Rupp and Eaton Win at the NCAA Championships

Ducks Ashton Eaton and Galen Rupp finished off Thursday with an NCAA individual championship for each of them. Sophomore Jamesha Youngblood had a form chart breaking third place finish with a new school record 6.54 meters (m), 21-5 ½, by finishing with the best jump but having the third best second jump.

(PHOTO) Oregon's Galen Rupp, right, followed by Arkansas' Shawn Forrest, back left, acknowledges the crowd as he crosses the finish line to win the 10,000 meter run at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Fayetteville, Ark., Thursday, June 11, 2009. (AP Photo/April L. Brown)

It also came to light that Matthew Centrowitz had been wearing a walking boot and his foot was too injured to allow him to qualify for the finals.

Junior Ashton Eaton started the second day at 2:30 pm leading the competition by 229 points was on track for 8180 points but his goal was 8200 to 8400. His top competition, Moritz Cleve of Kansas State, was off his best (8004) by 71 points but Matteo Sossah of North Carolina had four personal records (PR) in his first five events.

Eaton started the day running 13.85 over the 110-meter high hurdles into a 1.3 meter/second head-wind (m/s) to move to seventh on Oregon's all-time list. Eaton said later, "I did not expect to break 14 seconds," which was probably due more to fatigue than how fast he had been running. That was the fourth win for him in six events.

Junior Duck Marshall Ackley had his sixth decathlon PR in as many events and ran 14.93. He was now 17th with 4660 points and Eaton had the lead with 5361 points ahead of Cleve at 5049, and Sossah was fourth at 5011 but had his fifth decathlon PR.

The Discus Throw was another PR for Eaton as he threw a six-foot PR to (41.79m) 137-1 and now had 6062 points. Sossah (42.44m, 139-3) and Ackley (37.20, 122-0) did not get PRs but Sossah (5725) had now moved into second as Cleve (127-3) was 10 feet short of his Decathlon score PR performance and was now in fourth at 5689 points behind Trinity Otto of Texas A&M at 5719 points (Ackley 18th at 5268 points).

The bane of many Decathletes is the pole vault and Eaton cleared 4.40 meters, 14-5 ¼, and passed to 4.70 meters. The officials changed the direction of the pole vault due to wind conditions (the direction was evident in the high hurdles) during the middle of the competition and admitted miss-communication between coach and athlete led to not clearing 4.70m.

"I expected a lot more," Eaton said. "I had cleared 16-5 with the bungee cord in warm-ups."

Ackley, on his biggest pole ever, cleared a personal record 4.90m, 15-9. Sossah cleared another PR 4.60m, 15-1, and the 2005 French junior champ closed the gap with Eaton to 6793 to 6515 points, but Cleve was now second with 6538 points after clearing 15-9 (superior by 1 ½ feet to his Decathlon best score). Ackley had moved to 14th place with 6117 points.

In the javelin Eaton tried to take out his anger about the pole vault and it almost was a PR, 53.62m (175-11) to move to 7435 points. Sossah is the better javelin thrower and moved closer with another PR at 58.88m, 193-2 to move into second at 7236 points. Ackley had his second best javelin mark ever and threw 51.27m, 168-2 and was in 14th place with 6724 points.

In the 1,500 meters, run at 10:30, Eaton did not want to let Sossah run away with the title. Rupp had just ran and Eaton was inspired by his teammates win, "if they can run 26 (sic 25) laps, I can run four." With conservatively a 28 second lead Eaton did not want Sossah to run away from him. Eaton is competitive but it was hot and by the time the 1,500 started they were going on their eighth hour.

"Coming into the day I felt pretty good," said Eaton. "I was upset with the way I performed in the pole vault, I know I'm better than that. I tried to channel some of that frustration into the 1,500. (Mateo) Sossah is a great runner, and he was close in the standings going into that final event so I knew I had to dig deep."

