Rupp Has A Huge Farewell!

The West Regionals held in Eugene on Friday and Saturday were spectacular. Senior Galen Rupp obviously wanted to make something special in the 1,500 meter final in what may be his last race as a Duck at Hayward Field. Rupp took off with 700 meters to go and national leader and Duck freshman Matthew Centrowitz stayed with him and then outkicked Rupp.

Rupp finished second (3:39.14) in a personal record (ninth all-time at Oregon) to Centrowitz (3:38.30) as both went under the old meet record of 3:42.02 from 2007 by 2008 Olympian Lopez Lomong of Northern Arizona.

On Friday Oregon could not have asked for better outcomes. The first final was the men's Javelin Throw. Junior Cyrus Hostetler took the lead early and never relinquished the lead to win with a best of 239-8 and junior Alex Wolff was fourth or fifth the entire competition and finished fourth with another near-personal record 233-5 on his final throw. Hostetler will enter the NCAA meet as the number one seed and Wolff is number ten. Sophomore Vernell Warren came into the meet as the number seven seed in the long jump. He equaled his personal record (pr) with his second jump (24-9) to move into sixth. He reset his pr twice more to finish at 7.62m (25-0) to finish third and will compete at the NCAA meet as the 21st seed.

Oregon successfully qualified competitors for Sunday's finals in many events. The women's 4x100 meter relay ran another school record 44.17 and moved to seventh on this year's collegiate list. Sophomore Alex Kosinski ran an automatic qualifying (top four from each heat) second place with a second place finish at 4:22.44. Galen Rupp (second at 3:45.93 in the first heat), Matthew Centrowitz (won second heat in 3:48.10), and Jordan McNamara (third in second heat at 3:48.49) all qualified automatically (top three in each heat) for Saturday's finals. Sophomore Brianne Theisen ran a shocking race in the 100 hurdles with a school record of 13.56 seconds (beating the old record by Lexie Miller of 13.67 from 1981). She was the last time qualifier for the final. Before the Pac-10 meet her pr was 14.20. Junior Keshia Baker won her heat of the 400 meters in 53.42 seconds. Junior Chad Barlow (47.63) and junior Ashton Eaton (47.46) both qualified for the final based on times. Junior Zoe Buckman won her heat of the 800 meters (2:06.43) as did junior Andrew Wheating (1:48.40) in the fastest heat of three heats. Three of the top six competitors were in Wheating's heat including sophomore Travis Thompson. The top two competitors in each of the three heats plus the top two times qualified. Thompson pushed the pace and tried to kick in for a spot in the final but finished fifth in a new pr 1:49.11. His time was faster than the winners of the other two heats, just a bad break for him.

Late afternoon finals also went well for the Ducks. Pac-10 long jump and triple jump champion Jameesha Youngblood took just two jumps and finished fourth in the long jump with a near-pr best of 21-0 from her second jump, obviously saving herself for the triple jump the next day and the NCAA championships as the twelfth seed. 2007 NCAA champion Rhonda Watkins of UCLA barely beat Karoline Koehler of San Diego State 21-10 ¾ to 21-9 ½ and will be the second and third seeds at the NCAA meet based on those season best jumps.

One concern about the regional system is the imbalance of quality throughout the regions. The west region has a large portion of the nation's top collegiate vaulters (seven of the top 13 and ten of the top 27) but the east region's top vaulter is ranked 28th in the country. 31 vaulters started the competition and the competition took around four hours (an hour is normal). The women's vault started at 12-0 and 14 vaulters participated at that height. 18 vaulters participated at each of the next two heights, 12-6 and 12-10. Competitors have to learn patience and prepare themselves mentally as well as physically for competition. Duck sophomore Jordan Roskelley vaulted a four centimeter pr (4.01m, 13-1 ¾) but that was only good for ninth and she won't make it to the NCAA meet as a wild card (five are taken from every region and four east region automatic qualifying vaulters have a season best of 4.01 also). There were seven vaulters that were still alive at 4.21m, 13-9 ¾, what would have been a pr for Gergel before the Pac-10 meet where she cleared three consecutive prs to finish at 14-2 for her first Pac-10 title. She and Pac-10 runner-up Katie Morgan of Cal had cleared on their final attempts. First up at 4.21m Gergel cleared the bar and took the lead until Washington's Andrea Peterson also cleared on the first attempt, to take over the lead. Three others joined them on later attemps but Gergel was the only one to clear the next height, 4.31m, 14-1 ¾ and she won the regional meet to go with the Pac-10 meet and is the fourth seed for the NCAA meet.

