Young Ducks gain experience at NCAA track

Vin Lanana said on the Monday after the West regional meet that Oregon would contend for an NCAA title in 2010. The only two Duck veterans that performed as expected were seniors Tommy Skipper and Britney Henry. The men finished tenth with 20 points and the women were with nine points. Some of Oregon's young athletes did perform better than expected but did not score.

On Wednesday morning Oregon had a competitor in the three qualifying round throwing events. In the qualifying rounds there is an automatic mark, that if reached, will put the athlete into the finals. If there are not 12 competitors that reach that automatic mark, then the top non-automatic marks will be added to the finals until there at least 12 competitors (ties will move to the finals). Qualifying rounds of the running events take a certain number of athletes automatically from each race and then the top timed competitors that did not qualify automatically.

Ryan Brandel was up first for the Ducks in the Javelin throw at 10:30am. Recently Track and Field News had rated him second for this meet but Trackwire had him ranked sixth after the Pac-10 meet and had dropped him to 12th after the West Regionals. Fourth or fifth would have been a good prediction for him. In the preliminary round Brandel, at his home stadium from 2005 while he was at Sacramento State, had was up second in the first flight. His best throw was his first throw, 69.01m 226-5, behind the first throw of Aris Borjas of Cal Poly, his vanquisher in the West region, 69.91m, 229-4. He finished fourth in his flight with three throws between 67.56 meters and 69.01 meters (226-5). He finished fifth in the qualifying rounds behind the top throw and only automatic qualifying throw (72 meters) by freshman Chris Hill of McNeese State, 72.80m, 238-10, slightly better than Brandel's season best and personal record of 72.54m, 238-0. Ryan must have been hopeful for his chances.

Starting a half hour after the javelin was the women's hammer. Britney Henry was in the second flight. First round flights were not very impressive. Number two all-time in the hammer in the collegiate and US ranks, Brittany Riley, only threw 215-8 after throwing 237-10 earlier in the year and she was the leader of the first round. Normally the hammer gets no attention. Here at the NCAA championships the hammer has an announcer focused on the hammer and I think that affects the competitors. Four of the six best collegiate hammer throwers of all-time were in this competition and Britney was third seeded, fourth ranked by Track and Field News, and fifth in Trackwire. Fourth or fifth would have been a good estimate for Britney. Henry's second round throw, 62.21m, 204-1, was good for fourth in the second flight, sixth overall behind Jenny Dahlgren of Georgia, 67.27m, 220-8.

The men's hammer was up next. Pac-10 rivals Adam Midles of USC (216-4) and Martin Bingisser of Washington 215-4 went one/two in the first flight. Brian Richotte was in the second flight for Oregon. His first throw was a right sector foul barely out-of-bounds. His second throw he lost balance and stepped out of the circle. On his third throw he knew it was not a very good throw and showed frustration as he left (possibly a safe throw). His throw of 62.72m, 205-9 was good for 13th (behind Nick Owens of North Carolina, 70.55m, 230-4), one position out and nine inches short of making the final. 12th was Simon Wardhaugh of Boise State at 62.95m, 206-6.

Brian was the eighth seed, picked for seventh by Track and Field News and Trackwire had him ranked fifth. Based on winning both the Pac-10 meet and West Region meet showed he was on a roll but demons from last year's meet followed him. It was disappointing for many in the audience and his competitors. He and Nick Owens seemed to be friends and Jenny Dahlgren and other female hammer throwers were cheering for him. He seemed to rush into the ring rather than being calm and waiting for his return. He knew he was ready for a big meet and sat on the practice high jump pit and was obviously distraught once he found out he finished 13th.

The men's 4x100 meter relay team was next up on the track. They were ranked last among the 18 teams and were the only team that had not broken 40 seconds (season best 40.26). The order was Marcus Dillon to Ashton Eaton to Phil Alexander and anchored by Jared Huske, all underclassmen. The winner plus the next five fastest times made the final. Oregon finished fourth in their heat at 40.77 and 14th overall, only behind Arizona among the Pac-10 schools. LSU had the top qualifying time of 39.36.

