While the three-time champion ended up on top, proving to be the class of the conference once again, Keys noted the journey was not always as smooth as he would have liked.
"It feels good," Keys said. "I was stressed out most of the meet. It was just a big up-and-down roller coaster and usually that's how the decathlon goes."
Keys entered the day in second place behind USC's Viktor Fajoyomi, who held the lead since the second event. Fajoyomi's 217-point lead quickly expanded to 315 after the first two events, Sunday.
"The first day I was a little too focused on what was happening with Viktor," Keys said. "But coming into today, I wanted to focus on bettering my PRs and I was just thinking about staying confident and relaxed."
The tables turned as Keys said he was able to find a rhythm heading into his stronger events to end the day, where he outscored Fajoyomi by more than 600 points.
The redshirt junior won the pole vault by clearing 15-5 (4.70m) to bring him within striking distance, and followed with another win in the javelin, throwing 207-6 (63.26m) compared to Fajoyomi's 124-3 (37.87m). The difference was enough to give Keys a sizeable cushion heading into the final event of the day, the 1,500.
There, the Sweet Home, Ore., native added to his total, finishing third with a time of 4:30.06 and a total of 7,801 points.
But even with Pac-12 trophy in-hand, Keys was thinking bigger, just as he did while setting the tone at the NCAA Indoor Championships earlier this season in March.
"The whole point for me, Mitch and Alec to come here was to get points for the team," Keys said. "Whether I took second or first, it was fine because I knew I'd get points for the team."
The Ducks were successful in that category. The 10 points earned by Keys, combined with third- and fourth-place finishes by Mitch Modin (7,310) and Alec Fellows (7,081), respectively, give Oregon a total of 21 heading into the Pac-12 Championships next week. Those 21 points is the most scored by Oregon in the decathlon since putting up 25 in 2004.
Modin, a freshman from Bend, Ore., was in third for the entirety of the second day, helped by personal bests in the pole vault (14-9/4.50m) and javelin (184-8/56.30m). His third-place finish is the best by true freshman at the conference meet since 2009 when Jeremy Taiwo (Washington) also finished third.
Fellows entered the day in fourth, where he stayed before dropping to sixth after the javelin. With only the 1,500 remaining, the redshirt sophomore gutted out a big performance to close the weekend, setting nearly a four-second PR in the event with a winning time of 4:28.50.
"It was a great job by Dakotah to come in and defend his title," said head coach Robert Johnson. "Mitch was impressive, taking third, and it was a good day for Alec Fellows who had to run a fast 1,500 there at the end to move up to fourth."
Daphne Chambers finished sixth in the women's heptathlon with 5,135 points, earning the Ducks three team points. The redshirt sophomore was close to setting personal-best marks in each event, starting with the long jump (17-6.25/5.34m), followed by the javelin and (121-10/37.13m) and 800 (2:24.85).
The Pac-12 Championships will continue Friday-Saturday, May 17-18. The men enter the weekend at seven-time defending champions while the women will look to extend their streak of five-straight conference championships.
"It sets the stage for the rest of the team to continue what our multi-event athletes have started," Johnson said. "They got us off to a great start with double-digit points for us to come back with next weekend."