Ducks Get Four Individual Titles

Senior Galen Rupp officially had the greatest season of any collegiate distance runner ever. No distance runner has ever won the cross-country, indoor 3,000 and 5,000-meter (5k), and outdoor 5k and 10k titles in the same school year. He was also part of the indoor distance medley relay champions to make that a total of six titles.

Senior Rachel Yurkovich became the fourth javelin thrower ever to win two consecutive titles (two others won three) with a school record 59.62 meters, 195-7. Sophomore Brianne Theisen won the Heptathlon with a school record of 6086.

Rupp knew he would be in for a rough race. He didn't realize he would have to deal with a shoe problem in the first 200 meters of the race. As a result of his shoe getting stepped on he had to stop running to put on his shoe. When Rupp ran by his coaches Andy Powell and Vin Lanana he pointed at his shoe and as Rupp commented later, "their eyes got real wide."

He caught up to the back of the pack and stayed near the back at the coaches' behest. The pack was led by different runners as they went 4:39 for the first 1600 (14:32 pace for 5,000 meters). Running 4:13 in the next mile led by top-returner (4th in '08) and Northern Arizona's David McNeil and Stanford's freshman Chris Derrick made Rupp respond and he moved up.

The large pack had now broken-up and there were ten runners at the front. A 69-second lap followed by a 63 and another 63 spread out the front runners. Rupp stayed right behind McNeil. A 31-second 200 meters by McNeil and then a 28 -- now McNeil and Rupp were alone through that 59-second lap.

Rupp took off and ran a 27-second 200 meters to lose McNeil and then jogged in the last 50 meters through a 31-second last 200 meters and he won. He ran 2:25 (12:05 5k pace) for the last 1,000 meters.

He had now made history and had scored 20 points for the Ducks. After the race he didn't realize he had made history because his only goal this year was to, "help Oregon win a championship." He doesn't even have time goals for this year, "just help the team."

He offered after the race to help Andrew Wheating and Jordan McNamara by, "getting water bottles or whatever they needed." Later he revealed that this last year is the longest stretch of being uninjured that he has had (not missing any days of training). He is running 100 miles per week with more speed work than ever. He is now second only to Prefontaine (seven) in individual NCAA titles with six and he got them all as a senior.

Senior Rachel Yurkovich knew she was in for a tough competition. Her good friend who had prepped in Vancouver, Washington, Kara Patterson of Purdue, had the top throw among Americans last year and so far this year and also had won last year's Olympic Trials and competed in Beijing. Last year Yurkovich came into the NCAA meet seeded second and still won as Patterson had an off meet and finished fifth. Patterson wanted to turn the tables but Yurkovich knew she needed big points to help the Ducks in the team competition. Yurkovich qualified third in the preliminaries two days before but that was the same recipe for her win at last year's NCAA championships. She started slow as Patterson threw 57.47m in the second round and Yurkovich threw 56.05m in the third round and when her fourth throw came up she admitted she was mad. She threw eighth and broke her goal of 59m with a throw of 59.62m, 195-7. Patterson followed with her best throw 57.96m, 190-2. Yurkovich threw 59.53m and 59.60m to show consistency. Patterson could not respond and Yurkovich became one of four with two javelin titles. She was still sixth all-time among collegians but now had the seventh, eighth, and ninth best collegiate throws ever. She will renew her rivalry with Patterson at the US championships.

Sophomore Brianne Theisen won her first Heptathlon title. She started the day fourth and Senior Kalindra McFadden was sixth. Theisen jumped 6.00m, 19-8 1/4 in the long jump but fell further behind Michigan senior Bettie Wade who jumped 6.33m, 20-9 ¼. Wade led through five events with 4554 points to Nia Ali of USC at 4479, Liz Roehrig of Minnesota at 4461, and Theisen with 4424. McFadden jumped 5.61m, 18-4 ¾, and was now in 11th with 4160 points. In the javelin throw Theisen struggled with her first two throws like she had all season and had difficulty throwing 40 meters. Before her third throw she spoke javelin coach Christina Scherwin and Coach Scherwin gave her a few simple pointers to focus on and she threw a three-foot pr to 45.11m, 148-0. Wade is not good in the javelin throw and threw 32.49m, 106-7. Theisen was now in the lead at 5190 points ahead of Ali at 5123 points (the best of the other three contenders at 127-0), Roehrig at 5096, and Wade at 5078. If Theisen ran 2:13.7 she would get the IAAF world "A" standard of 6100 to qualify for the world championships on the Canadian team (she is the only Canadian with even a "B" standard). So she went after it.