Rebekah Noble was in the second preliminary. She was fourth seeded, favored for second in Trackwire and fourth in Track and Field News. Third or fourth would have been a good expectation for the meet. The top three in each of four heats and top four times would advance to the semifinals to be run on Thursday. Alysia Johnson won the first heat in 2:05.99. Bekah kicked from the back of the pack and won her heat in 2:06.05. In the fourth heat Zoe Buckman was sixth with 200 meters to go and was able to move up to fourth but fell short from making a time qualifier in 2:08.27. She seeded 27th (and last) and finished 19th behind the leading qualifying time of Katie Erdman of Michigan (2:04.14).

Eaton moved over to the long jump right after the relay was over and was up for proving his low ranking (26th out of 26) was due to his focus on the Decathlon. The two flights were run simultaneously on parallel long jump runways/pits. Ashton's only fair jump was his first, 7.38m 24-2 ½, and he finished 18th overall. The top mark in qualifying was made by Barrett Saunders of Kansas (7.84w, 25-8 ¾).

Dillon also moved over from the relay to run in the heats of the 400 meters. The top two from each of five heats advance plus the next six fastest times moved to the semifinal. Marcus was ranked 24th of 28 going into the meet. He was in the fourth heat against fourth ranked Lesiba Masheto in lane three and Jimmie Gordon of Arizona State in lane six. Once again Marcus had to chase down his competitors and beat Gordon's pr (46.77) with his second fastest time as a Duck, 46.68, to finish second to Masheto in his heat and was ninth overall behind Siraj Williams of LSU (46.08).

Tommy Skipper was the last to attempt a height in the pole vault. The other vaulter had attempts at 5.00m and 5.15m, and Tommy waited. As the remaining competitors, one-by-one, missed all of their attempts at 5.30m, 17-4 ½, Tommy cleared on his second attempt and was qualified for Friday's final as the top qualifier as was expected by his top seeding (by nearly ten inches over his next competitor) and favorite role with Track and Field news and Trackwire.

Nicole Blood was up next in the women's 5,000 meters (ranked 18th of 27 competitors). As event favorites Michelle Sikes of Wake Forest, Molly Huddle of Notre Dame, and Julia Lucas of North Carolina State pushed out ahead, Nicole Blood held onto fourth place (16:23.73) as one of the six automatic qualifiers from each preliminary (plus four by time) to the final that was run on Friday. Top qualifier in the preliminaries was Irene Kimaiyo of Texas Tech in 16:03.32.

On Wednesday there were nine Duck entrants (11 athletes) competing in eight events. Five Ducks advanced in their events with only one disappointment, the men's hammer. Nicole Blood did surpass her seeding but did not surprise with her performance and other low seeded athletes and teams also significantly surpassed their seedings.

Oregon athletes did not start competing until late in the second day (for everyone the first non-multi event was at 3:10). At 4:50 defending champion Rebekah Noble ran in similar fashion as she usually does and kicked into 3rd in her semifinal to take one of the automatic qualifying slots behind Katie Erdman of Michigan, winner in 2:03.60. The top semifinalist was Alysia Johnson of Cal in heat two at 2:02.73.

An hour later was the first semifinal of the men's 1,500 meters. A.J. Acosta was seeded 15th of 27 and Mike McGrath was ranked 26th. Acosta had been battling blisters from the West Regional meet and McGrath is not 100 percent after a hamstring injury that kept him out of the Pepsi Team Invite. There were long odds against the Ducks. The top four from each of two heats plus the next four times would advance to the final. The first heat was a kicker's heat and McGrath finished eighth in 3:46.18 and Acosta was ninth in 3:46.83 behind Lopez Lomong of Northern Arizona in 3:42.00. McGrath finished eighteenth overall and Acosta was 20th behind leading qualifier for the final and defending champion Vincent Rono (3:41.77) from South Alabama.

