Eaton and Ackley Have Huge First Days

The Oregon men came into the NCAA Meet as the favorite and the first day did not change the outlook. The women also had a good start, as the only competition on the first day was to qualify for the finals. The Texas A&M men and women both had exceptional days as they qualified everyone they needed to qualify.

The Arkansas men lost out on potential points and that will significantly damage their championship aspirations.

A severe storm did not hamper the efforts of Ducks that competed but it did cut off competition at 7:02 CDT and thus halted the schedule at least for the moment. The competition was restarted at 10:15 CDT as competitors were given 55 minutes to warm up. What that affected was the women's pole vault, long jump, 100-meter semifinals, 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals, and 5,000-meter semifinals and the men's high jump, javelin throw, 100-meter semifinals, 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinals, and 5,000-meter semifinals.

Before the meet Head Coach Dan Steele said the staff had prepared the athletes by discussing potential issues with weather and by telling the athletes to have fun. Finals qualifier Rachel Yurkovich said the rest of the team, "will have to stay focused" to deal with the affect on the schedule due to the rain delay.

The first event of the day was the men's decathlon. Ashton Eaton ran 10.35, superior to the NCAA meet record, but was aided by a 4.1 meter/second (m/s) tailwind. Junior Marshall Ackley ran a best of 11.01 with a 2.7 m/s tailwind. Eaton caused himself and Coach Steele a lot of stress as he barely fouled his first two long jumps. Before the competition Eaton had moved his mark back two feet. Then, after his toe foul on his first attempt, he moved it back another six inches. After a foot foul he moved back his starting mark 18 inches. Coach Steele stood at one of his check marks down the runway and watched, waiting to shout to for Eaton to back off, but it was unnecessary and Eaton jumped 7.58 meters (m), 24-10 1/2, and won that event also. While Eaton was unnerved after been through a similar experience in last year's Pac-10 competition, his coach wasn't.

"I was more nervous than Eaton was," Coach Steele admitted,

Meanwhile Ackley took advantage of the wind to jump 6.80 meters, 22-3 3/4, with a 3.4 m/s tailwind and had another personal best, however the wind prevented a personal record (PR).

The shot put was a near personal record for Eaton with a throw of 41-3. Ackley threw 40-3 ½ for a 16 inch personal record. Eaton had dropped to second overall by finishing 17th among 23 competitors in the event.

In the high jump Eaton regained his lead by jumping 1.99 meters (6-6 ¼) superior to his mark from his PR performance at the Olympic Trials. Marshall Ackley cleared another PR of 1.84m, 6-0 ¼, to go over six feet for the first time. Eaton was now in the lead again. In the 400 meters Eaton set a Decathlon collegiate record with a time of 46.85 ahead of teammate Ackley who had his fifth Decathlon PR with a time of 48.33.

Through five events Eaton had set a first day meet record of 4,367 points and a 58-point personal record. Marshall had broken his own record by 166 points with his first day performance of 3,802 points for 17th.

In qualifying, sophomore Vernell Warren had a near PR 7.60, 24-11 ¼ with 2.3 m/s tailwind but finished 20th as the 12th and last qualifier for the final jumped 7.74m, superior to last year's 7.64m final qualifier. Freshman Tarik Bachelor of Arkansas did not make the final. Duck junior Zoe Buckman qualified for the semi-finals in the 800 meters by finishing third in 2:05.46 and Andrew Wheating won his heat in 1:49.42 by running 39.2 for the last 300 meters. The women's javelin throw was the last event before the competition was closed for the thunderstorm and torrential rains.

After over a three hour delay competition started in all of the field events and the women's 400 meters. Former World Junior Champion and now sophomore at Texas A&M, Jessica Beard ran the fastest qualifying heat in 51.61. She does not focus on time or her competition saying "I just focus on what I'm doing."

Keshia Baker of Oregon won her heat in 53.12, her fourth consecutive run faster than her old PR. During the break she commented, "I just tried to relax."

Duck junior Chad Barlow got his first NCAA experience as an individual 400 runner and was last in his heat at 47.15. In the women's 100 Texas A&M qualified Porscha Lucas and Gabby Mayo and Arizona State qualified Charonda Williams for the final. In the men's 100 meters Texas A&M's Gerald Phiri and Florida's Terrell Wilks qualified for the final.

Sophomore Duck Jamesha Youngblood took one jump and got a new school record 6.53m, 21-5 ¼ as she was the only competitor to get the automatic qualifying mark.

"I don't think I touched the board," said Youngblood. "It felt like I flew."

In the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase sophomore Claire Michel broke her school record again and qualified for the final by running 10:13.56. In the men's steeplechase Chris Winter qualified for the final by finishing six at 8:45.87. In the men's javelin throw Ducks Cyrus Hostetler and Alex Wolff qualified for the final by throwing 223-11 and 222-2 respectively. Sophomore Melissa Gergel missed just one height of the three heights she attempted and finished at 4.10m, 13-5 ¼ to qualify for the final. Junior Duck Nicole Blood decided to "take the race." She looked very confident in running 16:15.38. Galen Rupp and Shadrack Biwott easily qualified for the final by finishing in the top six of the first heat.

Competition ended at about 1 a.m. but the competitors showed great energy. Fortunately all of the competitors that may be coming back to compete on Thursday will not have to compete until 4:45 in the afternoon. Only multi-event athletes and the Discus throw will be held until then.

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