Eaton's performances had been so strong in the running events that he only needed to run 4:28 for the top total score ever recorded among the four running events. Sossah finished in 4:20.50 and Eaton ran 4:20.75. Eaton's total of 8241w did surpass his goal of 8200 but he won't get the school record because his 100-meter mark was wind-aided. If he had cleared the scheduled height of 5.00m, 16-4 ¾, he would have had a total score of 8420 points (third best collegiate mark of all –time). It was the ninth best collegiate score ever, the fourth best ever at the NCAA championships, and the best meet mark since Brian Brophy's NCAA meet record of 8276 from 1992.

Arkansas' Shawn Forrest and Liberty's Samuel Chelanga had spoken more than two weeks ago about pushing the pace in the men's 10,000 meters and insuring that the winner, as Chelanga said, would "earn the win" and Galen Rupp knew his competitors would try to push the pace.

"I knew they would do that," admitted Rupp. "I would have done that too."

Forrest and Chelanga switched off leading and pushed the pace to. Rupp joined them just before the end of seven laps. They reached nine laps in 9:58 as Forrest and Chelanga continually swapped the lead. They reached 4,000 meters in 11:06, 27:45 pace for 10,000 meters, which was on pace to break the meet record of Suleiman Nyambui of 28:01 from 1979 (against ex-Duck Alberto Salazar). The next kilometer was covered in 2:55 (29:10 pace) for 14:01.46 pace as pacesetters Forrest and Chelanga backed off pushing the pace. Rupp ran easily at this pace and almost appeared to be jogging, it looked so easy to him. With nine laps to go Chelanga pushed the pace to a 68 lap, the fastest lap after six laps of 70 seconds or more. With six laps to go Forrest and then Chelanga surged and they ran another 68-second lap but they slowed to 74 and 76 second laps. With three laps to go Chelanga took off but couldn't run away from Forrest or Rupp. For that 200 he ran 31 seconds (3:01 for the ninth kilometer) and then Forrest led with a 31 second 200. With 700 meters to go Rupp sprinted away from Forrest as Rupp could tell Chelanga was falling back and decided to take off before his planned kick with a lap to go. He ran a 59 second lap and with 100 to go looked around and jogged into a barely run the last 50 meters as he looked around at the competition. He still ran 61 seconds for the final lap as Forrest finished in 2:04 for his last 800 and Chelanga ran 2:32 as he was clear of competition behind him.

For much of the race Duck freshman Luke Puskedra had a large pack in fourth place. Sophomore teammate Daniel Mercado had been sixth at times but neither could keep up much of the group of 11 that they were running in. He had hoped to score points for the team but the freshman was out-kicked on the last lap and finished 11th overall in 29:20.18 (all-American award) and Daniel was 14th in 29:22.54.

The men and women's long jumps were the first scored events of the meet. They ran on parallel runways. Duck Sophomore Jamesha Youngblood was the only automatic qualifier from the day before with a jump of 6.50. She fouled her first attempt and has struggled with the speed that she developed this year.

"It's been kind of tough but then again it's helped me," said Youngblood. "You have to learn how to use your speed and it's been kind of hard."

She got a fair second jump of 6.14m, but fouled the third and was eighth going into the final three jumps. She admitted that she is not consistent with her speed down the runway, and as a result we've seen so many fouls in her competitions. In each of her last three competitions she has PR'd though (Pac-10, West Regional, NCAA prelim). She said she likes big competitions, "when it comes to big track meets I perform better." On her fourth jump she fouled but on the fifth she jumped another PR and school record 6.54m, 21-5 ½ to move into second as she had the second best second jump. In the last round she fouled and Kim Williams of Florida State (with a 6.54m best) jumped 6.35m which gave her the best second jump. In a tight team race Youngblood wanted all ten points for sharing the top mark, "they should give me 10 but I'll take the six, it's all for the team."

The top three are back for next year and Youngblood mentioned that her performance gives her a lot of confidence going into next year.