The men's relay team in the 4x400 meters was the same as the 4x100m except that Chad Barlow replaced Jarred Huske. Like the short relay the long relay was ranked last (out of 18). The top two from each of three heats and top two fastest times advanced to the final. In the second preliminary Oregon finished fifth in a season best 3:07.24 (Marcus Dillon ran a 45.1 anchor) behind Texas A&M at 3:02.64 (top time in the prelims). Oregon finished 14th overall.

Rachel Yurkovich of was Oregon was the first thrower of the second flight. Ranked first all year long and favored by every publication she was the expected winner. Her early season throw, at the Arizona State Invitational, of 57.90m, 189-11 makes her fifth all-time among collegians. Just like at the West Regionals Rachel took just one throw and won her flight at 162-8, fifth overall behind Erma Jean-Evans of UTEP at 179-2. Ashley McCrea still has not recovered from her knee injury from before the Pac-10 meet and finished tenth in the first flight at 143-4, 21st overall. She entered the competition ranked 17th.

One of Oregon's big events at the 2007 NCAA championships would be the expected collegiate championship for Oregon's Galen Rupp. After his American collegiate record in the 10,000 meters (27:33.48) at the Cardinal Invite and the defeat of Chris Solinsky at the Oregon Invite in the 5,000 meters (13:30.49 sixth all-time at Oregon) he has been crowned as the future of US distance running. At the West Regional 5,000 meters Rupp finished his final 800 in 1:59.4 and showed his speed in winning in a pedestrian 14:08.03 (a kicker's race). On the Monday after the West regional meet, Oregon's Director of Track, Lanana, announced that Rupp would only run the 10,000 at this meet in an attempt to not wear him out for the US championships two weeks later. The issue was that there was buzz that Oregon could get its first trophy since 1991 if Rupp doubled and ran well in both (and other things fell Oregon's way). Lanana replied to concerns by saying that Oregon would have a shot at winning the title at the 2010 NCAA meet to be held in Eugene.

Last year Galen had a thyroid condition that limited him to running his second best event, the 5,000 meters, at the NCAA meet. Clearly not recovered from the thyroid problem, Rupp ran 14:14.02 for 20th overall and did not make it out of the heats. The last time that Rupp ran a 10,000 meters at this event he was a freshman and ran a heroic race by pushing the pace with 5,000 meters to go and made it a two person race with Robert Cheseret of Arizona. The surge after a 14:15 5,000 meters eliminated all but Cheseret. Cheseret took off at the finish and won in 28:20.11 to 28:23.75 over the freshman from Oregon. Rupp ran close to a pr with 14:15/14:08 5k splits after running an American junior record of 28:15.52 at the Oregon Twilight meet.

This year Galen had gained confidence early in the year by knocking off defending champion Cheseret in the Pac-10 cross country championships and then finished sixth at the NCAA cross country meet. His confidence and belief in himself soared after he chased down Solinsky at the Oregon Invite 5k. He won the 10k at the Cardinal Invite after staying in the pack until about 1200 to go. He ran 64.9, leading Mexican Olympian David Galvan. He followed that with a lap of 65.0 and finished off Galvan with a 60.3 lap, defeating several Olympians and last year's US champion in the event, Jorge Torres. Then he won his first Pac-10 track titles in the 5k and 10k down at Stanford and his aforementioned 5k performance at the West regional championship led him into the NCAA meet with a great deal of confidence in his kick. The race plan was for him to kick at the end to win his first NCAA title.

The pace was very slow (29:10 for 10k) early on and slowed to 14:47 at 5,000 meters as no one wanted to take the lead. Sophomore Shadrak Kiptoo-Biwott of Oregon was in the pack anywhere from seventh to tenth at this point. Nothing happened until 1600 meters to go when Rupp took over the lead from from sixth seeded Shadrack Songok of Texas A&M Corpus Christy. Jordan McDougal of Liberty (ninth seeded) followed with Songok as Rupp ran 66.0 and then 62.7 and 62.0 and all that was left was Songok. Kiptoo-Biwott struggled to keep up as the runners were pushing the pace.