The women's 5,000 meter final was basically a group of six runners for most of the race (running 79 to 80 second laps) with Duck junior Mattie Bridgmon hanging just behind five yards. Junior Nicole Blood had finished third at the west regional in Eugene in 2007 and was the west region runner-up last year. This year she sat in the middle of the lead pack and struck with three laps to go. She ran 75 seconds to separate herself from the rest and then 75.1 and 74.5 for the last two laps to seal the win in 16:19.14 and will be the number two seed at the NCAA meet. Bridgmon used this as a training run and finished seventh in 16:31.96. In two weeks she is entered for the NCAA meet in the 10,000 meters as the fifth seed.

The men's 5,000 meters meandered over 2,000 meters at 5:43.27 (14:18 pace). At 2400 meters the 2008 NCAA fourth place finisher junior David McNeil of Northern Arizona decided to push the pace and ran a 63.7 lap. That strung out the competition and Galen Rupp who had been floating around the back of the pack moved forward to catch the lead group and now there was a pack of six including fellow Duck senior Shadrack Biwott. McNeil slowed to 67 pace and ran that particular kilometer (k) in 2:43.5 (by itself a 13:37 pace). He led the next 1 ½ laps but with a k to go Rupp took off. He ran the first lap in 59.39, the second in 58.6 and the last 200 he let off an ran 30.99 for a 2:29.61 last k (world record 12:28.05 pace). McNeil tried to run after him but to no avail and finished at 13:49.77 for second. Biwott was fifth in 13:57.91 to easily get his qualifier as he outkicked sophomore Elliot Heath of Stanford in 14:01.47. Biwott enters the NCAA meet as the fifth seed and Rupp is the twelfth seed. Senior Scott Wall finished twelfth but because of his time at the Stanford Invite in March was taken as an at-large pick by the NCAA committee (four of the six at-large picks were from the west region) and enters the meet as the 15th seed. Joining Rupp (sixth seed) in the 10,000 at the NCAA meet will be freshman Luke Puskedra (tenth seed), sophomore Diego Mercado (15th seed), and Daniel Mercado (19th seed).

Oregon had a great start to the meet and led both the men's and women's team standings (men lead 35.75 to 23 for Arizona and women let 27.5 to 25 for Washington). Several athletes were qualified for Saturday's finals with a great chance to make the NCAA meet.

The next day did not start well. Oregon had run the second fastest time going into the finals of the 4x100 meter relay. Unfortunately freshman Amber Purvis had not run on a track for five weeks and had not run well in the preliminaries but everyone else ran the best they had run the entire year. In the relay sophomore Mandy White ran the first leg and seemed to slow down at the end of her leg. Amber Purvis took off too early and could not slow down enough for White to get the baton to her before the end of the relay zone. They did pass the stick but they were disqualified even though they finished third in the relay. Oregon would have been the ninth seed if the handoff had been legal.

The women's 1,500 meters included six of the top 18 collegians (not including Duck Zoe Buckman). Lisa Egami of Washington State took the lead for most of the race and Duck sophomore Alex Kosinski stayed in the pack. When they hit the bell lap Lauren Centrowitz of Stanford took the lead. With 200 meters to go Kosinski was in third but in the homestretch junior Brenda Martinez of UC Riverside outkicked everyone to win in 4:22.31 to Centrowitz in 4:23.57. Kosinski finished in fifth at 4:24.08 and will be the 13th seed at the NCAA meet. It was such a tough region that three runners she beat at the west region meet were taken to the NCAA meet with at-large bids.

The men's 1,500 was an intense race. Four of the top eleven collegiate runners were in the final (Duck Andrew Wheating did not run) but that did not include Galen Rupp. Ex-Duck Chad Hall of UC Riverside took the first two laps in 59.86 and 60.6 seconds with Ducks Centrowitz, Rupp and Jordan McNamara close by. Rupp decided he would try to run away with the race and ran a 56.2 second lap (3:44.8 mile pace and the world record is 3:43.13) with only Centrowitz willing to follow. McNamara stayed with the pack of six that had opted not to go at that pace. With 100 meters to go Centrowitz passed Rupp and beat him 3:38.30 to 3:39.14. Centrowitz ran 54.8 seconds for the last 400 meters and 41.5 seconds for the last 300 meters. Behind them Garrett Heath of Stanford (3:41.22) out-kicked a group that included McNamara in fifth at 3:43.10. He came into the meet 29th on the collegiate list and needed to finish in the top five to make the NCAA meet. He beat two west region competitors that were added as at-large competitors. The last of six at-large athletes was Kris Gauson of Butler who's season-best this year was 3:42.13.

