Recapping Final 2 Days of NCAAs

The Duck men and women had another great meet to finish the year. The women finished eighth with 27 points, their most points and highest finish since 1993, and the men scored 22 points for a tie at eleventh for their fifth consecutive year with more than 20 points at the NCAA outdoor championship outdoor meet.

(PHOTO) From left, Oregon's Andrew Wheating, Southern California's Duane Solomon and Texas' Jacob Hernandez run neck-and-neck down the homestretch in the men's 800 meters Saturday, June 14, 2008, at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. Hernandez won. (AP Photo/Kevin Sanders)

On Saturday Junior Rachel Yurkovich got her much anticipated first NCAA Javelin Throw championship and Sophomore Andrew Wheating lost his first race of the year to the fifth fastest NCAA championship 800 meters winner in the last 19 years. Zoe Buckman finished fourth in the 800 meters. On Friday Sophomore Nicole Blood finished third in the 5,000 meters with a courageous kick into a terrible headwind in her second fastest time ever.

Third seeded heptathlete Freshman Brianne Theisen and her teammate 23rd seeded Junior Kalindra McFadden. The first event was the 100 hurdles and the weather was still bad with heavy winds. Theisen ran close to the mark of her best heptathlon performance (14.21) with a mark of 14.23. McFadden ran 14.45 (just off her best of 14.37). After the first event Theisen was twelfth and McFadden was 19th. Six-time champion and favorite Jacquelyn Johnson was first at 13.42. The second event was the high jump. Theisen equaled her season best with a clearance of 1.75 meters (m), 5-8 3/4 , tied for fourth. McFadden cleared 1.72, 5-7 ¾, for her season best. Johnson cleared 1.78m, 5-10 and was in first overall. The third event was the Shot Put. McFadden's best throw was 11.63m, 38-2 for 16th just off her best (38-3 ¼) and Theisen was just off her best (38-3 ¼) and threw 11.56m, 37-11 ¼ for 17th. In the 200 meters both were just off their bests. Theisen finished in 25.40 for 16th (25.22 is her best this year). McFadden was 20th in 25.64 (25.13 wind aided, 25.85 wind legal). Theisen stood eighth after the first day with 3344 points. McFadden was 16th with 3266 points.

Friday had some of Lance Deal's charges working early in the day. 15th seeded Junior Mike Simmons and 22nd seeded Sophomore Alex Wolff were in the first competition of the day in the Javelin Throw. With his second throw Simmons moved into sixth with a throw of 65.54m, 215-0 and Wolff was in tenth after two rounds (nine are taken to the finals). In the third round Wolff threw 65.41m to move into eighth (Simmons was in seventh). Wolff, now relaxed threw 67.09m, 220-1 (just 1" off his pr) to move into seventh in the fourth round. Wolff finished seventh and Simmons finished ninth (all-American award). Wolff had made a full recovery from last year's major elbow surgery.

Eleventh seeded Senior Colin Veldman had made the Hammer Throw Final and would try to get his first all-American award and first for the Ducks in this event since Adam Kriz was fifth in 2003. On his second throw Veldman moved to fifth at 66.94m, 219-7, a personal record (pr) for him. He did not improve on his last four throws and finished seventh.

The performance of the meet came in the women's 3,000m Steeplechase by Jennifer Barringer of Colorado. The defending US champion set the collegiate record with a time of 9:29.20 (just missing the American record of 9:28.75) and beat Silje Fjortoft of SMU by 26 seconds.

The men's 3,000m Steeplechase had Duck Junior Chris Winter in his first NCAA final. Ex-Duck Kyle Alcorn of Arizona State went out to the front early and was almost caught by the furious kick of Colorado's Billy Nelson (8:28.26 to 8:28.85). twelfth seeded Winter finished twelfth in 8:51.44.

Second seeded Blood and 19th seeded Duck redshirt junior Sarah Pearson ran against a collegiate legend in the 5,000 meters, Sally Kipyego of Texas Tech. Kipyego took the pace out quickly and Blood stayed with a pack of three others, Teresa McWalters of Stanford, Rebecca Lowe of Florida, and Tasmin Fanning of Virginia Tech who led most of the laps with Blood just behind. Angela Bizzari of Illinois was in middle of the pack behind this group. By 1000m Bizzari had caught this group of four and stayed in the back of the pack of now five runners. Pearson stayed in the back and didn't move up. Kipyego won by almost 200 meters in 15:15.08 (meet record) and Blood was outkicked by Angela Bizzari of Illinois, 15:46.08 to 15:49.22, for second (69.0 second last lap for Bizzari to 72.02 for Blood). Pearson was 16th in 16:53.99 and had an NCAA finals appearance in her last competition as a collegian. Freshman Melissa Gergel vaulted to finish in the Pole Vault.

The winds were very difficult for the women's Pole Vault. 20th seeded Freshman Melissa Gergel had the same strategy as many of the vaulters, clear every bar on the first attempt. Trying to win with a high bar would likely not work due to the bad vaulting conditions. The men's vault was won with a clearance of 17-6 ½, the worst winning height since Paul Pila of Arkansas State cleared 17-4 ¼ in 1979 and one of only four Pole Vault winners not to clear 18 feet since 1979. Gergel was one of six vaulters to clear the first two heights, 3.90m and 4.00m, without a single miss. Unfortunately she could not clear the next height, 4.10m, and finished eighth (to match her indoor performance) with a best clearance of 13-1 ½. Katie Morgan of Cal won with no misses and a final top clearance of 13-9 ½ .