Songok had run his pr (28:16.47) in winning the Mt SAC 10k and won by out kicking five others with four laps to go (66.7, 65.8, 65.8, and 60.5) and had a lot left after having to go around runners with 60 in the Mt SAC race. He said after the race, " With less than a mile to go I knew I had a good chance. When we had 1200 meters to go and I was still at the front I had a feeling like I had (a chance)." Songok out kicked Rupp with a 58.2 last lap to 59.0. The 5k splits were 14:47/14:08 but a 14:47/13:50s would have better suited Rupp's chances for winning and taken the confidence away from his competition.

Lanana and Salazar wanted Rupp to work on his kick and admittedly were focused on his success at the US championships. Unfortunately Rupp may never get an NCAA championship if he does not return for the next track season. Kiptoo-Biwott finished ninth and was the top sophomore in the race, showing that he had recovered from injuries in the cross country season. In the team race Oregon had eight points and was tied for seventh with Louisville and Liberty behind Wisconsin with 12 points.

Keara Sammons was up next in the women's 10,000 meters. Kearra was 21st seeded (15th among entrants) coming into the meet and had not run in the West Regional 5,000 meters to give her time to prepare for the NCAA 10k. She ran within herself and performed admirably amid stressful conditions with a finish in 34:01.09 (just 6.5 seconds off her pr) for 12th place. She was the top freshman and second best Pac-10 performer behind fourth place finisher Amy Hastings of Arizona State (Sr, finished at 33:08.27). The winner was Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech in 32:55.71, the first female distance runner to win an NCAA cross country championship, indoor crown and outdoor crown all in the same year.

On Thursday, Oregon had eight entrants (11 athletes) in six events. Two advanced to finals and there was one scorer, Rupp, and an additional all-American, Sammons.

The women's hammer was the first event on Friday and was the best event on the US level. Four of the top six collegiate throwers of all-time were in this event; including collegiate record holder Jenny Dahlgren of Georgia at 72.94 meters 239-4, number two all-time collegiately and in the US - Brittany Riley of Southern Illinois had thrown 72.51m, 237-11, number five all-time Eva Orban of USC had thrown 69.10m, 226-8 last year, and sixth all-time Britney Henry of Oregon threw 67.54m, 221-7 at the Oregon Twilight this year and last year's Mt SAC relays. Sarah Stevens of Arizona State had also been throwing well and had a questionable foul at Pac-10s that was around 218 feet (finishing third behind Henry and Orban) and finished second to Eva Orban at the West regionals ahead of Henry.

Dahlgren may have had the collegiate record but had lost by ten feet to the world record of Brittany Riley (83-10 1/4) at the NCAA indoor meet and lost to Riley again at the Drake Relays by 17 feet (Riley threw an American CR 237-11). Early in the outdoor season Riley had PR'd to become the collegiate leader (Missouri Relays March 30- 222-11) until Dahlgren threw the collegiate record at the Spec Towns Invitational on April 13th and threw over 230 feet again at UC San Diego the next week but had not thrown over 230 again. Riley threw the Am CR and almost surpassed it at the ME region two weeks ago (72.33m, 237-3). Dahlgren was clearly concerned about defending her championship. Riley had PR'd by 20 feet this year (2006 pr of 217-6) and was on a roll and likely to improve on last year's fourth place finish.

