Wheating, Obama Wow at Twilight Meet

EUGENE, Ore. – The featured race at Friday's Twilight Meet looked like it might be the Presidential one. Then Oregon sophomore Andrew Wheating upped the wow factor by running the fastest 1,500 meters in the United States this season, crossing the tape in 3:38.60.

Senator Barack Obama, who is vying with Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Presidential nomination, surprised the 5,124 at Historic Hayward Field with a brief appearance in which he shook hands with fans in both the East and West grandstands.

After receiving some encouragement from Oregon Associate Athletic Director of Track and Field Vin Lananna, the Senator from Illinois gingerly cleared a hurdle on his way out of the stadium, as he left for a speaking appearance on the University of Oregon campus.

Before and after Obama's appearance, the Twilight Meet saw some impressive professional and collegiate performances, headlined not only by Wheating's thrilling run in the 1,500, but also Nicole Blood's 4:14.73 in the women's 1,500, which was the second-best time in the nation among collegians and the fourth fastest on the Oregon books.

Like he did two weeks ago in winning the mile at the Oregon Relays, presented by Oregon Community Credit Union, Wheating hung in the middle of the pack for most of the race before bursting out with a seemingly effortless bust of speed.

Friday, his move came in two stages. With the threat of being boxed in heading down the front stretch, the Norwich, Vt., native moved to the outside to clear some room, and then with 200 meters remaining, switched on the afterburners, tore through the Bowerman Curve and won going away in a time that was the sixth fastest in Oregon history. His time was also good enough for the Olympics "A" standard, meaning Wheating will be participating in the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene in June.

In addition to Wheating and Blood, the meet was a success for the host Ducks with six new NCAA regional qualifying marks, bringing Oregon's total number of competitors to the May 30-31 NCAA West Regional to 46 -- 25 men and 21 women.

Those six included:
Marcus Dillon winning the men's 400 meters and getting to the NCAA Regional in that event with a qualifying time of 47.18.

Two Oregon women recording NCAA Regional marks for the first time this season in the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase, as the event saw three of the top six performances in school history. Freshman Claire Michel ran the second-fastest steeple time at the University, 10:36.68, to finish sixth in the event. Brooke Guiffre also notched a regional time, coming home in 10:47.15, the sixth-best time on the Oregon list. Senior Emily Mathis improved her steeple time with a PR of 10:43.21, the No. 5 mark on the UO top-10.

A.J. Casteel made is a memorable final appearance at Hayward Field. The senior finished the 1,500 in a personal 3:47.52 to earn a ticket to the NCAA West Regional.

Junior Lucy Cridland advanced to the regionals by winning the women's discus with a toss of 159-10. Freshmen Melissa Gergel cleared 12-11.5 in the women's pole vault to win with an NCAA Regional qualifier. That mark stands sixth on the Ducks' all-time top-10.

Other Oregon highlights:

Zoe Buckman's season best in the women's 800 meters (2:06.76), which ranks fourth in the Pac-10.

Jared Huske won the 110 hurdles in a meet-record time of 14.31. Huske also captured the 400 hurdles (54.37).

But the highlights weren't limited to the Oregon team.

Lauren Fleshman ran the fastest women's 1,500 meters in the nation this season, winning in a time of 4:11.66.

Dana Pounds set a Hayward Field and Twilight Meet record in winning the javelin in a throw of 194-7. She upset current U.S. record-holder Kim Kreiner, who took second at 191-04.

Boaz Lang's win in the men's 800 meters in the eighth-fastest time in the world this season, 1:45.15.

Talk about a memorable race: Tasmin Fanning of Virginia Tech, captured the women's 5,000 in a school-record time of 15:47.90 and then was introduced to Obama right after her victory lap. Her time was the fourth-best collegiately in the nation this season.

A.G. Kruger unleashed the top hammer throw in the U.S. this season with a winning toss of 258-02, Kruger's best effort since 2004.

Former Duck Britney Henry notched her first PR in three years to win the women's hammer with a mark of 224-07. That was a Twilight Meet record and the third-best throw in the U.S. this year.

In addition to the three Oregon performers, the women's 3,000 meter steeplechase produced the U.S. leader in the event, Carrie Vickers, who won in a meet-record time of 9:51.08.

Simi Ageagbo set a meet record in winning the triple jump in 43-0.5.

Adriane Blewitt established a meet record in the women's shot put to defeat Kristin Heaton with a throw of 55-7.5. Heaton's best throw was 54-4.5.

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