Looking back at the Pepsi Invitational

Oregon's win over Texas A&M (212 to 179.5 for women and 186 to 151 for men) in the Pepsi Invitational was not as impressive as it sounded. Pre-meet evaluation of the possible marks would have indicated large victories over the men and women teams of Texas A&M. This week's men dual meet against UCLA will be much more competitive.

Texas A&M's appearance at Hayward Field was a strategic appearance to prepare their athletes for the conditions and track. Pat Henry is the only coach to win a men and women NCAA outdoor title in the same year. With his 28 overall NCAA titles he is the most successful current Division I track coach.

Before the meet Henry said, "I think it's important for our team to see the environment and to understand it. We have a pretty young team, so a lot of this group hasn't been to Eugene. This will be a good learning experience for when we return in June."

This A&M team is not a deep team in events. Most NCAA outdoor championship teams are sprint and jump heavy with a few other events with a handful of outstanding athletes. This year's A&M team is completely that way. The UCLA team coming this week will be a team deeper in events but not nearly as strong in individual events. They have very few weak events if they bring all of their top competitors.

Last year at the NCAA outdoor championships I asked Henry about his program and he advised me he picks athletes that fit their system. He does not take ‘problem children'. The week before the Pepsi Invitational his team won an incredible 10 events at the Texas Relays setting meet records in the women 4x100 relay (42.56) and men 4x200 meter relay (1:20.61) and establishing his women team as a prohibitive favorite for the NCAA championships. The exceptional effort did cause him to back off using his athletes in their best events.

Gabby Mayo (only ran 100 hurdles at Pepsi) is the collegiate leader in the 100 meters after her personal record at the Texas Relays of 11.13 and Jeneba Tarmoh (held out of Pepsi) ran 11.21 at the same meet but neither ran at Pepsi. Laura Asimakis has battled injuries but vaulted 12-11 ¾ and was an NCAA finalist in the javelin and had thrown well this year (165-5) but was held out of Pepsi. 2009 NCAA 200 meter champion Porsche Lucas has battled a bad back this year and has only run the 4x100 so far this year and she ran her first 100 meters of the year. Some did not perform as well as they did at the Texas relays such as Ashika Charan who has jumped 21 feet in the long jump and was held out of the triple jump (A&M still went one-two)

As far as the men that missed the Pepsi Invitational De'Lon Isom (13.62 wind-aided, 13.73 legal) didn't run the 110 hurdles, Seth Mabry (52.67) and Isom (53.67) did not run the 400 hurdles, Julian Reid (26-4 ½) and Tyron Stewart (25-8 ¼), Julian Reid (56-1 ½ ) and Zuheir Sharif (55-0) did not jump in the triple jump.

Henry has assembled an incredible coaching staff to work with the athletes that Henry wants to work with. Vince Anderson was Justin Gatlin's coach at Tennessee when he won the 100 and 200 his freshman and sophomore years before turning professional. He has been the regional sprint/hurdle coach of the year the last three years and the national coach the last two. In four years Jim Vanhootegem has coached 21 all-Americans (through 2008). Juan De la Garza is considered one of the nation's best javelin coaches and his athletes have won 16 all-American awards the last 17 years. Dan Waters has improved the distance corps to the point that Texas A&M beat Arkansas at the NCAA cross country regional in 2008 for the first time ever. Olympians Alleyne Francique (400) and Muna Lee (100 and 200) help with the sprinters.

The A&M teams Oregon, Washington, Illinois, and Missouri faced at the Pepsi Invitational will look a lot different at the NCAA meet. What was impressive about the Pepsi meet was how Oregon competed against the Aggies in some of their best events.