The top five throwers were the last five up. Stevens was in a bad mood from not qualifying for the Discus final after being the top seed and Pac-10 and West region champion. She moved into the early lead at 62.92m. Orban passed her at 63.69m. Dahlgren, undoubtedly wanting to put pressure on her rivals, threw longer than anyone other than Riley has thrown, 69.53m. Henry, still not recovered from ankle injury from warm-ups at Pac-10, moved into second at 64.39m. Riley threw a mediocre, for her, 64.22 to put her in third (ranking was Dahlgren, Henry, Riley, Orban, and Stevens in fifth). Veronica Jatsek of Ohio State passed Stevens into fifth at 62.79m. A foul for Stevens was followed by Orban moving into second with a throw of 66.09m, just three feet off her season best. Dahlgren missed her best by one centimeter, 69.52, Henry moved to third by throwing 65.46m. Riley followed by improving to 66.64m and moved into second, almost 20 feet off her pr (ranking – Dahlgren, Riley, Orban, Henry, Jatsek, Stevens). In the middle of round three Stevens improved to 63.72m to move into fifth. No improvements for Orban and Henry and Dahlgren and Riley folded to end round three. (rankings – Dahlgren, Riley, Orban, Henry, Stevens).

After the re-order fouls for Stevens and Henry led to Orban's improvement to 66.53m, 218-3. Riley almost gets the lead this round with a throw of 69.29m, 227-4. Dahlgren does not improve to end round four but all of her fair throws have been over 69.07 meters (Dahlgren, Riley, Orban, Henry, Stevens). In round five Stevens improves to 65.75m, 215-8 to move into fourth. Henry fouls and there is no improvement for Orban, Riley and Dahlgren (Dahlgren, Riley, Orban, Stevens, Henry). In round six Stevens gets a foul, Henry almost improves with a throw of 65.41m and Orban and Riley don't improve. Dahlgren improves to 70.27m, 232-0, a new meet record (Dahlgren, Riley, Orban, Stevens, Henry). Jenny showed obvious relief during the interview with Dwight Stones. This was her first victory over Brittany Riley this year and coming into the meet she wasn't sure she would beat her. Oregon was in 13th place tied with Rice on the Women's side with four points behind Georgia, the leader, with eleven points.

Marcus Dillon was up next for his semifinal in the 400 meters. The first three automatically qualify for the final and the next two finalist qualified based on time. In heat one Lionel Larry of USC ran 45.29 ahead of automatic qualifiers Michael Bingham of Wake Forest, and Erison Hurtault of Columbia. The time qualifiers were Calvin Smith of Florida at 45.72 and LeJerald Betters of Baylor at 46.14. To qualify for the final Dillon had to finish in the top three or finish fourth and run better than 46.14 of Betters or finish fifth and run better than 45.72.

There was live television coverage on CS TV and this was Dillon's chance to shine. Marcus was planning on going out faster and still finish strong and had a good view in lane three. He was facing top-seeded Ricardo Chambers (ACC and East region champ) in the lane outside of him, fourth seeded Lesiba Masheto in lane six, 13th seeded (tenth among semifinalists) Siraj Williams of LSU in lane five, and 12th (ninth among semifinalists) seeded Alex Harcourt of Washington in lane six. With a good personal best he could make the final. Chambers went out quickly and pulled Dillon to a good position at 200. Preliminary winners Williams and Masheto were also out well and finished ahead of Dillon and behind Chambers. Dillon finished well and PR'd in fourth at 46.18 (he improved his sixth place all-time ranking for the Ducks). Unfortunately he missed out on the final by .04 to Betters. Dillon finished ninth after coming into the meet ranked 24th. He will have his chance to make the final next year.

The men's pole vault featured a waiting game. Waiting to see when Tommy Skipper would open, whether he would make a height, and who would still be around to challenge him. Skipper had given a lot of effort to win at the West regionals with a Pac-10 record performance in front of the Eugene crowd. At the end Skipper was getting help, in between vaults, with a lingering hamstring injury. At this meet, Chip Heuser of Oklahoma, the equal ninth seed, and Mike Landers of UCLA, equal seventh seed, were the only two to clear 5.45 meters, 17-10 ½, both season bests and equal to Chip's indoor pr. On his second attempt, Skipper cleared 5.50, 18-0 ½, the other two could not clear and the event was over (Heuser was second based on fewer misses). Tommy admitted that with the pressure off, he wasn't focused enough to clear the next height, 5.55m. What a great end to an incredible career!!

