Friday's Oregon Relays produce qualifiers

The newly combined (XO invite and Oregon Invite) and re-made Oregon Relays (the Pepsi relays discontinued a couple of years ago) accomplished what the creators wanted. This so far has been a tremendous, competitive meet with some big-time performances by star performers. The high school kids get to be on the same stage, have some great performances themselves, and take in the atmosphere.

As early evidence of the meet's quality athletes have already produced 17 Olympic Trials B standards (in distance running and field events), including three Olympic Trials A standards (which are also Olympic B standards). The A standards are automatic standards and the B standards are used to fill out the fields to 24 in the case of distance running and field events. There were also 54 regional qualifying marks (an additional 13 were disallowed for an official's mistake in the women's steeple) for the NCAA Division I championship meet.

Three years ago the XO meet for high school kids had the biggest performance to date by Newberg's Rachel Yurkovich when she broke the national high school javelin record by throwing 176-5. Since then she has moved on to the University of Oregon and reset Oregon's school record to 189-11, good for fifth on the all-time collegiate list and a Pac-10 conference record. With her first throw the junior reset her records by throwing 191-1 and an Olympic Trials A standard. Her limited competition schedule has helped her reduce the strain on her body and she is throwing consistently. Her next meet is at the Pac-10 championship where she is a two time defending champion. She is still ranked fifth all-time collegiately and leads the yearly collegiate list.

The two other Olympic Trial A standards were by two of the top Americans in their events. The men's winner of the javelin, Mike Hazle, is one of two American throwers with the A standard (the other is Breaux Greer). He threw the second best throw ever at Hayward Field (behind Greer) with a season best throw of 265-3. 2006 and 2007 US indoor long jump champ Akiba McKinney of Nike, jumped 21-10 ¾, showed that she has recover from last year's broken fibula.

The distance races for the high school through top-level athletes produced a significant number of quality performances. Kara Goucher, last year's 10,000 meter World Championship bronze medallist (2006 5k US silver medallist), used the 5,000 meters to prepare for next week's 10,000 meters at the Stanford Invitational. She has been running 100 miles per week in an attempt to break the Olympic A standard of 31:45. She pulled her teammate, Amy Yoder-Begley, to an improved Olympic Trials B qualifying mark of 15:46.55. twelve collegians ran regional qualifying standards including the ten second pr of freshman Betsy Bies of Oregon (16:46.96). Last year's US 3,000 meter steeplechase champion, and 2006 NCAA steeple champ, Jennifer Barringer of Colorado controlled the last lap of the 1,500 meters and won in 4:17.19. In second, Nicole Blood, stayed in the pack until the last lap and had another pr, 4:18.55 (seventh all-time for the Ducks), to go with the 5k pr run at Mt SAC last week (15:43.82, fourth all-time for the Ducks). Recent NCAA 10k provisional qualifier (34:29.72) Sarah Pearson ran 4:26.56 (regional qualifying time) to win the second heat against NCAA division II indoor mile runner-up Jane Larson of Seattle Pacific.

The men's 1,500 was considered to be one of the top races at the weekend. The race did not disappoint. Coming into this season Stephen Pifer of Colorado was ranked tenth among collegians, Mike McGrath was ranked 14th. Gabe Jennings, the 2000 Olympic Trials and NCAA champion, is making a comeback while living in Eugene. Gert Azis of Wichita State was an NCAA outdoor competitor last year and Austin Abbott of Washington was an indoor competitor in 2006. Second ranked 5k runner Brett Vaughn of Colorado, former US 5k champion Adam Goucher, and UCLA dual winner Kenny Klotz of Oregon were getting good speed work. Pifer pushed the pace late to win in 3:41.55 and held off the kick of Gabe Jennings, 3:41.83, and Gert Azis of Wichita State, 3:42.71. American Pifer and Jennings surpassed the Olympic Trials B standard. Vaughn ran 3:43.69 for fifth in front of McGrath's best time in two years, 3:43.87. Klotz ran a pr 3:46.92 in eleventh as seven collegians surpassed the regional qualifying standard of 3:47.80.

The 5k indicated that former Portland all-American Joe Driscoll is back to form as he ran 13:48.11 to win with a great kick ahead of the fourth place pr performance of AJ Acosta of Oregon (13:50.20) and the ninth place and eight second pr of Carlos Trujillo of Oregon (13:57.73) and the season-best and regional qualifying mark of Scott Wall (14:06.28). Eight collegians surpassed the regional qualifying standard. The men's steeple was a 1-2-3 finish of Oregon Track Club Elite runners led by Max King in 8:38.72 as the first three bettered the Olympic Trials B standard. The women's steeple was run without one barrier and the results were disqualified. Georgia's Sarah Madebach ran 10:17.86 as Ducks Emily Mathis (10:40.30) and Claire Michel (10:44.22) would have both had prs and Lauren Denfeld of Oregon State (10:33.78) would have bettered her own school record. Former Duck all-American Brittany Hinchcliffe of Team XO threw a Trials B standard 214-7 to win the hammer.

In high school action junior Elliot Jantzer, last year's Oregon 4A state 1500 and 3k champ, ran down last year's Oregon 6A 800 and 1500 runner-up, Nathan Mathabane in 8:37.60 to 8:39.31. Junior Alexandra Jones of St Mary's ran a 9:54.39 3k for the first time for an Oregon runner under ten minutes in a couple of years. Taylor Morgan of Central Catholic ran 9:33.99 for the 3,000 meter steeplechase to take over the national high school lead in the event.

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