Other Than Weather, Things As Expected

So far the NCAA championships have not provided anything truly unexpected for the Ducks except for the weather. In the first two days there were two hotel changes due to flooding concerns, lightning, and heavy wind. There was a case of good fortune providing for one young star, Ashton Eaton, and bad breaks befalling another, AJ Acosta.

(PHOTO) Oregon's Zoe Buckman, second from left, leads Western Michigan's Becky Horn, right, at the finish of a 800-meter run semi-final heat Thursday, June 12, 2008, at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

On Wednesday Eaton went from one event to the other with Coach Dan Steele on him every step of the way and performed to or better than his current ability. He ran the top time in the 100 meters in 10.64 (just off the 10.57 personal record from the Pac-10 meet) and had the top jump in the long jump, 25-2 ½ , a personal record (pr) for him. His Shot Put of 41-11 ½ was also a pr. His best clearance of 6-5 was near his normal height and he set a meet record in the 400 at 47.25. His first day score of 4289 was 74 points superior to his best at the Sacramento Elite competition (7792) and now he was a solid favorite for second and could challenge for first. List leader Jangy Addy of Tennessee (pr 8010) was 49 points off his best, and as such, was still the favorite.

The field events went very well for Lance Deal's throwers. In the men's Javelin Throw Deal's athletes surpassed their seeding by dealing with the wind better than the competition. Junior Mike Simmons was seeded 15th and Sophomore Alex Wolff was seeded 22nd . The top twelve throwers from two flights of competitors are taken to the finals and each athlete is given three throws. In the first flight Wolff finished seventh with a best throw, on his third throw, of 64.94 meters (m), 213-1. He finished ahead of eighth place and seventh seeded Chad Radgowski of LSU (210-11) and fifth seeded and ninth place finisher Brett Trudo of Wichita State (63.29m, 207-8). In the second flight Mike Simmons threw 64.48m, 211-6, with his last throw and passed Radgowski for the twelfth and last spot for the finals (Wolff finished tenth overall). Simmons finished ahead of eighth seed Brad Roth of Arizona State (eleventh) and ninth seeded Ryan Young of Cal-Berkeley (ninth). Finals are held on Friday.

The Duck men had two hammer throwers trying to get two of the positions for the finals. Senior Colin Veldman has had a shoulder injury that held him out of competition last year. Freshman Jordan Stray is still fighting a sore back that happened when he fell while throwing warm-up throws at the Pac-10 championship. Eleventh seeded Veldman and 16th seeded Stray were both in the second flight. With his last throw Veldman took the last qualifying spot with a throw of 65.03, 213-4. Still suffering from his back injury, Stray finished 23rd with a best throw of 58.71m, 192-7, 23 feet short of his season best. Finals are held on Friday.

Sophomore Colin Witter-Tilton (25th seed) did not clear a height in the bad winds at the field. In her fourth competition of the year 20th seeded Freshman Melissa Gergel was one of 14 vaulters to clear 4.10m, 13-5 ¼ (4.11 is her outdoor season best). Pre-season favorite and ninth seeded Kate Sultanova of Kansas, Eighth seeded and high school and US junior record holder Tori Anthony, fifth seeded Big 10 champion Alicia Rue of Minnesota, and seventh seeded Stephanie Chin of Indiana did not make the final. The final competition is Friday.

Sophomore Zoe Buckman would run the first time of three races in four days. The second seeded 800 meter runner finished second in the third heat in 2:06.51 (one of three automatic qualifiers from each of four heats). Eighth seeded Kayann Thompson of LSU did not make the semifinals. The men's 800m heats had Sophomore Andrew Wheating in the third heat, fourth seeded, against fifth seeded Tyler Mulder of Northern Iowa. Wheating stayed closer to the front than usual and closed faster than everyone else as usual and ran 1:48.88 for his tenth straight win this season. Mulder was second in 1:49.34.

Senior Kasey Harwood finished her career as a Duck with a time of 60.43 in the third heat of the 400m hurdles. Sophomore Keshia Baker must have also suffered in the wind as she ran 56.12 in the fourth heat of the 400m. Both finished last in their heats.