This was Tommy's fifth pole vault title, more than Steve Prefontaine (no indoor and the six mile was not an NCAA championship event). Skipper only lost once in an NCAA championship meet, in his freshman year indoors, to 2006 World Indoor Champion Brad Walker of Washington (at the time). The 2005 outdoor meet he came back from an injury but no-heighted at the West regional and did not make it to Sacramento for the NCAA championships and this winter he was injured warming up for the US indoor championship and didn't make it to the NCAA meet. This is a highly unusual athlete that rarely comes along. At any time he could have decided to go professional and make a lot of money but he stuck with the school and helped Oregon win two Pac-10 championships (2005 and 2007) and challenge for an NCAA trophy. Thank you Tommy!! The men of Oregon had 18 points, good for fifth place behind leader Florida State's 34 points.

The Men's Javelin throw was the last completed event of Friday. Adam Montague of North Carolina had recently beaten his teammate, defending champion and collegiate leader Justin Ryncavage at the East Regional with a collegiate leader 242-4. Freshman Chris Hill of McNeese State (sixth seed) had the top throw of the preliminaries, an American Junior record 72.80m 238-10, and won the Mideast region. Aris Borjas of Cal Poly had PR'd (72.06m, 236-5) in winning the West Region, and was the eighth seed. West region runner-up Brandel of Oregon was the fifth seed.

Up first was ex-Duck Matthew Maloney, now with Tennessee. He opened competition with a throw of 67.35m, 220-11. That throw held up just two throws as Justin Ryncavage of North Carolina threw 73.58m, 241-5. Aris Borjas moved into second at 69.64m. Ryncavage's teammate Adam Montague moved into third with his throw of 69.20m. Hill fouled. Brandel moved to fourth at 68.85m 225-11 and Cody Fillinich of Northwestern State went into second place at 70.19m (rankings - Ryncavage, Fillinich, Borjas, Montague, Brandel). The second round had no improvements except for Chris Hill moving into a tie for fourth with Montague and Chad Radgowski of LSU moved into sixth after throwing 68.85m, 225-11 (has better #2 throw over Brandel). (Ryncavage, Fillinich, Borjas, Montague/Hill, Radgowski, Brandel). The third throw had no improvements among the top seven throwers.

They re-ordered the top nine competitors for the finals. Hill improved to 69.90m, 229-4 and moved into third. Then Montague did not improve and Borjas came up and moved to second after throwing 71.16m (Ryncavage, Borjas, Fillinich, Hill, Montague, Radgowski, Brandel). Montague improved to 71.96m, 236-1 to move into second in the fifth round. Fillinch made a small improvement to 70.24m, 230-5 (Ryncavage, Montague, Borjas, Fillinich, Hill, Radgowski, Brandel). The sixth round only saw a small improvement by Borjas to 71.44m 234-4 and he stayed in third. Brandel had four fouls surrounded by the first round and best throw and finished with a short throw of 62.66m, shorter than Radgowski's second best throw of 68.00 meters.

The Oregon men finished the day and their scoring for the meet with 20 points, good for sixth on Friday behind Florida State with 34 points. There were three Duck entrants in three men's events. Skipper won his fifth NCAA title, Brandel scored points and won all-American recognition and Dillon got an all-American award.

The women's 5,000 was the last event of the day. Nicole Blood of Oregon had no expectations to win but had shown significant improvement at the Pac-10 meet and West regionals. Nicole had entered as the 18th seed among 27 entrants and by making the final was now ranked 12th of the remaining 16 entrants. She ran with the group that finished seventh through tenth but it was too much to run 5,000 meters after running close to a pr two days before. She fell back from the group that finished between 16:00 and 16:04 (at least 15 second pr for Nicole if she had stayed with them) and ran out of gas. She finished 15th in 16:50.00. Up front it was a three woman race until the end when Michelle Sikes of Wake Forest and Kipyego battled back and forth for the lead over the last 2 ½ laps until finally the wear of running 20,000 meters over three days took its tool on Kipyego. Sikes ran a collegiate leader 15:16.76, just off the meet record all-time among collegians. This would not be the year for Kipyego to get five titles in a school year, but if she chooses to return, she will have two more years to try and get five titles.