Oregon received good news on Friday night with the inclusion of Sophomore AJ Acosta in the 1,500 meters. Oregon Director of Track Operations, Vin Lanana, claimed that ties in the heats of a non-lane race meant that ties to the last time qualifier would advance. His protest was accepted and Acosta could run in the final on Saturday.

The women's Heptathlon second-day events started early on Saturday. Theisen finished ninth in the Long Jump at 5.96m, 19-6 ¾ (season best). McFadden did not have a good jump for her and finished 23rd at 5.38m, 17-8. Penn State's Gayle Hunter had the best long jump with a wind-aided mark of 6.41m, 21-0 ½. The women's javelin has become a new strength for Theisen (pr by 12 feet this year) and she continued her good performance from the Pac-10 meet (144-8) with a fifth place performance at 43.91m, 144-1. McFadden continued to struggle compared to her best (121-6) with a throw of 35.11m, 115-2 for 15th in the event. Tammilee Kerr of Iowa had the best throw at 47.46m, 155-8. Theisen had moved into fourth by scoring 195 points more than Gayle Hunter of Penn State in the Javelin Throw (33.73m, 110-8).

Hunter was only 39 points behind with the 800 meters to go. McFadden finished second in the first section with a time of 2:16.68 close to her best this year, 2:15.08. Hunter finished ahead of Theisen, 2:19.92 to 2:22.73, but not enough to pass Theisen. Kristin Olafsdottir had the top time of 2:15.91 and McFadden was second with Theisen eleventh. Overall Johnson of Arizona State won her fourth outdoor NCAA Heptathlon title with 6053 points, Theisen was fourth with 5710 points (second best performance ever) and Hunter was fifth with 5709 points. McFadden was 17th with 5369 points (just off her season-best of 5420).

In the women's 800 meters second-seeded Zoe Buckman would face this winter's NCAA champion Latavia Thomas of LSU, 2006 NCAA indoor 800m champion Heather Dorniden of Minnesota, and 2008 NCAA indoor fourth place finisher Geena Gall. Dorniden led at the bell, covering the first lap in 61.65. Buckman was eighth at 62.24. The next 200 meters Buckman moved up to second with the wind at her back and moved just past Becky Horn of Western Michigan. She ran in lane two around the corner and ahead of Dorniden with 100 meters to go. Gall made a strong move in lane two and Horn came up in lane one past a struggling Dorniden. The wind had slowed Dorniden and practically stood Buckman straight up. Gall, Thomas and Horn all passed Buckman. Gall and Horn moved in front of Buckman and slowed her down and she had to go further out in lane two. Horn barely held off Buckman for third. Gall won in 2:03.91, Thomas was second in 2:04.38, Horn was third in 2:04.67 and Buckman was fourth in 2:04.69.

The men's 800 meters was next. Duck Sophomore Andrew Wheating had not lost for eleven consecutive races. List leader Jacob Hernandez of Texas had lost to Wheating by .03 seconds in the semifinal on Thursday (1:47.15 to 1:47.18). He was only ahead by .35 at the bell in that race (52.69 to 53.04). In the final he was ahead at the lap 50.96 to the seventh place position of Wheating at the bell in 51.65. Wheating took advantage of the wind and was in fifth with 200 meters to go and ten yards behind Hernandez and last year's US third place finisher Duane Solomon of USC. On the final corner Wheating moved into third but didn't make up any ground on Hernandez and Solomon. At 100 meters to go Wheating seemed to be hurting at his pr pace and seemed to stop making a push and then with 50 meters to go made a burst and lost by Hernandez's lean, 1:45.31 to 1:45.32.

Sophomore AJ Acosta was a late addition to the 1,500 meters final due to Lanana's protest by Acosta may not have been ready to race to his potential. Four-time NCAA champion Leonel Manzano of Texas decided to give everything in his final collegiate race and led wire-to-wire for a win in 3:41.25. Acosta was in the middle of the pack most of the race and moved up at the end by outkicking David Torrence of Cal-Berkeley to finish ninth in 3:43.95.

The big finish by Oregon was by Junior Rachel Yurkovich. Her first two years at Oregon she had started the season as the top collegiate thrower and by the end of the season her performances had dropped off. She and coach Deal changed their strategy to give her continuously sore shoulder some time off. She threw in fewer meets this year and skipped many meets including the Oregon Preview where she had pr'd in each of the last two years.

She admitted she treated the qualifying round like a practice. By not pressuring her shoulder she would be ready for the finals two days later. She was first up and threw 172-4 on her first throw and held the lead through the first round. She improved on her second throw by throwing 176-11. 2006 NCAA runner-up from Nebraska Kayla Wilkinson moved into first with a near pr throw of 179-2 and Andrea Kotova of SMU took second at 178-8. Yurkovich took the lead in the third round and never relinquished it with a throw of 179-6. In the fifth round she improved to 56.58m, 185-7 for the win ahead of Katie Coronado of New Mexico who moved to second with a best throw of 179-6, Wilkinson was third, and Kotova was fourth. Yurkovich did exactly as she planned, "I was wanting to get a little better with each throw. I just want to say, ‘finally!' "

This was a great performance by the men and women and more great things are in store with all but two points returning for the Ducks next year (Colin Veldman in the hammer throw). Galen Rupp and Rebekkah Noble will be back next year, as will a hopefully healthy Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott and Kearra Sammons. "All the work we put in this year was about laying the foundation for the future," said Oregon director of track and field Vin Lanana.

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