Oregon Sophomores Test Mettle at Pac-10

This weekend the men and women from the University of Oregon will attempt to peak at the start of the championship part of their season. Unusually warm temperatures will hurt the distance runners but jumpers and sprinters will take advantage of the best conditions they have competed in this year. This will be an opportunity for Oregon's super-sophomores to get their first Pac-10 hardware.

Sophomore and Vermont native Andrew Wheating has gained nationwide attention with his defeats of national level competition in the 800 meters (m) and 1,500m /mile. So far this season he is undefeated but he is about to face his toughest competition, Duane Solomon of USC. Solomon is a three-time NCAA finalist and finished third at the US championships last year when he finished in 1:45.69. Up until that performance he had seemed to have difficulty in championship meets (one Pac-10 title). At the US meet Solomon proved, for the first time, that he could handle running three races in four days and in the fourth day run a fast time. Wheating's success so far has been in one race performances, he must now prove himself on consecutive days. This season Wheating has proven that he can, in a one-day race, outkick anyone on the national level (based on their kicks in their top performances) if he is within one second with 200m to go and he is strong enough to stay with them to that point in the race.

Sophomore AJ Acosta will face two runners (Stanford's Russell Brown and Garrett Heath) that he vanquished earlier this year, a rejuvenated runner in Austin Abbott of Washington, and a recovering teammate (Jordan McNamara). His top race was at Payton Jordan and he made a tactical error that almost prevented him moving into third and could have prevented him from winning.

Sophomore Nicole Blood is a significant leader in the 5,000m with the third fastest time in the country. She will first run a heat on Friday and a finals race in the 1,500m to score points for the team. With the second fastest 1,500m time in the country she will face five other all-Americans in the event (three from Washington and two from Stanford) and her Freshman teammate Alexandra Kosinski. In the 5,000m only Stanford's Teresa McWalters is the only runner within ten seconds of Blood's personal record run at Mt SAC.

Finals on Friday include the men's and women's 3,000m steeplechase. Freshmen Claire Michel is the sixth seed and will attempt to defeat the defending Pac-10 champion Sara Trane of Washington State and top returning runner and Pac-10 leader Lindsay Allen of Stanford. Second year runner and redshirt freshman Isaac Stoutenburgh is the fourth seed and will face NCAA indoor 3,000m champ and last year's NCAA seventh place finisher Kyle Alcorn of Arizona State. He has improved steadily all year from 9:18 to his current personal record ("pr") of 8:52.66. Teammate Chris Winter has finished fourth in this meet the last two years.

The men's and women's javelin throw is usually one of the Duck's top scoring events. Rachel Yurkovich is a likely winner for the third consecutive year. Ashley McCrae and Sophomore Kara Meeuwsen are seventh and eighth seeds and are likely to surpass those seeds due to their past ability to perform in championship meets. The men's javelin include fourth seed Mike Simmons and seventh seeded sophomore Alex Wolff.

Sophomore Colin Witter-Tilton is the seventh seed in the men's pole vault. Freshman Jamesha Youngblood is the eighth seed in the long jump but small issues have affected her this year. An injury free meet and could help her leap over her pr of 21-0 feet and get a win. The men's long has super-sophomore and this year's Pac-10 Decathlon champion Ashton Eaton who is fourth seeded in the long jump. If his steps are correct on the runway he is likely to get a big pr in this event.

The last two events of the day are the women's and men's 10,000 meters. The Ducks will have three of the ten contestants. Ducks Sarah Pearson and Zoe Nelson are the third and fourth seeds, respectively. Both recently ran prs in the 1,500m to show their new-found speed. Freshmen Betsy Bies will try to score points for the Ducks. The favorites are probably Ali Kielty, the number one seed, and Jenna Kingma both of ASU. The men's 10,000m will feature two returning scorers for the Ducks, Scott Wall in sixth and Sophomore Kenny Klotz was eighth. Third and fourth seeded Redshirt Freshmen Ducks Daniel Mercado and Diego Mercado will try to defeat their vanquisher Jake Schmitt of Washington. Hari Mix of Stanford is the favorite but Wall and Klotz have yet to race in this event.

As usual the first day should be a big day for the Ducks. How athletes perform in the heats and some hopeful finalists will help the Ducks get a tight and close win on the men's side over USC, ASU, UCLA and Washington and the women should score their second most points since 1996 (2006 they scored 97) and finish in the top half of the conference.

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