2009 West Region Preview

This weekend's NCAA west regional meet is the last of its kind in the seventh year of its run. Next year there will only be two regions and the Big 12 conference has said they want that to be the last meet. Oregon has never won a regional meet on the men or women side but this year could break that run. The men and women teams have 24 entrants (26 events on the men side and 25 on the women).

Both teams have a shot of winning the NCAA championships but both teams must qualify a large number of athletes at this meet in order to have a chance of fulfilling their promise. The first five from each region automatically qualify and there is another five selected among the top marks that did not make the meet by finishing in the top five at each of the regional meets. The 10,000 meters, Decathlon and Heptathlon fields are chosen from marks set by the end of last week. An automatic qualifying mark puts you into the NCAA meet and a provisional qualifying mark puts you up for selection to fill the fields to 24-28 contestants.

Senior Galen Rupp has been predicted to score anywhere from 14 to 20 points at the NCAA meet and will be the main cog in Oregon's chance to win its first men's title since 1984. If the Oregon men's team wins the NCAA team title it would join UTEP (‘79-'80, '80-'81, and '81-'82) and Arkansas ('84-'85, '91-'92, '92-'93, '93-'94 and '98-'99) as the only schools to win all three NCAA team championships (cross country and indoor and outdoor track) in the same school year.

Due to scheduling at the NCAA meet where Galen Rupp would have to run 20,000 meters in three days, it looks like he will try a 1500/5000 double at the NCAA meet (one race each day Wednesday through Saturday). To qualify for both races he must finish in the top five at the west regional meet in both events or run great times in finishing outside of the top five. Vin said about Galen's events this week, "I think everyone needs to know that just because you do a particular event at the regional doesn't mean that that's the event you have to do at the NCAA meet. It's just if you want to have the option to do that event then you must compete in that event at the regional." He does have an automatic qualifier in the 10,000 meters (10k) to get him to the NCAA meet.

In the 1500 Rupp will be joined by three teammates. National leader and Pac-10 champion Matt Centrowitz is now second on Oregon's all-time list (3:36.92 is intrinsically superior to a hand-timed 3:36.7 by his father). Centrowitz, Rupp and Andrew Wheating formed an impressive 1-2-3 finish at the Pac-10 meet with a 51.9 final lap of the 1500 for Centrowitz, a 52.2 for Rupp and a low 51 second final circuit for Wheating. They beat top collegians Garret Heath of Stanford (#3 collegian), Michael Coe of Cal (#6) and Austin Abbott of Washington (#11) with that impressive final last lap. Early Pac-10 final leader and Duck Jordan McNamara is still short on training but ran an impressive 3:43.36 in the heats and finished ninth in the final. Senior Duck James Withers (top non-qualifier for the Pac-10 final) will make his first West regional competition.

With five probable competitors at the NCAA meet in the 10k, the men will also try to qualify four in the 5,000 meters (5k) against top collegiate competition (four of the top nine will race here). Galen Rupp set the American indoor record for 5,000 meters (13:18.12) but has not focused on running a fast 5k outdoors. He will face NCAA leader and Pac-10 champion Brandon Bethke of Arizona State. Northern Arizona's David McNeil was fourth at the NCAA meet in this event last year and is ranked sixth this year. Duck senior Shadrack Biwott (#9 collegian) was second in the 5k and 10k at the Pac-10 meet and will attempt to beat Bethke without having to run the 10k the day before. He will likely have the option to run either the 5k or the 10k at the NCAA meet after this race. Pac-10 third place finisher in the 5k and 10k freshman Chris Derrick of Stanford (#5 collegian) will try to qualify for the NCAA meet with a top five finish here. Redshirt freshmen Elliot Heath of Stanford was seventh at the Pac-10 meet but finished third at the NCAA indoor 3,000 and will likely run better than at Pac-10 where he ran in the 1,500 meters also. Senior Scott Wall will attempt to make his first NCAA outdoor track appearance and will need to finish in the top five to do so. Duck Freshman two-time all-American Luke Puskedra and sophomore Daniel Mercado will also race but are likely to run just the 10k at the NCAA championships.

The men's Javelin Throw will also be a big competition to help Oregon win the NCAA title. Before the emergence of junior Cyrus Hostetler, Oregon would have not been favored to win the NCAA team title but with him throwing so well this could be a meet record javelin throw competition at the region and NCAA meet level. Senior Corey White of USC won the Texas Relays with a mark of 272-2 but was nipped out for the early world lead by Hostetler's throw of 272-10 at the Pepsi Team Invitational. With his last throw Hostetler won the Pac-10 title with a mark of 250-5 ahead of White's 248-4. Junior Alex Wolff continued his ability to throw well at big meets by getting another personal record in a championship meet, 235-5, and finished third. His mark ranks ninth nationally, but behind four others in this region. Junior Ryan Young of Cal is ranked fourth nationally at 250-1 but did not have a good Pac-10 meet and finished fifth. Kyle Nielsen of Washington at 239-2 is ranked seventh nationally and finished fourth at the Pac-10 meet. As long as one of these competitors makes the final three throws they will go to the NCAA meet even if they have trouble with their throwing at the West Regional.

