She has also shown an ability to close out the 4x400 meter relay as the anchor (52.0 best split) and has not lost a race when she was been given the lead.

Oregon has a pair of senior six-time all-Americans in the field events, Melissa Gergel in the Pole Vault (highest finish is second from 2010 indoor) and Jamesha Youngblood in the Long Jump (four in the long jump and the other two in relays). Gergel has battled hamstring injuries her entire career and this year has had an ankle problem and did not vault until the Oregon Relays outdoors. Youngblood (third outdoors in 2009 was best finish), the long jump and triple jump school record holder indoors and outdoors, has battled her steps on the runway her entire career and now has a balky knee that acted up at the West Regional meet. She substituted for Amber Purvis at the West Regional meet in the 4x100 meter relay and helped the Ducks advance.

Senior leader Jamesha is confident about the NCAA meet, "I have been checking the weather like every day and it looking pretty good" She also feels like her runway issues are clearing up and she feels faster, "at Pac-10 I only scratched once."

Junior Amber Purvis has battled bad luck and injuries her entire career. She holds or has contributed to six school records. The eight-time all-American scored in the 60 meters, 200 meters and 4x400 meter relay at the NCAA indoor meet with a tight hamstring hampering her performance. The 2010 Pac-10 100 meter and 200 meter champion did not defend her titles but was on pace to competing in four events at the NCAA outdoor championships when her hamstring cramped up at the West Regional meet and she could not qualify for the 200 meters. She was warming up on Monday on the Drake Stadium track and looks ready to compete in the 100 meters, 4x100 meter relay and 4x400 meter relay.

Freshman English Gardner broke Purvis‘ 60 meter record indoors but a stress fracture in her shin cut her indoor season short. She won both the 100 and 200 meters at the Pepsi meet and then at the Pac-10 meet, "shocked" herself with an American Junior record and school record of 11.03. She finished third in the 200 meters (23.02). At the NCAA championships she will run the 100 meters and 4x100 meter relay and she is favored to score in both events.

Senior Claire Michel spent the summer recovering from a broken metatarsal that started to bother her before the 2010 Pac-10 Steeplechase that she won. She did not run until September 1st but has set the school record three times this year. She was second (10:26.05) in the heat of Tuscon at the Pac-10 championships and ran a school record 10:02.55 to finish second at the West Regional meet. Redshirt freshman Lanie Thompson was third at the Pac-10 meet (10:33.35) and set a pr at the West Region meet (10:06.83) in finishing third. Both have a shot at scoring at the NCAA meet.

One of the biggest developments of the season has been sophomore Becca Friday in the 1,500 meters. She ran the 800 meters as part of Oregon's second place distance medley at the NCAA indoor championships after competing in the 800 meters at the NCAA outdoor championships last year. Early on she took three seconds off her personal best 4:21 then finished fourth at the PAc-10 meet in 4:25.43. She admitted, "I lose focus in the middle of the race," but at the West Regional she stayed with the top group of runners and used her trademark kick to run 4:17.93 and finish second in her heat. A repeat performance would put her in the mix to score.

Coach Lananna summed up the opportunity of this meet, "In many ways its kind of a true statement that the team has an opportunity to win the thing, it doesn't come around very often. I think you strike while the iron is hot. Our coaches and athletes all want a shot to win it."

The Pac-10 team showed the mettle of this group, "When the chips were down and, the event was pretty close, we were 57 points down with three events to go .Teams that do not have that winning character that could be almost devastating. People tend to just kind of fold up. Our athletes never did."

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