Oregon sophomore Amber Purvis won the 100 against Lucas with a season best time of 11.38 (wind-aided by 2.2 m/s) to 11.57 and White was third in 11.62 with her fastest time ever. White and Purvis ran faster than A&M's Elizabeth Adeoti and Lucas over the first two legs of the 4x100 meter relay but lost the lead on the last leg as Oregon's school record holder in the long jump and triple jump, Jamesha Youngblood was chased down by the collegiate leader in the 100 meters, Gabby Mayo and A&M won 43.89 to Oregon's school record 44.13 (ranked fifth collegiately). In the 200 meters Purvis beat Dominique Duncan 23.00 (3.2 m/s aiding wind) to 23.61 as White ran her fastest time ever for the second time (23.82).

Junior Jamesha Youngblood won the women long jump with a best of 20-6 ½ and second-ranked collegian Ashton Eaton won the men with a personal record of 25-6. He followed that with a personal best in the 110 hurdles of 13.64 (aided by 2.4 m/s wind) and ran an opening leg of 46.0 in the 4x400 meter relay to help give the Duck team a lead it would hold the first two legs but lost to A&M 3:05.69 to 3:08.41. Appropriately Purvis and Eaton were named track athletes of the week by the Pac-10.

There were some great performances by many athletes in this meet. World championship 4x400 gold medalist senior Jessica Beard has been on a tear outdoors after running a 49.8 anchor leg at the Texas Relays. In her first 400 outdoors she beat Oregon senior and NCAA indoor runner-up Keshia Baker 51.64 to 53.62. Indoor mile runner-up Katie Follett (third ranked outdoors) of Washington outkicked Duck senior Nicole Blood 4:17.02 to 4:19.57 as injured junior Alex Kosinski ran her first track race of the year and finished third in 4:22.92.

NCAA javelin leader freshman Sam Humphreys of Texas A&M led a spirited competition as the top five throwers all had prs. Humphreys needed to up his collegiate leader to 251-8 in the fourth round to win as he beat the number two collegiate throw by Kyle Nielsen of Washington, 241-9, and the number four throw by Alex Wolff, 236-4. Second-ranked Tyron Stewart of A&M had a solo show in the triple jump as he improved on his last four jumps and won with a best of 53-0 (aided by a 2.7 m/s wind). Sixth and seventh ranked triple jumpers Tiffany Martin and Vashti Thomas of A&M jumped 42-0 ¾ and 41-2 ¼ to take 1-2 for the Aggies. Washington junior Brooke Pighin moved to sixth nationally with a season-best throw of 166-6 as she passed A&M's Emalie Humphreys' throw of 155-4. The women's 100 hurdles was loaded nationally ranked A&M competitors challenging each other as Gabby Mayo won in 13.10 (sixth ranked) ahead of Natasha Ruddock (ranked third) in 13.12 and Vashti Thomas (ranked fifth) in 13.56. They beat Ducks Brianne Theisen in 13.76 and a pr by Lyndsay Pearson in 13.82 (ranked sixth all-time among Ducks). Pearson also ran a season-best 61.34 in the 400 hurdles.

Freshman Jordan Hasay made her debut in the 5,000 meters. She ran 16:16.02 ahead of senior Nicole Blood in 16:20.60. Hasay was disappointed with her mark but realized, "I was really nervous especially since this was my first 5k." NCAA indoor champion Scott Roth of Washington opened his outdoor season by equaling the meet record with a clearance of 18-0 ½ and moved to third on the collegiate list.

Other Ducks had great marks and performances. Freshman Anne Kesselring of Oregon came in as the underdog and won the 800 meters in 2:06.90. Junior Jordan Stray beat one of his top Pac-10 competition, Zach Midles of Washington, 213-8 (twelfth on the national list) to 206-2. Junior Sara Cole started the meet with a pr 170-6 to win the hammer throw on her last throw. Eighth ranked Brianne Theisen won the high jump at 5-8 ¾ and David Klech and Danny Marconi surprised the competition with a 1-2 finish by being the only competitors to clear 6-9 ¾.

This week the women go to the Mt Sac Relays and the men compete against UCLA. In the three-person scoring system that is a dual meet the score will be much tighter and much more difficult for Oregon to win.

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