Ducks go to Penn Relays!!

This weekend Vin Lananna's Ducks will participate in one of the most prestigious meets in the country. Lananna's teams do not usually go to Philadelphia for this event but this is a special year. The Penn relays have a large number of relay participants from every level coming from high schools, colleges and professional international teams.

Probably the three most prestigious relays are the 4x400 meters, 4xmile/1,500 meters and distance medley relay. The Oregon women will participate in all three among the six relays that they will participate in and the men will compete in the 4x800, 4xmile and distance medley relays. Both the men and women will be very competitive. The Oregon men set the collegiate record in the 4xmile last year when they ran 16:03.24 at the Oregon Twilight meet. This year they will be eligible and likely break the American record of 16:08.5 by Athletics West in 1985 and the meet record by Michigan of 16:04.5 in 2005. Oregon will have returning sophomore Matthew Centrowitz and senior Andrew Wheating and will replace Galen Rupp and Shadrack Kiptoo-Biwott with redshirt senior Michael Maag and redshirt junior AJ Acosta. Oregon should benefit with better competition at the Penn Relays and three of the four runners have run faster than 3:58 (Maag has run 4:00.43) or the equivalent (converting from 1500 meters) for the mile. If Oregon pushes the pace to break the record it will challenge two of the runners to come back 3:20 later in the 4x800 meter relay.

In the 4x800 relay Wheating, freshman Elijah Greer, and Fleet have run 1:49.19 or better in the 800 meters and Centrowitz has only run one race at 800 meters as a Duck (1:51.29 pr). The meet record is 7:11.17 by the team from Penn State from the 1985 race and this year Penn State will bring a strong stable of 800-meter runners and is a favorite. Oregon is the two time defending NCAA indoor champions in the distance medley relay but is not likely to challenge the meet record of 9:20.10 by Arkansas in 1989. Oregon senior Andrew Wheating will run the opening 1200-meter leg which will start his heavy load at this meet. He is prepared for the heavy workload this meet after switching back and forth week-to-week between 800 and 1500 training in this year. This could be a highly indicative preview for what he does at the end of his senior year.

The Oregon women will cover almost all of the relays held at the meet. The most interesting is easily the women's 4x1500 meters. Oregon has not had this many great 1,500 meter runners since Oregon set the world record in the 4xmile relay in 1985 (18:39.58). This year Oregon has four 1,500 meter runners ranked among top 13 in the country in the 1,500 meters. Senior Zoe Buckman just returned from finishing third at the Australian championships in the 1,500 meters and has run 4:12.80 which put her on Oregon's all-time list. Freshmen Jordan Hasay (4:14.67) and Anne Kesselring (2:06.90/4:18.80) join the rest of the Ducks (except for Nicole Blood) in making their debuts at this meet. Junior Alex Kosinski debuted on the track with her 4:22.92 at the Pepsi meet. Senior Nicole Blood (4:19.57) and freshman Chloe Steinbeck (2:08.31) will help in the 4x800 and distance medley relays.

Tennessee has lost last year's athlete-of-the-meet Sara Bowman who helped Tennessee set records of 17:08.34 in the 4x1500 (4:10) and 8:17.91 (2:03) but returns three members from each of those teams. Tennessee beat Oregon indoors in the Distance Medley Relay at the NCAA indoor championships but neither is expected to challenge the meet record of Villanova from 1988 (10:48.38). NCAA cross country champion Villanova will challenge in the 4x1500 meter relay.

The Oregon women sprinters will run in the 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400 relays and the members will get a good preview for the NCAA meet as there is a semifinal and final for every race in the three day period. Sophomore Amber Purvis is ranked fourth in the country in the 200 (23.00w) and 13th in the 100 (11.38w). She is joined by NCAA indoor 400-meter runner-up Keshia Baker (23.53w/51.29 prs) on all three relays. Juniors Jamesha Youngblood and Mandy White (11.62w and 23.82w at the Pepsi Relays) . Oregon will use freshman Alex Davidson (12.15/24.23w) and junior Michele Williams (23.99w/53.49 prs) on the relays.

Oregon is ranked seventh in the country this year in the 4x100 meter relays (44.13 school record) and will again face a Texas A&M (42.56) team that could be the first collegiate team ever to break 42 seconds for the relay. The meet record is 42.59 held by the LSU squad from 2008. The 4x200 meter relay will see many of the same challengers and Oregon will battle the favored A&M squad who will also challenge the 4x200 meter relay set by Pat Henry's LSU squad in 2003 (1:29.78).

Oregon surprised the track world by winning the 4x400 meter relay at the NCAA indoor championships. Earlier in the indoor season the Ducks had lost to Arkansas but beat them at the NCAA meet. Right now Arkansas is the top seed with their win at the Texas Relays (3:31.20) ahead of LSU (3:31.46) and A&M (3:32.94). Oregon has yet to run their top squad at a meet outdoors but ran 3:32.97 to win indoors. In many athlete's likely third relay (sprint medley and distance medley 400 leg also possible) we may not see great times but the athlete to watch is Jessica Beard of Texas A&M who has run a 49.8 relay split at the Texas Relays earlier this year. If she performs that well at this meet with a likely 4x200 meter leg in addition to the other longer sprint relays she will likely be athlete of the meet this year.

After the UCLA dual meet coach Lananna was very excited about the prospects of this meet and said, "We are going to put on a show." Based on the depth of Oregon's middle distance corps and women's sprinters this is likely to be Oregon's greatest performance ever at this meet.

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