Ducks favored to repeat at Pac-10 meet

Oregon is heading into the Pac-10 championships trying to defend their crowns. The men have won three-in-a-row and the women are trying to repeat. There are ten defending Pac-10 champions on this team (including Ashton Eaton and Briane Theisen who have already defended their titles).

Associate athletic director Vin Lananna is giving the team needed focus, "Always there is this idea about repeating. Every year it is unique, it is special." The men's experience (three consecutive titles) does help, "The guys know how to win." Every win does make a difference, "It is special in its own right. It's about winning, not winning to repeat."

The Oregon team is aided by the leadership of some very talented performers. The men have been led the last two years by four-time NCAA champion Ashton Eaton and Vin said of him, "He leads by example. I don't think there are enough surperlatives to describe him. Take a look at his best marks. He is a team of his own." Vin said of the women's leadership, "Brianne is one of the captains. She has made her feeling known that she wants everyone to compete."

This senior class of 23 athletes has a combined 37 all-American awards and have won ten NCAA event and eleven Pac-10 event titles. Nine women have contributed five Pac-10 titles and 18 all-American awards (one NCAA title). It is no surprise that the 14 men have contributed to three Pac-10 team titles, one NCAA team title, and contributed to two other NCAA team runner-up performances on the track. Graduate Keshia Baker is still weighing her post-collegiate options and said about how important her last season is, "It hits me every day."

It is likely the two teams will each score over 150 points unless they pull athletes out of events at the end of the meet. There have been only four men's teams that have scored over 160 points in the last 30 years and the best performance by a second place team in that time was 142.5 points (Oregon in 1995). The competition will be tough but Oregon's experience should prevail. On the women's side Oregon will likely have to push to the end of the meet. The lowest winning score since 1997 was 154 points (2006). There have been a few second place scores over 150 (USC scored 161 in 2000).

The men will likely dominate the middle-distance events and have other strong events (javelin throw and 110 hurdles). The women may win several titles but still have trouble winning due to scoring very few points in the throwing events. Oregon's Amber Purvis is favored to win Oregon's first ever Pac-10 women's title in the 200 meters. Oregon is favored to win titles in events for the first time since the early and mid- 1990s – 100 (Amber Purvis), 10,000 (Nicole Blood), 4x100 and 4x400 relays and could win their first title in the 3,000 meter steeplechase (Claire Michel).

The men will be led by two leading candidates for the Bowerman trophy, seniors Ashton Eaton and Andrew Wheating. Eaton is favored to win the 110 hurdles and long jump and Wheating is favored to win the 800 meters and was not entered in the 1,500 meters because he wasn't needed. Eaton admitted he saved something for this weekend (three seconds in 1,500 from breaking the school record in the decathlon) because he said, "I wasn't thinking about the record." Wheating said before the meet, "We don't know how to lose." NCAA leader Hostetler is expected to repeat as javelin champion and last year's NCAA 1,500 meter leader, Matthew Centrowitz is expected to defend his Pac-10 championship.

Senior Keshia Baker and junior Jamesha Youngblood are expected to defend their Pac-10 championships in the 400 meters and long jump, respectively. They join Purvis in returning to their home turf for the championship meet, the east Bay. All three are excited to go home and Baker said, "I told everybody I know to come." Youngblood said, "My whole family is going to be there. I have 60 friends and family that will be routing for the whole team."

It will be tough for Youngblood (triple jump), senior Zoe Buckman in the 800 meters, and junior Melissa Gergel in the pole vault to defend their titles. Training and injuries have affected their preparation for these events.

Before the meet associate athletic director Vin Lananna said, "I think we are excited for the challenge." The team does have a target on their backs. Hostetler said, "Our whole team is hated on." They are rallying around this by taking it the right way, "I definitely think it is a motivation…We are going for it 100%."

eDuck Top Stories