Oregon and UCLA Battle in Renewed Format

The Oregon-UCLA dual may not have the long history of the inter-city UCLA-USC dual but the level of intensity and pressure was enough for former head coach Jim Bush to cancel the meet (after the last meet in 1985 he asked for $500,000 to renew the dual meet).

Eugene is a small city versus Los Angeles and in the past the athletes on each team were from the local area and eventually athletes migrated to the schools because of their legendary status.

This competition is no different this time. There are athletes and coaches (distance coach Eric Peterson and both Alex Craybill and Laef Barnes are from Washington) at UCLA from the northwest and Oregon has several from California (AJ Acosta, Chad Hall, Mercado brothers among others).

Just like the great duals of the past the Long Jump is the first event. Eaton will attempt to win here, in the 400 and at both relays. Ex-West Region champ Joel Tuosto will try to return to the form of two years ago. Oregon is favored to win in every running event in the flat including the top five entries in the 5,000 meters. Oregon is likely to finish one-two in the 100 (Phil Alexander and Marcus Dillon), 400 (Ashton Eaton and Chad Barlow) and 1500 (Jordan McNamara and AJ Acosta). Oregon is a strong favorite to win both relays. MPSF indoor champ Andrew Wheating will open his outdoor 800 competition against last year's top high school runner Cory Primm of UCLA. 2007 US semi-finalist Jordan McNamara will open his season for the Ducks in the 1500 against fellow Duck and NCAA indoor mile competitor AJ Acosta and recent sub-4 miler Laef Barnes of UCLA.

The fourth best returning collegiate 110 meter high hurdler, UCLA's Kevin Craddock, will try to continue his recovery from last season's hamstring injury at the Pac-10 meet where he set his personal record of 13.48. He is favored in both the high and intermediate hurdles over Duck junior Jared Huske. New recruits in the high jump make it possible for UCLA to sweep but AJ O'Connell and Vernell Warren could break that up. NCAA indoor all-American Dustin DeLeo will try to fend off Duck Colin Witter-Tilton. The triple jump will likely have another sweep for UCLA.

Greg Garza of UCLA is a two-time all-American with a personal record (208-11) superior to any Oregon meet mark except for the Oregon Invitational. He is joined by fellow senior John Caulfield, fourth at the NCAA indoor this year in the shot put. A young group of throwers led by football player Darius Savage has top US junior and World junior results to indicate their great potential. Bo Taylor redshirted last year but posted top marks and was the 2006 US junior champion in the Discus. Nick Robinson is not competing this week but was ranked fifth among last year's World juniors in the shot put. Ducks Colin Veldman (Discus) and Mark Lewis (Shot Put) will try to break up sweeps in both events.

Boldiszor Kocsor of UCLA is now ranked fourth among returning hammer throwers (222-6) and will be challenged by three regionally qualified Duck hammer throwers Colin Veldman, Jordan Stray and Steven Johnson. Duck javelin thrower Mike Simmons will try to overcome a slow start to the season but is a prohibitive favorite while Alex Wolff attempts to make his first good throw in a year after battling a series of injuries.

I predict a result similar to the last few Oregon wins that were all under a 10 point margin, except for the win in 1979 that Oregon won by a count of 85 ½ to 68 ½. It would not be unreasonable for Oregon to lead 80-78 going into the 1600 meter relay and requiring Oregon to win the relay to win the meet. This meet will be a way for many athletes to get great competition and qualify for the NCAA west region meet but most importantly to test their mettle in the heat of competition.

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