The Oregon women finished the day tied for 39th with four points behind Arizona State's lead with 38 points. There were two Duck entrants in two women's events. Henry scored points and won another all-American award. Blood put herself in position to score points but couldn't keep up with the pace and lost out on an opportunity to become an all-American.

There were two Duck entrants on the women's side on the final day. Hopes were high for the defending champion in the 800, Rebekah Noble in the 800 and top-seeded Rachel Yurkovich in the Javelin Throw but both athletes were fighting injuries. Noble was still not running at the same level as before the Pac-10 meet (she had injured her hamstrings the Tuesday before). In the morning before the start of the Javelin, I could see every part of Yurkovich's upper body was being worked on (back, arm, shoulder) and she may have had the lower body worked on too. She had thrown once in the West regionals and once at the qualifying on Thursday and something was obviously wrong. Hopefully all of the work being done by the trainers would get her ready for the NCAA final.

The women's 800 was a loaded field. Alysia Johnson of Cal had won the NCAA indoor meet and finished fourth at the 2006 US championships after finishing third in the NCAA indoor and outdoor meets last year. She was clearly on a mission to win this year's championship and had the NCAA lead (pr 2:01.48) going into the Regional championships. Her Pac-10 rival Noble had beaten her at both the Pac-10 and West regional meet last year and she had avenged both losses this year. Both Noble and Heather Dorniden of Michigan (each were freshmen last year) had finished ahead of her at the NCAA championships indoors (Dorniden won) and outdoors (Noble won in a pr 2:02.07 #6 all time among US juniors) last year but Johnson had beaten both of them at this year's indoor meet (Noble second and Dorniden third).

Katie Erdman of Michigan had finished fourth at the NCAA indoor meet and was also on a mission to overcome last year's freshmen sensations Dorniden and Geena Gall of Michigan. Gall defeated Dorniden and the Big 10 defending champion, Erdman, at last year's Big 10 championship in a collegiate leading 2:02.73 (#8 among US juniors) to Dorniden's 2:02.77 (#10 among US juniors). This year Erdman avenged her losses and at the Mideast region took the collegiate lead with a pr 2:01.25.

In the final, Alysia Johnson took off at the gun. At 200 she was leading in 27.3 with fourth seeded Fatimoh Muhammed of UTEP, Erdman and Dorniden closely behind. Johnson kept pushing the pace and only Erdman was staying close. Johnson completed the first 400 meters in 57.3 and the only runner close (57.5) was Erdman. Noble was in last at 58.8 well off the front group of six and a few meters behind seventh place, Temeka Kincy of Texas, 58.6. This is a normal position for Noble but she seemed a little too far back. The next 200 took her out of the race. While Johnson showed no sign of slowing (1:28.5 at 600 after a 31.2 200), only Dorniden moved up a little on her and was now in third, Noble fell behind Kincy by another second and did not seem to want to push the final 200 with a gimpy hamstring. Over the last 100 Erdman tried to catch Johnson who had stretched out her lead in the next 100, but Johnson fought her off and both had sped up the last 200 (Erdman finished in 30.6, Johnson 30.8).

Johnson was just off the in-season collegiate record of Suzy Favor 1:59.11 with her 1:59.29. Erdman moved to third all-time in 1:59:35, and Dorniden moved to ninth at 2:01.05. First through seventh pr'd. Fourth place was Muhammed at 2:01.89 and fifth was Gall at 2:02.24. Noble was last in 2:04.79. The Oregon women were now tied for 33rd (with nine other teams) with 5 points behind ASU with 43 points.