She ran 2:14.77 and told Coach Steele, "I am so disappointed," Theisen told Coach Steele after running 2:14.77. "

Steele responded by telling Theisen, "be happy, you're a national champion as a sophomore."

Roehrig was second with 5892 as she barely finished behind Wade in the 800, 2:20.05 to 2:21.90 for Wade. Wade totaled 5876. Ali, like the Pac-10 meet, had a bad 800 meters and ran 2:29.36 to fall into fourth and total 5824 points. McFadden ran 2:15.07 to pass five other competitors who could not break 2:20. She finished sixth with 5683 points ahead of Annett Wichman of Hawaii-Manoa at 5675 and Shevell Quinley of Arizona at 5668.

Junior Nicole Blood of Oregon was one of several favorites in the women's 5,000 meters. She was confident after her semifinal on Wednesday but knew competition would be difficult. Illinois' Angela Bizzari had beat her last year in the large pack behind NCAA champion Sally Kipyego. Both knew there were a lot of competitors in the same time area under 16:00. The race followed expectations. A large group of ten runners ran together till 1,400 meters to go and at that time Bizzari was ready to take charge and moved with Blood following. With 400 meters to go Bizzari was in the lead and Blood was exhausted from the push and had to hold on to keep second place from the rush of Frances Coons of Villanova . Bizzari wasn't aware of who was chasing her or her competition, she was just focused on running as fast as she could and finished in 16:17.94 ahead of Blood in 16:26.58 and Coons in 16:28.36. Once again Blood was just happy to get the points.

Even with good opportunities no other Ducks scored. Chris Winter was seventh in the 3,000 meter steeplechase with 100 meters to go but Cory Thorne of Louisville (8:45.86) and Kyle Heath of Syracuse (8:45.95) passed him (8:46.06). He had no idea they were coming. The winner was Kyle Perry of BYU with a10+ second pr at 8:29.24 in just his sixth steeplechase. He said, "there's no point in running the 5,000 meters with Rupp in the race".

At the west regional where he finished fourth his coach, Ed Eyestone, said, "his eyes were mostly closed due to hay fever." Claire Michel was 12th in 10:29.16 in the women's steeplechase and Jenny Barringer looked heavy-legged in running an in-season collegiate record of 9:25.54. Oregon's sophomore Melissa Gergel was off her game after winning the Pac-10 and West Regional and finished 14th at 13-5 ¼. In the men's javelin throw Duck Alex Wolff did not make the final three throws with a best of 219-11 for tenth. Duck junior Cyrus Hostetler hasd his best throw on his first throw at 72.71m, 238-6 and was fourth. He never improved and said, "my timing was off." He admitted it had been off since the Pepsi meet. Oregon was in serious trouble in the team competition with five expected lost points in the javelin throw, ten points lost in the 1,500 meters, and lost points in the 10,000 meters and potential points in the steeplechase.

In qualifying sophomore Jamesha Youngblood did not make the final of the triple jump, her weaker event, but Keshia Baker ran her second fastest time ever at 52.33 and finished third in her heat. She looked extremely tired and seemed tight for part of the race. Texas A&M had many entrants make Saturday's finals in both high hurdles for men and women, the 400 meters for men and women, and the Texas A&M women did better than the form chart expected in the 100 with a fourth place finish by Porscha Lucas (11.31) and fifth by Gabby Mayo (11.35). The big controversy was the collegiate record by Texas A&M (42.36) in the 4x100 meter relay. The first pass was out of the zone but the official did not make the call (Television replays made it clear it was an illegal pass). Four teams protested the result but because the relay was not flagged and the NCAA could not overturn the call and Texas A&M had ten points. At the end of the day Oregon's men had 36 points to Florida's 21 points in fourth place, Texas A&M with 13 points in 12th place, defending champion Florida State with 11 points in 15th. On the women's side Oregon had the lead with 39 points but only Baker left to compete, Arizona State was in fourth with 20 points, and Texas A&M was sixth with 19 points.

It would come down to Texas A&M's several entrants on the last day especially 17 expected points in the men's triple jump from four competitors. The women's competition was also down to several Aggie points in the sprint events. The Oregon men had Andrew Wheating in the 800 meters and oft-injured Jordan McNamara in the 1,500 and the women had just Baker in the 400 meters.

Saturday for the Ducks was the earliest the meet had started, 12:05 CDT, and marks significantly improved. Baker was involved in arguably the greatest women's collegiate 400-meter race ever. Joanna Atkins led from lane eight and never gave up the lead to run the fifth fastest collegiate time ever in 50.39. She beat favorite Jessica Beard of Texas A&M in 50.56 for the seventh fastest ever. In fifth Keshia Baker set the Oregon school record in 51.29. She was relaxed the entire race and followed Jessica Beard to set her pr by nearly a half-second. Oregon now had 43 points. The Texas A&M men only finished eighth and ninth in the men's race and Florida Stat went 1-4 and gave the Oregon men hope.

