Ducks in Great Position with Two Days to Go

In the first two days of the NCAA track championships the Duck women and LSU Tigers have done what was expected of them but the Duck women look like they are peaking at the right time. Because both teams have performed so well the first two days this competition has stayed a two-team race.

Friday's women's finals include the conclusion of the Heptathlon, 400 Hurdles, 100 meters, 800 meters, 3,000 meter Steeplechase, 400 meters, and the High Jump. We will know a lot about the team race after these finals.

Over the first two days the Oregon women advanced everyone that should score and received a fantastic fifth-place performance from freshman Allie Woodward (32:56), good for second on Oregon's all-time list. Just like all of the other Ducks, she ran within herself early and didn't force anything. She was redshirted for cross country and indoor season and said, "They had a plan for me."

Qualifying on Wednesday included a .4 season best for the 4x100 relay (43.32) for the women and a non-qualifying run by the men (40.03) absent De'Anthony Thomas. Qualifying was difficult in the 800 for women as Anne Kesselring ran a season best 2:02.66 and Laura Roesler ran a pr 2:02.09 (breaking her pr from her junior year of high school) and for Elijah Greer (1:46.22 for third in his heat). Roesler recovered well enough on Thursday to run a fantastic 400 leg (51.76) to help the Oregon women advance their 4x400 meter relay (3:29.46).

Sophomore Mike Berry won his semi-final (45.05) and was happy with his race but knows, "It's going to take a pr to win it." He subbed for Thomas in the 4x100 relay and they ran this year's second fastest time but it didn't affect his 400 heat, "it was a warm-up."

Fellow sophomore Phyllis Francis also warmed up with the opening leg of the 4x100 relay and then surprised her competition with a .8 pr (51.22) and had the fastest qualifier for the final. The next day she anchored the Ducks to a win in the semifinals of the 4x400 meter relay (3:29.46). Teammate Laura Roesler responded to a question about Francis' fastest leg of the meet (50.16) and said, "I could go on and on about Phyllis...The girl has talent like you wouldn't believe. Don't be surprised if something crazy goes down the next two days."

Sophomore English Gardner won her heat in 11.10 (+1.8 meters/second), but though, "it was ok. It was not my best race." She was happy they made the 4x100 final, "it was better than anybody expected." It was important to qualify for the final but Phyllis inspired her to run a pr but didn't push it, "I kept my composure and I will save it for tomorrow."

Sophomore Melanie Thompson has battled a bad back all year and held back in the 3000 meter Steeplechase semifinal (didn't at the West Regional). It paid dividends as she finished second in her heat (9:59.90) for a school record, "I felt good." Senior transfer Kimber Mattox snuck in on a time qualifier for seventh in the same heat (10:08.39).

Senior Luke Puskedra stayed with the three other leaders when Stephen Sambu took out the pace after 4000, "I tried to cover it." and took the lead with five laps to go but he could not keep up when Chris Derrick, Stephen Sambu and Cameron Levins made a final push with two laps to go. He seemed pleased with his recovery from a burst appendix that slowed him for six weeks (couldn't break 6:00 pace) after he ran 1:01:30 for a half marathon on January 15th. He said about his last race as a Duck, "Its been a blessing to have an opportunity. It was really emotional to wear the singlet a last time."

Duck freshman Sam Crouser had a bad start to the day in the javelin as he could only reach 70.09m (229-11) to finish 14th. Freshman Arthur Delaney ran 21.03 in the 200 and did not qualify for the final. Later in the afternoon fellow freshman Johnathan Cabral didn't get out at all and had to fight to get third in the 110 hurdles, 13.64. Dakotah Keys had a rough first day and recovered well enough to finish 12th with 7559 points in a very deep competition.

The Duck women got a great start. Senior Brianne Theisen is on cruise control for another big Heptathlon score. After the first day's score of 3803 points (45 points ahead of pr pace at Pac-12) she is looking forward to her second day's events although she admits in her pr mark she "had a really good (second) day."

Jordan Hasay (4:12.68) and Becca Friday (4:13.06) qualified with a season best and pr, respectively, in the 1500 meters as they finished 3-4. Hasay was very happy after the race but was pleasantly distracted by exams, "I kind of stayed back a little bit back a little earlier..I had to use a little more energy than I expected." It wasn't a strain on her though and she commented, "I am excited to see what I can do." Becca didn't drop back like usual and accomplished her mission, "I was just trying to stay engaged the whole time and make it to the next round."

After competion Friday Oregon and LSU will have a great idea of how the team competition will go with many scoring opportunities for both teams. Oregon has seven competitors today and LSU five with the majority of LSU's points to be scored on Saturday in the 200 and both relays. Oregon may score many more than most predicted in the 400 but battles in that race, the 100 and 800 will go a long way to determine Oregon's fate in the team battle.

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