Junior Duck Andrew Wheating will face experienced competition and USC senior Irek Sekretarski who is undoubtedly frustrated after Wheating barely outleaned him to win the Pac-10 championship. Most of the field has NCAA experience and two of them from Arizona State, Mason McHenry and Nectaly Barbosa did not make the final. Competition was so tight that Sophomore Duck Travis Thompson was stuck in a slow heat and surprisingly did not make the final. Wheating just has to make the final to get to the NCAA meet but Thompson must get in the top five or run under 1:48.5 to make the NCAA meet.

The Oregon women have the more daunting task of trying to qualify a large number of athletes in a large number of events. The Oregon women had a West Region qualifier in every single event. The 200 meters is the only event without a Duck entrant because of an injury to Amber Purvis and Keshia Baker is running the 400 meters. Purvis won't run in the West Regional 100 or 200 but will likely run in the relays.

Senior Duck Rachel Yurkovich won her fourth consecutive Pac-10 javelin throw title (matching four others in conference history) and will try to match that feat at the West Regionals. She is currently ranked second collegiately with her school record of 191-2 from the Pac-10 meet. Sophomore Marissa Tschida of Washington State is ranked third on the collegiate list (181-8) but had an off week at the Pac-10 meet and finished fourth. Kristine Busa of USC was the Pac-10 runner-up and is ranked tenth on the collegiate list just ahead of Oregon senior Ashley McCrae (#12 collegian) who was third at the Pac-10 meet and will try to make her second appearance at the NCAA meet. Freshmen Courtney Kirkwood of Washington State and Ilze Gribule of BYU are ranked 13th and 14th collegiately. This should be competitive for the second through fifth positions.

Junior Nicole Blood is a six-time all-American and is seeded nationally to repeat her third place finish at the NCAA meet after being a runner-up at the Pac-10 meet. Freshman Laurynne Chetelat of Stanford is just behind at fourth and finished just behind Blood at the Pac-10 meet with her third place finish. Huskies Anita Campbell (#5) and Katie Follett (#7) won the 10k and 1500 respectively at the Pac-10 meet and will be fresh to attempt to qualify for the NCAA meet in this event.

Melissa Gergel had a spectacular performance at the Pac-10 meet with three pr clearances and finishing at 14-2, second all-time at Oregon, which puts her fifth among collegians. Defending NCAA champion Katie Morgan of Cal (#10) cleared a pr and school record 13-10 to finish second behind Gergel at the Pac-10 meet. The difficult conditions at Hayward Field affected athletes differently. Two top-ten collegiate competitors, Katy Viuf of UCLA (#8) finished fifth and Bryson Stately (#9) no-heighted, had substandard performances at the Pac-10 meet but will likely be more prepared the next meet. This will be a loaded competition as seven of the top 13 collegians will compete in this meet. Yearly many West region vaulters are taken beyond the top five finishers. Sophomore Jordan Roskelley finished tied for fifth at the P-10 meet with a pr performance and will likely need another pr to make the NCAA meet.

Junior Zoe Buckman was fourth at last year's NCAA meet but has not looked as sharp in the 800 meters this year. She ran her pr at last year's West Regional meet (2:02.50) and seemed to race better as the season went. The Pac-10 champion is ranked second in the West Region and will have to get in the top five to make the NCAA meet. Duck assistant coach Robert Johnson has several competitors that achieved lifetime bests at the Pac-10 meet. Chief among them was junior Keshia Baker with her win in the Pac-10 400. Her near 1.5-second lifetime best moved her to third on the collegiate list and second on Oregon's all-time list. The two-time Pac-10 champion will try to make the NCAA meet again and get her second all-American award to go with her indoor open 400 sixth place finish. Sophomore Jamesha Youngblood played a very important role at the Pac-10 meet with her school record long jump and triple jump wins and short and long relay runs. If she can continue to develop she may score in one or both of those events at the NCAA meet. Sophomore Mandy White ran a pr in the 100 and 200 at the Pac-10 meet and will attempt to make the NCAA meet in the 100 meters or 4x100 meter relay. 400 meter hurdle entrant Freshman Lyndsey Pearson ran a three second pr in the 400 hurdles and ran a windy pr in the 100 hurdles at the Pac-10 meet. Both relay teams are close to the top in the region (#4 for the short and #3 for the long) and may be able to make the NCAA meet with good runs. Sophomore Vernell Warren in jumped prs in the long jump and high jump and will attempt to qualify against tough competition.

Oregon hopes to use this meet as a springboard to legitimate shots at winning both NCAA titles. For anyone that has ever won a championship there has to be a little luck involved. Coach Lanana is optimistic about this weekend, "What I've found actually the last three years here is that some kids that we hadn't anticipated and that were under the radar screen have advanced to the NCAA meet. (We've had) more good surprises than bad surprises. I would anticipate that anyone that's out of the top five on the descending order list is someone that will be a good positive." To win, Oregon has to take advantage of as opportunities as possible, and as coach Lanana has said, "This is a special group."

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