Oregon's Andrew Wheating had talked on Thursday about breaking the meet record of 1:44.70 by Florida's Mark Everett from 1990. In the morning of the race Wheating was sick and couldn't hold down his food. The trainers and coaches did the best they could and he stayed relaxed with his I-pod before the race. When the race started Texas' Tevan Everett took his accustomed position to lead through an admittedly insane 23.88 seconds through 200 meters but had settled into a lead at 51.26 through 400 meters. Surprisingly Wheating was fourth and very close to the front at 51.84. The strange part was that Wheating had no closing speed and struggled to take the lead by the finish line at 1:46.21 (= collegiate leader), just ahead of Everett at 1:46.27 who tried to dive at the finish line to get the win. Wheating was exhausted and admitted, "I don't know what's wrong." He did feel his calf down to his foot in severe pain and did not have his regular kick. Still it was enough to win but he ended up on crutches at the end of the day. Oregon now had 46 points in the lead, Florida with 27 points in fourth, Florida State in fifth with 26 points and Texas A&M with 14 in 11th place.

Duck Jordan McNamara ran his third best 1,500 meter race ever in 3:42.42 to finish 11th but was still disappointed after running this well after only just two months of training, "I don't want to hear how well I did. I needed to score points." With no more events for Oregon to score in and two to go Oregon had 46 points and Florida State, the favorite in the 4x400 meter relay, was second with 36 points, Florida was third with 35 points and Texas A&M had 22 with the triple jump about to finish and the 4x400 meter relay.

In the triple jump three Aggies were in good shape through two rounds of the triple jump but Melvin Echard was one spot out of the finals in tenth. With his third jump he moved into seventh with a jump of 16.06 meters and stayed there as the Aggies scored 18 points with a big best, but wind-aided, jump of 17.10, 56-1 ¼ by Julian Reid for second, Zuheir Sharif was fourth, and Tyron Stewart was sixth. Will Claye, who left high school early to jump for Oklahoma, won with a wind-aided 17.24m, 56-6 ¾, but broke the world junior record with his second best jump of 17.19m, 56-4 ¾. Oregon had 46 in first but now Florida was second with 41 points, Texas A&M was third with 40 points (in the 200 Gerald Phiri was fourth and Chris Dykes was sixth), and Florida State was fourth with 36 points (Charles Clark had won the 200 in 20.55) and there were no other teams in contention.

In women's triple jump Texas A&M's Yasmine Regis sealed the win for the Aggies with her second place finish at 13.82m, 45-4 ¼ aided by 3.3 m/s. The winner, Kimberly Williams of Florida State who won the long jump, was barely wind-aided at 2.1 m/s and would have broken the collegiate record if it was wind legal with a jump of 14.38m, 47-2 ¼. Texas A&M now led with 50 points to Oregon with 43, Florida State with 40 and Arizona State with 37 with one event to go and no one could take the lead from the Aggies.

The men's 4x400 meter relay was back and forth but between Florida State and Texas A&M and not Baylor who had been expected to challenge Florida State. Florida State's Borlee twins each ran under 44 seconds (Kevin in 43.8 and Jonathan in 43.78) to lead them to a collegiate leading and third fastest collegiate time of 2:59.99 and Texas A&M had two under 45 (400 finalists Bryan Miller in 44.7 and Justin Oliver in 44.20) to run 3:00.91 as Baylor had no one break 45 but still run 3:01.12. Baylor was obviously upset with the loss and Texas A&M had a huge season best. Texas A&M win with 48 points and Oregon, Florida, and Florida State tied with 46 points. If Baylor had passed Texas A&M four teams would have tied for the win with 46 points. The Arizona State women's team was fifth in the relay at 3:31.62 to finish third overall with 41 points. If the Texas A&M relay had properly been disqualified in the 4x100 meter relay Oregon would have won with 43 points to 42 for Arizona State and Florida State and 40 for Texas A&M. As luck has it Texas A&M won.

The Oregon men will be without the incomparable Galen Rupp and the women will lack Rachel Yurkovich but there is a lot of developing talent that had some bad breaks (sic) at this meet but that could be overcome by this experience and the fact that Oregon will be at home next year. As Lanana has said a few times, "this is a special group." Expect them to be among the favorites next year and the second place trophies they got this year are special to them.

eDuck Top Stories