Yurkovich was the top seed of the Javelin and her one throw to win West regionals was good (54.49m, 178-9) but was obviously trying to keep it together for the final. Erma Gene Evans of UTEP was the second seed after setting her pr at the Conference USA championship (56.45m, 185-2) and won the Midwest region (54.14m, 177-7). Nicole Woodward was third seeded and had won the East region at 52.87m, 173-5. Lindsay Blaine was the tenth seed but had won the Mideast region with a personal record (52.09m, 170-10).

Up second was Rachel and she took the early lead at 48.90m, close to her preliminary throw of 49.59m. Evans was up next and put out a serious throw of 54.78m, 179-9 for first place and a mark that everyone would have to get a big throw to beat. Blaine was up sixth and stepped up to the challenge and surpassed her Mideast region pr by more than 11 feet with a throw of 55.56m, 182-3. Woodward, up ninth, moved into third with a throw of 49.63m. West Region runner-up (pr 53.53m, 175-7) Carolee Gutierrez moved into fourth with the last throw of the round at 49.32m, 161-10 (rankings – Blaine, Evans, Woodward, Gutierrez, Yurkovich). As expected the top throws are from the early rounds. The only improvement in round two was Woodward throwing 52.20m, still in third place (Blaine, Evans, Woodward, Gutierrez, Yurkovich). The third round saw an improvement by Yurkovich (obviously struggling) to 49.97m into fifth. Mallory Webb of Fresno State (Yurkovich's high school teammate at Newberg and ninth last year) leaped into third with a season best throw of 51.73m, 169-9, just three centimeters off last season's pr. Kim Heinz of Long Beach State (fourth at the West Regionals) threw a pr 51.61m, 169-4 to move into fifth. Woodward improved again to 53.24m, 174-8 and last year's fourth place finisher and East region runner-up, Anna Raynor of UNC Wilmington, threw 51.12m passing Rachel into fifth place (Blaine, Evans, Woodward, Webb, Heinz, Raynor, Yurkovich).

The nine remaining competitors were re-ordered for finals and Yurkovich was in danger of not surpassing her seventh place performance of last year or reaching expectations created by her great early season performances (57.90m, 189-11, fifth all-time collegiately). In the fourth round Raynor moved to fourth with a season best performance of 53.18m, 174-6 (Blaine, Evans, Woodward, Raynor, Webb, Heinz, Yurkovich). The fifth round was Rachel's fair attempt to take the lead but fell short at 51.83m, 170-0 to move her into fifth, the only improvement of round five (Blaine, Evans, Woodward, Raynor, Yurkovich, Webb, Heinz). Rachel fouled her final throw and Webb had another big throw of 51.22m to try to move up but was not an improvement. Evans almost reached her best with a throw of 54.63m but that was not enough to surpass Blaine's big pr of 55.56m, 182-3. The Oregon women, finished with their scoring now, had 9 points, tied for 23rd with eight other teams behind Arizona State with 43 points.

The men and women of Oregon showed great effort, hope for their future in the sport and, for the underclassmen, hope for their future as Ducks. The two female Ducks sophomores, Yurkovich and Noble, came into the meet with high hopes but injuries had derailed their chances. They both scored points and gained all-American status for another year. The Oregon women finished the competition with nine points, tied for 26th with seven other teams behind ASU with 60 points. With no athletes on the final day the men of Oregon stayed at 20 points tying with Stanford for ninth behind Florida State's 54 points.

The Oregon team had its best participation in years in this event. 19 athletes participated for the Ducks (twelve men and seven women) and all but five are expected to return next year. These 19 (LSU had 30) represented the 12th highest figure for any school. The 12 men of Oregon were the sixth most in these championships (LSU, Oklahoma, and Tennessee had 14). Those five did account for 20 of the 29 total points but the young Ducks are expected to get many more points from these remaining Ducks. Noble and Yurkovich are both sophomores that with better health would have been favored to win this year and Yurkovich is a clear favorite for next year. Injuries also slowed the men and many redshirted freshmen will be ready to have a big year next year.

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