The surprising entry for the Ducks in a final was Brianne Thiesen in the 100 hurdles. She was eighth seed going into the final and finished fourth in 13.47, not a school record because of the 3.7 m/s aiding wind. If she had chosen to run in this event along with the Heptathlon, where she is the number one seed, she would have been the 24th seed. Joining Thiesen in the Heptathlon is senior Kalindra McFadden, the fifth seed. Junior Keshia Baker ran her second fastest time ever to win the 400 meters in 52.49 seconds and she is the third seed at the NCAA meet. The men's 400 meters had two Ducks, juniors Ashton Eaton and Chad Barlow. Eaton started well but struggled to the finish and ran 47.19 to finish sixth behind fast closing Barlow who finished fifth at 47.11 and will be the 25th seed at the NCAA meet. Eaton will be the number one seed in the Decathlon and junior Marshall Ackley was added as the 17th seed.

The women's and men's 800 meters featured all-American Ducks with a good chance of scoring at the NCAA meet. Zoe Buckman took out the pace from the beginning and ran 62.46 seconds for the first 400 meters. She was passed by NCAA indoor champion Lacey Cramer of BYU over the last 100 meters, 2:05.63 to 2:06.44. Cramer and Buckman will enter the NCAA meet as sixth and twelfth seeds, respectively. Andrew Wheating ran the 800 but no one wanted to take the lead, so Wheating took the lead for the first time. The first lap was completed in 55.2 seconds. UCLA's 2008 NCAA veteran sophomore Cory Primm stayed on his shoulder but with 200 to go Wheating exhibited his typically devastating kick and finished the last half-lap in 26.3 seconds to win in 1:49.48 and will be the third seed at the NCAA meet. USC's Irek Sekretarski closed quickly to finish ahead of Primm, 1:49.88 to 1:49.98 and they will be the 19th and 17th seeds, respectively.

Senior Rachel Yurkovich entered the competition having won her fourth Pac-10 meet and attempting to win her fourth west region meet. Six of the top 14 and seven of the top 16 collegiate javelin throwers are in this region. She made it clear early that nothing other than a win would do. She took the lead with her first throw of 170-8 and ended the competition with a best of 188-8 for another meet record for her and the second seed at the NCAA meet. Senior Ashley McCrae moved into third in the first round with a 151-4 throw but her knee buckled on her second throw and she couldn't get another fair throw and finished eighth. She was an at-large add-on and will be the 13th seed at the NCAA meet. Jamesha Youngblood followed her two jump performance in the long jump with two fair jumps (four total) in the triple jump and she finished with a best of 42-8 to get fourth and is the 18th seed for the NCAA meet.

In the 3,000 meter steeplechase sophomore Claire Michel was a tenth seed. In front redshirt freshman Mel Lawrence took the pace from the beginning as she did at the Pac-10 meet and ran away with another pr and school record 9:52.77. Michel and senior Dana Buchanon gradually moved up through the pack and moved into fifth (10:23.21) and seventh (10:30.15), respectively. Michel was a surprise automatic qualifier and is the 27th seed. Duck senior Chris Winter was the second seed in this race and tried to force the pace with three laps to go but was passed at the end by fifth seed Richard Nelson of BYU (8:47.98) and third seed Steve Strickland of Utah State (8:53.05) as Winter finished third (8:53.93) and will be the sixth seed for the NCAA meet.

Rupp ended his career as a Duck at Hayward Field with a spectacular moment. He joined Rudy Chapa and Steve Prefontaine as the only Ducks to be on the 1500/mile to six mile/10,000 meter list at the time of graduation. Prefontaine set school records in every event from the mile to six mile. Prefontaine was an eight-time all-American with seven NCAA championships and Chapa had one NCAA championship and seven awards. Rupp finished with a great Hayward Field moment and hopes to make Oregon the third school with three NCAA championships in the same year joining UTEP and Arkansas. It would be fitting for the Ducks to accomplish this feat at Arkansas. Fittingly some of the Ducks celebrated with a roast hog. Hopefully both the men and the women will have a bigger celebration in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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