Twelfth seeded Duck Junior Chris Winter ran in the first heat of the 3,000m Steeplechase in 8:52.57, for seventh. The top-five were automatically taken with four time qualifiers. After the second heat Winter finished as the third of four time qualifiers. Sixth seeded Pete Janson of Colorado did not make the final out of the first heat. In the 5,000 meters second-seeded Sophomore Nicole Blood and 19th seeded Senior Sarah Pearson were in the second heat. There were six automatic qualifiers from each heat with four time qualifiers. The first heat was a slow heat (sixth place was 17:37.46). Eighth seeded Catherine White of Arkansas was tenth in the first heat and didn't make the final. Blood and Pearson had to run a fast enough pace and finish in the top ten. The pace was fast enough to drop five of the 14 competitors. Blood finished sixth in 16:48.73 and Pearson was ninth in 16:57.53. Both will run in the final on Friday. Senior Carlos Trujillo was in the first heat of the men's 5,000 meters. Trujillo was involved in a slow kicker's pace and finished ninth in 14:39.50.

On the second day, Thursday, Eaton continued his run of competing close to his prs or getting a pr. He ran 14.27 for the 110 hurdles but Jangy Addy ran 13.74 (just off his pr Decathlon) to take the lead by 17 points. Eaton threw an eleven foot pr in the Discus at 131-1 bur Addy is much better at the event with a throw of 154-5 and was now ahead by 162 points. If Eaton could reach his pr of 16-0 ¾ from the Oregon Relays he would pass Addy. Unfortunately a good vault for him, 15-1, was not good enough to get him the lead but his deficit dropped to 74 points. Surprisingly he threw a 28 foot pr in the Javelin (176-11 to 172-10 for Addy) to trim the lead to 55 points (ten second difference). Addy has not broken five minutes in the 1,500 meters but Eaton has run 4:24. Eaton ran 4:33.05 to 5:05.13 and Eaton scored 8055 points to move to third all-time for the Ducks and became the first Duck NCAA Decathlon champion since Santiago Lorenzo won in 2001.

In the women's Javelin Throw Junior Rachel Yurkovich had to finish in the top 12 for the Friday finals. She said she thought of this meet as a practice and finished fourth in the second flight at 50.92m, 167-1. The top throwers all made the final. Three-time NCAA top-five finisher Junior Geena Gall of Michigan (2:04.02) won the first semifinal of the Women's 800 meters. Zoe Buckman recovered well from her race the day before and won the second semifinal in 2:03.64. The big news was that defending NCAA and US champion, Alysia Johnson of Cal-Berkeley, was out with an injury. Buckman was now one of the favorites to win the final on Saturday.

The men's 800 meters had Sophomore Andrew Wheating against top seeded Jacob Hernandez of Texas. Wheating won in his second fastest time of the year, 1:47.15 to 1:47.18, for his eleventh consecutive win. Duane Solomon won the second semifinal in 1:47.60. Third seeded Felix Kitur was eliminated in the first heat and second seeded Carlos Phillips of Florida and seventh seeded Tim Harris were eliminated in the second semi-final. Three of the final eight are from the Pac-10 (the third is Austin Abbott of Washington, five of eight finalists are seniors).

24th seeded Senior Phil Alexander was last (21.43) in the fifth heat of the men's 200 meters. In the women's 1,500 meters the first heat was won by defending NCAA champion Brie Felnagle of North Carolina in 4:15.56 and the last qualifying time was by Keri Bland of West Virginia in (4:17.94). 20th seeded Alexandra Kosinski finished in twelfth in 4:29.01 (pr is 4:19.48). The men's 1,500 meters did not fare well for AJ Acosta. He recovered from a near fall on lap two but did not finish fast enough to make the final. The top four plus four fastest times made the Saturday final. The winner of the heat was Junior Andrew Bumbalough of Georgetown in 3:42.28 and third seeded Acosta was eighth in 3:43.859. The only time qualifier from the first heat was Senior Kurt Beninger of Notre Dame in 3:43.856. In the first heat of the men's 4x400 meter relay Texas Tech won in 3:04.37 and ninth seeded Oregon was sixth in 3:11.51 (Justin Cross replaced Ashton Eaton).

The men's 10,000 meters was the last event of the day. This time defending champion Shadrack Songok of Texas A&M Corpus Christie outkicked a large group to finish in 28:46.69. 25th seeded Diego Mercado finished 19th in 30:14.87 and 23rd seeded Daniel Mercado was 25th in 31:05.10.

Overall it was a good day with several finalists for the Ducks. Eaton kept Oregon's streak of having an NCAA individual champion every year since 2003 (including Becky Holliday in the Pole Vault and men since 2004). It is very likely the Oregon men will keep their streak of scoring over 20 points in every NCAA championship meet since 2004.

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