Oregon has been stronger in the long relay this last decade because Oregon has had better 400-meter runners and this year that has held true so far this season.
As usual Ashton Eaton will play a large role in helping Oregon win. He will battle one of the top freshmen 100-meter runners (Randall Carroll) and a strong group of UCLA's (2009 Pac-10 champion) short relay runners (led by sophomore Pac-10 fourth placer Jamal Alston). He will also help Oregon in both relays and compete against UCLA's strong long jumpers sophomore Nelson Rosario (third at 2009 Pac-10) and Taylor Hobson (seventh at the 2009 Pac-10) and helped by Oregon junior Vernell Warren (fourth at the 2009 Pac-10).
UCLA junior Taylor Hobson had a breakout meet against the Ducks at last year's dual meet and almost beat the Ducks with personal record performances in the high jump (7-1), long jump (25-2 ½), and triple jump (48-10 ¾). Last year he said energized by the Hayward Field atmosphere. That almost cost Oregon the meet.
Oregon is expected to have senior Andrew Wheating start his outdoor season by running the 800 and 1,500 meters. He would be favored to win both due to his tremendous kick. He will face 2009 Pac-10 third-place finisher UCLA junior Cory Primm and freshman Duck Elijah Greer who is expected to make his outdoor debut (he has been slowed by a stress reaction in his femur from indoors). Freshman Mac Fleet will make his outdoor debut in the metric mile (second at the NCAA indoor mile this year) and will make for a lively competition with conference indoor runner-up Marlon Patterson of UCLA.
Typically dual meet gamesmanship has been played by Oregon coach Vin Lananna and new UCLA coach Mike Maynard (formerly of Boise State). Coach Lananna has sophomore Matthew Centrowitz entered in three events (800, 1500 and 5000) and redshirt junior AJ Acosta in two events (3,000 meter steeplechase and 5,000 meters). Star UCLA hurdler Kevin Craddock is rumored to not be on UCLA's team right now but was entered in both hurdle races.
Neither Centrowitz nor Acosta could handle a huge workload like that with great success but both are more likely entered in the 5,000 meters in case Oregon needs them to win. Centrowitz is likely to help Oregon go 1-2-3 in the 1,500 meters and will help Oregon junior Travis Thompson battle the competition behind Wheating in the 800 meters.
Acosta did not look strong in the steeplechase last week but that was his first attempt. It is likely UCLA will have the Knight brothers ('09 6th place Pac-10 finisher Dylan and Spencer) take the first two spots unless he or Oregon junior Kevin McNally can break them up.
Oregon juniors David Klech and Danny Marconi will battle Jonathon Clark of UCLA in the high jump in one of the most competitive and unpredictable events. Oregon junior Vernell Warren consistently prs in this event at this meet and UCLA's Nelson Rosario is using his immense talent to focus more efforts on this event. This event could determine the winner.
Oregon does not have strong 200 meter runners except for Oregon's 2008 Pac-10 scorer, Ashton Eaton. UCLA could go 1-2-3 led by 2009 seventh place Pac-10 finisher Brandon Smith and Carroll. If Oregon puts Eaton in this race he would have been favored to win and put this meet out of reach.
Oregon's redshirt transfer senior Michael Maag will battle a talented group of UCLA distance runners that always perform in this dual. Junior Kent Morikawa, Alex Crabill, and Marco Anzures will battle an injury-depleted (Luke Puskedra and Jordan McNamara are out and the Mercados are not at full strength) distance crew for the Ducks. If Acosta and Centrowitz only run this race expect a fast pace that could challenge Alberto Salazar's meet record of 13:47.80 from 1977.
Oregon will likely have to win the 4x400 meter relay to win the meet. Oregon's sixth place team from the indoor meet. Oregon's Chad Barlow set a pr 46.70 to win the 400 last year and anchored the win in the long relay. UCLA does not have a deep core of 400 runners like in the past and Oregon should win the meet 86 to 77.
Oregon-UCLA Track has Great Promise
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