Ducks head to regionals to qualify for NCAAs

Starting today the Ducks will take part in another different format to determine the NCAA championship field that will be Eugene June 9th to June 12th. The last few years have seen a change in the format and the largest complaint was expense, something now worsened by having fields of 48 for each event in Austin, Texas (West) and Greensboro, North Carolina (East).

Between the two locations 96 athletes (48 relays) will compete in two locations in every event except the combined events. Twelve athletes or relays from each of the regions will qualify for the NCAA meet. The sprints through middle distance events will have two rounds and all other events will qualify through competing in anywhere from one heat (10,000 meters) to four separate heats (steeplechase) with combinations of top few in each race with time qualifiers.

The two vertical jumps will just take the top twelve but the other field events will move the top 16 after three attempts into the last three attempts to determine the top 12. Athletes may have unfair (this format was created apparently for competitive equality) situations where there would be a jump-off among athletes in different pits and having to move their check-marks from one pit to another.

Seedings for the NCAA meet will be solely based on marks in the regional meets so if all of the best marks come in one region, that one region will get all of the best seeds (and as a result better lanes – important in sprint events). Wind and temperature at these two locations could help or adversely affect athletes competing at these regional meets.

Former San Diego State athletic director Jeff Schemmel told Sieg Lindstrom of Track and Field News that in his capacity of chairman of the 2-site option , "Cabinet members believe the 2-site model will be a great experience for student-athletes and fans and result in having the most competitively equitable finals ever."

This will affect teams differently. One team that would love to have the old top 24-28 performance qualifying system would be Texas A&M's coach Pat Henry. The fastest female legal-timed sprinter (11.13) in the country, Gabby Mayo had to pull out of the Big 12 championships just two weeks ago with a leg injury. She ran 13.48 for second in the semifinals of the 110 meter hurdles and then ran 12.09 in the 100 meters when she hurt her leg. She pulled out of the rest of the meet. Before the Big-12 meet she was picked to finish second in the 100 meters, fourth in the 100 hurdles and as a member of the favored 4x100 meter relay at the NCAA championships.

The Ducks will have some surprises at the regional meet. Before the Pac-10 meet senior Nicole Blood hadn't trained for the 10,000 meters but was positive about running the 10k/5k double and she won both. Afterwards in thinking about the NCAA meet she remembers, "I said ‘no way, no double.'" Things really changed for her as time went on, "I recovered really well after that." The NCAA schedule allows for 47 hours between the end of the women's 10,000 meters and the women's 5,000 final (no heats because of the regional format. And she approached Vin Lananna, "She came into my office and said how about a double. I am not great with math but that equals 20 points."

Because of the NCAA schedule Oregon's heavily favored combined athletes, Ashton Eaton and Brianne Theisen, will not compete in their second best events that they would have their best chances to score (Eaton in 110 hurdles and Theisen in the high jump). To compete in those events they would have to participate in those events during the first days of their combined events. As a result Theisen will not have a primary second event (she is fast enough to compete in both relays) and Eaton will attempt to make the NCAA long jump (the NCAA final is after the Decathlon finishes) and he will help the 4x400 meter relay team.

Favored NCAA scorers for the Ducks will have to qualify in Austin, Texas, expected to be hot (90s) and humid. Some athletes in this group have made choices of competing in some events and eliminated others.

The women on that list includes Amber Purvis running the 200 and the relays, Keshia Baker the 400 and the relays, Anne Keselring in the 800 meters, Jordan Hasay in the 1,500 meters, Alex Kosinski in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, Michele Williams will only run in the relays, Mattie Bridgmon will only run the 10,000 meters, and Jamesha Youngblood will compete in both the long jump and triple jump and both relays.

The men making choices include Andrew Wheating running the 800 and 1,500 meters, Matt Centrowitz in the 1,500 meters, AJ Acosta running the 1,500 and 5,000 meters, Jordan McNamara and Michael Maag in the 5,000 meters, Luke Puskedra in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters, David Klech in the 400 hurdles and high jump, and Eric Hersey will not run.

Oregon will take 48 athletes (51 entries) to the West Regional meet. Favorites to qualify for the NCAA meet (regional rankings in parenthesis) include Purvis (third), Baker (first), Keselring (third), Hasay (fourth), Kosinski (eighth in 1,500 and fifth in 5k), Claire Michle in Steeplechase (ninth), Blood (twelfth in 5k and fourth in 10k), Bridgmon (eighth), both relays (second in 4x1 and third in 4x4), Melissa Gergel in the Pole Vault (second), and Youngblood (third in LJ and fourth in TJ).

For the men the expected qualifiers are Wheating (fourth), Elijah Greer (sixth), and Travis Thompson (fifth) in the 800 meters, Wheating (first), Centrowitz (fifth), Acosta (third) and Mac Fleet (tenth) in the 1,500 meters, Acosta (seventh), McNamara (sixth) and Maag (16th) in the 5,000 meters, Puskedra in the 10,000 meters (23rd), Danny Marconi in the high jump (sixth), Jordan Stray in the hammer throw (fifth), and Cyrus Hostetler (first), Alex Wolff (fifth), and Mike Simmons (tenth) in the javelin throw.

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