Junior Mattie Bridgmon came into the meet with questions about how high she would finish. She ran extremely well at Stanford and set her PR (33:37.73) and won at the Pepsi Team meet but a nagging foot injury at Stanford worsened at Pepsi and she had to take two weeks off. At Pac-10 she only finished seventh but she ran well in the west regional 5,000 meters and confidence was high that she would run well at the NCAA meet. Lisa Koll of Iowa State pushed the pace early and only five joined the group. She went out in 3:17 (32:50 pace). Behind them was a group of five runners and then Bridgmon was near the front of a group of runners from 11th on down. For the second kilometer they sped to 3:13 in the front group (32:10 pace) and the group with Bridgmon ran 3:19 (33:10 pace) and one of the runners broke away from the front of Bridgmon's group. After that the front pack ran 3:20 or 3:21 pace and the group with Bridgmon ran 3:25 to 3:28. With nine laps to go and some of the runners ahead of them splitting up, Mattie took the lead of the group she gradually picked off runners and with six to go she was in seventh. They caught the sixth place runner (Lisa Koll who suffered from her own pace) but Bridgmon was passed and she finished seventh in 34:18.20. Mattie has bought into the team theme for Oregon's run for a title in her first year at Oregon.

"This is great, I've never been able to compete for a team," Bridgmon said. "The goal right now is to do everything you can for them."

Sophomore Duck Brianne Theisen and senior Kalindra McFadden had a great Heptathlon first day and were fourth and sixth. Theisen and McFadden ran heptathlon PRs of 13.72 and 14.05 respectively. Nia Ali of USC was in first at 13.17. Theisen had an off high jump of 5-8 ¾ and McFadden equaled her PR at 5-5 ¼. McFadden and Theisen both threw PRs in the shot put of 39-9 ¼ and 42-9 respectively. In the 200 Theisen ran a wind-legal PR of 24.10 as McFadden equaled her PR of 24.62 as both ran under 25 seconds for the first time wind-legal. There are 13 potential scorers in a very tight race of this competition. The first day leader was USC's Nia Ali with a 101 point improvement on her PR Heptathlon score at the Pac-10 meet with her first day score of 3663 points. The top three contenders in the competition are second through fourth. After the first day Liz Roehrig of Minnesota is at 3651, two points better than her best, Bettie Wade of Michigan scored 3601 points, and Theisen scored 3574 (just ten points short of her best). McFadden was sixth after the first day at 3428 (ten points better than her best), Gayle Hunter of Penn State is seventh at 3404 points and Annett Wichman of Hawaii is eighth at 3397.

Not everyone had great success at the meet. NCAA favorite and Duck Redshirt freshman Matthew Centrowitz has apparently been running on a possible stress fracture for the last 1 ½ months and had great success at the Pac-10 and West Regional meet but couldn't make it a third great meet in a row. He gave a great effort and was in good position but with a lap to go he could not put any more effort in the race as the pain must have been too much. Out of the first heat junior Jordan McNamara ran a season best (second best all-time for him) and finished sixth in 3:42.09 and thought he hadn't made it.

When asked if he expected such a fast heat he commented, "No I was surprised," responded McNamara to the question if expected such a fast heat. "The first heat usually goes out slow and there were some big kickers so I thought it would be a pretty tactical race but it turned out to be quick. I can't be too disappointed I ran my heart out. I ran a seasons best, that's all you can do sometimes."

McNamara made the final as the last qualifier with the ninth fastest time.

Junior Andrew Wheating ran his typical race with the big kick to win in a season best and collegiate leading 1:46.21. He felt good about a race, "it felt great. I feel ready to run 1:45 or 1:44. I looked up the meet record of Mark Everett at 1:44.70 and I think I can get that." He will need fast competitors ahead of him to make that happen.

Junior Zoe Buckman has battled injury and illness all year long but had felt confident with great workouts the last two weeks. When she got here her confidence seemed to wane, "I don't run well in the heat." She had two bad workouts but had run well in the last workout before the race. She ran a season best 2:04.68 but finished sixth and was not a time qualifier. In the women's 1,500 sophomore Alex Kosinski was frustrated when passed in the straightaway for the last automatic qualifier. She finished fourth in 4:19.02.

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