Ducks Big Winners Over UCLA

Oregon won the meet today 94-69 over UCLA by winning every track race except for the 3,000 meter Steeplechase. UCLA could only take five of the eight field events which was not enough to overcome Oregon winning ten track events (13 of 19 overall).

It helped that 4,451 fans at Hayward Field came under brutal (snow) travel conditions to make it to the meet. Under the 5-3-1 scoring system where all three competitors from one school can take all of the scoring the Ducks only took advantage of that once (UCLA did that twice). They did go 1-2 in four events (UCLA did that twice).

Oregon's one sweep was in the first event, the javelin, included junior Mike Simmons, who had not thrown since the March 22 Oregon Preview, Alex Wolff who had three throws all of last year and Freshman Britton Nelson. Without expected senior Chris Burbach (204-1 pr) who was ninth at the Pac-10 meet last year. Sophomore Andreas Drball of UCLA was the only thrower to put a mark (187-9) in the top 25 this year in the pac-10. Mike Simmons looked like he was never hurt and threw the fourth best mark in the Pac-10 this year (69.08 meters, 226-8, meet record due to new implement) and a personal record.

"My goal going in to today was to stay healthy and go one, two, and three." Simmons said. "There was a lot of pressure on us to perform well. It felt really good to be able to PR today especially since I was coming back from a groin injury."

Wolff started tentatively to test his shoulder and gradually put more effort into each of his next few throws and finished with a mark of 214-5, also a pr. Alex echoed the team sentiment and said, "Today I was looking to stay healthy and just make it to the next week." Britton Nelson finished well clear of Drball at 193-5.

Chris Winter of Oregon tried to run away from the competition but tired with 1000 meters to go as the sixth ranked collegiate steepler, Henry Hagenbach of UCLA, went after him when he saw Winter was tiring. Winter said "this year my mantra is to be more competitive. I was able to get out there and open up a big lead, but give credit to Henry. He ran a great last 200 meters." Isaac Stoutenburgh passed two Bruin steeplechasers that had run regional qualifying marks (superior to Isaac's pr) but fell short of finishing ahead of third in the final straight-away (9:02.37 to Jake Matthews' 9:02.16). The score was now UO 12 – UCLA 6. For four rounds Oregon was 1-2 in the Long Jump until Joel Tuosto jumped 7.18m, 23-6 ¾. Oregon's jumpers could not respond and Vernell Warren finished second at 23-1 ¼ and Ashton Eaton was third at 23-0 ¾ (UO 16, UCLA 11).

The hammer was in full flight during the steeplechase. Fifth ranked collegian Baldizsar Kocsor of UCLA had pr'd earlier in the year with a throw of 222-6. Duck Senior Colin Veldman had thrown 206-1 earlier in the year and his freshman teammate Jordan Stray had thrown consistently at around 200 feet with a best of 205-11. In the second round Stray threw a near-ten foot pr of 215-8 ahead of Veldman and Kocszor. Stray said later that "As a team we really wanted to put pressure on UCLA."

In the fifth round Veldman won with an 8 ½' pr of 219-6 and Kocsor could just muster a best of 212-4. The huge eight-point turnaround was enough to end the meet (UO 24- UCLA 12) and the Ducks started a huge run of points. The 4x100 meter relay started the Duck run going by a tight race being opened up by Phil Alexander on the third leg with a win at 40.57 to 41.13. (UO 29-UCLA 12). UCLA's Laef Barnes had just become the Bruin's fourth sub four minute miler and looked to challenge Oregon's AJ Acosta (2008 NCAA indoor bronze medallist in the mile) and last year's US championship semi-finalist Jordan McNamara. Scott Wall took the pace out and then left the work to the Ducks at the end. Acosta said "Scott did a great job of setting up for us." Barnes tried to challenge with a lap to go but a long sprint by Acosta and well-timed accelerations by McNamara put the Ducks 1-2 with regional qualifying marks (3:46.87 to 3:47.20, and Barnes at 3:47.55). McNamara was impressed the fans in his first meet as a Duck, "The fans were amazing. My ears were ringing on those last 50 meters." (UO 37, UCLA 13).

Star Bruin hurdler Kevin Craddock was held out due to the odd weather and declining situation for the Bruins and Duck junior Jared Huske took advantage to win both hurdle races (14.58 in negative 2.8 meter per second wind and 53.83 on the long race). The Bruins flexed their muscle in the Shot Put and Discus throws with wins by all-Americans John Caulfield (62-5 ¼) and Greg Garza (195-3). The vertical jumps were heavily affected by the weather with Vernell Warren of Oregon able to overcome to regional qualifiers in the high jump (6-7 ½) and only Dustin DeLeo of UCLA the only one of five regional qualifiers to jump close to their best in the pole vault (17-3). UCLA's triple jumpers had a sweep with Jonathan Clark leading the way at 49-0 ¾.

The short sprints won by Marcus Dillon were also heavily affected by the wind (10.87 and 21.58) but the wind down the homestretch helps in the 400. Ashton Eaton set a new lifetime best and meet record (breaking the record of Dacre Bowen of UCLA in 1976 at 46.7) at 46.74. Oregon's Andrew Wheating exhibited in the 800 meters the potential shown with his indoor win at the Mountain Pacific Championships. He led from start to finish by opening with a 53.99 first lap and ran away from the competition with a 26.7 final 200 meters to finish in 1:48.83 and get his regional qualifier ahead of last year's US junior champion and top high school runner, Cory Primm of UCLA at 1:49.86.

"My confidence level was through the roof," remarked Wheating. "Once I got out there in front I knew I was going to win it. I like the 800, because there's not too much thinking involved. You go out hard, push yourself, and finish strong."

The 5,000 meters had five Ducks leading most of the way ahead of Kyle Shackleton of UCLA and his teammates. Carlos Trujillo of Oregon led the way early with a 4:40 first mile. Eventually the Mercado brother pushed the pace. Daniel, still suffering a bit from his 10,000 meter race two weeks ago, dropped out and Diego led after Kenny Klotz indicated he could only take the lead for a lap. Shackleton took off with a lap to go and Klotz, fresh off regular 1500 meter training, showed an improved kick and won in a regional qualifying 14:10.70 to 14:12.02. Oregon's 4x400 meter relay took control of the race when Chad Barlow sprinted off the Bowerman curve with a 46.7 leg and Marcus Dillon ran 47.5 for the Ducks to win in 3:12.25.

The number 25 ranked Ducks won the meet at 94 to 69 to show that the number three national ranking of UCLA is still an early season ranking. The Ducks went after UCLA hard and finished strong. This was more evidence of how competitive the Ducks are and gave the Ducks more confidence going into the Pac-10 championship in May. UCLA's head coach Art Vanegas said after the meet that the Bruins "will bring a much stronger team next year."

Separately Oregon coach Vin Lananna said the meet might even be more exciting in 2009.

"I think UCLA realizes what they have to bring next year," commented Lananna. "And, I think they (UCLA) will be in for a surprise because Oregon just might have the best team they have ever had next year."

Stay Tuned.

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