Throwers On Stage at Pepsi

The Pepsi meet this weekend is the big start to the Duck's season. The Ducks had two early season meets to just get things started and get some early qualifying marks. The focus of the Oregon Preview was intended to get a home start for the Oregon Duck track team and ended up being the coming out party for a young discus thrower from a NAIA school.

Annie Hess won the 2007 NAIA championship in the Discus for Concordia University. On Saturday she threw 183-0, good enough to get second at last years NCAA championship and superior to any school record in the state.

Three years ago the 1976 Olympic Gold Medallist, Mac Wilkins, was hired to create a top-level throws program in Portland at Concordia University. Because Concordia is an NAIA school coaches have more freedom to coach professionals at the same time. One of his first recruits was a Washington State 1A meet record-holder, Annie Hess. A star basketball player, like Wilkins himself, Hess finished fourth at the NAIA championship meet as a freshman and won the meet last year. Her 2007 season best of 173-7 was a school record. At the Preview she opened with a 180-0 throw and ended with a fourth throw best of 183-0, a new meet record.

The multi-event athletes for the Ducks had a great start in Sacramento. Ashton Eaton punched his NCAA ticket and had a 669 point pr (7792) that makes him the fourth best returning NCAA decathlete this year and sixth on the all-time Oregon list. He was down by 124 points to David Draudvila going into the 1500 and ran a 15 second pr to win the overall title. He had pr's in the 400 (47.00 NCAA regional qualifier), Shot Put (40-0 ¾), 110 hurdles (14.21 NCAA regional qualifier), Javelin Throw (148-6), and 1500 (4:24.15). Freshman Brianne Thiesen also had a pr and an automatic qualifier for the NCAA meet with a score of 5575, second on the all-time Oregon list. She had prs in the Shot Put (36-9 ¾) and 800 (2:20.21).

At the Sacramento Nike Elite meet many athletes did not make the trip. Veterans Rachel Yurkovich won the javelin with a collegiate leading mark (175-4), Kasey Harwood won the 400 hurdles (60.93), and Colin Veldman won the hammer throw (206-1). Two runner-up performances landed regional qualifying marks, Phil Alexander in a pr time in the 100 (10.46) and Colin Veldman in the Discus (175-2).

It was a very impressive start for four newcomers on the Oregon track team at the Oregon Preview the week before. At the Preview, Jamesha Youngblood jumped an outdoor personal record (pr) of 41-11 ¼ and moved to second on the all-time Oregon list in moderate weather. Alexandra Kosinski, the national high school record holder in the 1600, was chased down by three time NCAA 5,000 meter champion Lauren Fleischman 4:14.74 to 4:23.33. Both freshmen qualified for the NCAA West Regional meet. Freshman heptathlete Brianne Theisen ran a near pr in the 100 hurdles (14.36) and her long jump (19-6 ¼) also was close to her pr and previewing her great performance the next week in the heptathlon. Jordan Stray had a 18 foot pr with the senior hammer (205-11), his teammate, junior Steven Johnson, had an eleven foot pr (198-10) and Colin Veldman (198-5) joined the other two to quaify for the Regional meet.

A number of veterans qualified for the West regional meet. Junior Ashley McCrea (155-10) and Sophomore Kara Meeuwsen (147-4) did qualify in the javelin and were just off their prs. Transfer junior Mike Simmons threw 211-1 also qualified in the javelin. Others that qualified included event winners Sophomore Colin Witter-Tilton with an outdoor vault pr 16-6 ¾, Senior Phil Alexander in the 200 (21.04) in a near pr, Senior Michael McGrath also won his 1500 meter race (3:47.75), Sophomore Zoe Buckman led wire-to-wire in the 800 (2:09.67), and Liddell Steele had a surprising win and big pr in the pole vault (12-7 ½).

Senior Sarah Pearson continued her comeback from last season's injuries with a pr win in the 3,000 meters (9:34.17). Senior Kasey Harwood won the 400 hurdles and ran her best time, 62.32, since her NCAA appearance in 2006 and was followed by injury riddled heptathlete Kalindra McFadden who ran a pr in 63.15. The weather was not great for high jumping winning Sophomore Jasmine Kelly (5-3 ¾) and men's runner-up Junior AJ O'Connell (= outdoor pr 6-7 1/2 ). A dead-legged Sophomore Ashton Eaton won the 110 hurdles (14.71) and long jump (23-8 ¾), Junior Jared Huske won the 400 hurdles (53.26), Senior Marcus Dillon won the 400 (47.59) and the three participated in the winning 4x100 relay (41.25). Two Ducks won at non-traditional distances, Junior Chris Winter at the 2,000 meter Steeplechase (5:54.33) and redshirt Freshman Diego Mercado in the 3,000 meters (8:18.26).

The first big meet this year is the Pepsi meet where many other athletes will make their outdoor season debut for the Ducks and indicate how successful this team will be this season.

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