Wheating Leads 1-2-3 1,500 Finish

EUGENE, Ore. -- Andrew Wheating and teammates A.J. Acosta and Matthew Centrowitz gave the Hayward Field faithful one final lasting magical moment in the men's 1,500 meters, while the women's 4x400 meter relay team won a national title for the ages, leading the Duck women to their second straight team runner-up finish Saturday on the final day of the 2010 NCAA Track & Field Championships.

Wheating, Centrowitz and Acosta became the first teammates in NCAA history to run 1-2-3 in the men's 1,500 in a finish that electrified the sold-out crowd of 12,812 on hand to help Track Town, USA, set the all-time record for attendance at the four-day NCAA Championships at 45,847 fans. "It was a fantastic meet," said Oregon Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna. "Athletes did really well. A great crowd - really supportive. Track Town, USA, is really awesome especially with the record crowd."

Wheating led the charged Ducks in 3:47.94, with Acosta second in 3:48.01 and Centrowitz third in 3:48.08.

Acosta set a modest pace for much of the race before the final 400 meters turned into an all-out sprint. Wheating covered moves by New Mexico's Lee Emanual and Ohio State's Jeff See heading into the final turn and then thundered off the Bowerman Curve for the final time as a Duck to win his last collegiate race at Hayward Field by .07. Centrowitz went with Wheating and nearly caught Acosta at the tape, who also hit a higher gear when Wheating charged.

"If it was three to four meters longer, I probably would have gone from first to fifth," said Wheating, who became the first man to win the 800 and 1,500 in the same NCAA Championships since Oregon's Joaquim Cruz in 1984. "To cross the finish line 1-2-3 blows everything away. "I saw Centro take off," said the senior from Norwich, Vt. "I knew he was going to finish strong. Down the last 100 meters, I just had to grit my teeth and finish strong. I could see Centro and I felt a presence over my shoulder, I didn't know it was A.J. though. I got the results and I was so happy.

"I felt my legs moving faster and faster at the finish line. It was like I hit the tape and all these flashbacks and my college career was over and I didn't want to believe it."

Centrowitz said the 1-2-3 finish was on their minds going into the race.

"The coaches were telling us before that we had a chance," said the sophomore from Arnold, Md., "We all knew it was realistic to finish 1-2-3. We all had different strategies but it all worked out down the stretch."

The men added their final point of the championships on senior Jordan McNamara's eighth-place finish in the 5,000 meters in 13:54.30. Fellow senior Michael Maag was 16th in 14:07.98.

Also Saturday, junior Vernell Warren finished 18th in the men's long jump in 24-01.75, while senior Ashton Eaton, the three time NCAA decathlon champion, attempted only one jump and took 22nd at 23-08.75

The 1,500 runners led the Ducks to a third place finish in the team standings. Texas A&M won its second straight team title with 55 points, a point better than Florida's 54. The Ducks had 45, with Arizona State fourth at 37 and USC fifth with 35.5.

As exciting as the men's 1,500 was, the women's 4x400 meter relay victory was as historic. Heptathlete Brianne Theisen led off in place of Jamesha Youngblood, who was competing in the long jump, and she handed off to sophomore Amber Purvis who drew Oregon even with the leaders. Junior Michelle Williams then took advantage of a great final exchange to put the Ducks in front, before handing off to Keshia Baker.

Baker ran 50.59 to hold off Texas A&M's Jessica Beard to give the Ducks their first-ever NCAA title in the 4x400 relay, and second overall national relay crown, joining the 1980 AIAW mile relay squad.

"We were in a great position to attack today and I was happy to be able to contribute to what my teammates did," said Baker. "The last hundred meters, the crowd just carried me through the finish line.

"I've been blessed this whole season," said Baker. "It's been a really amazing year. My freshman year no one even thought we could do that. I am so thankful for my team."

Baker led the charge on Saturday as Oregon fought its way to a second place national finish for the second straight year.

In addition to her anchor leg on the 4x400 relay, she also ran the third leg on the Ducks 4x100 relay team that took third. The team of Mandy White, Purvis, Baker and Youngblood ran 43.74. "We had a great run and we are so happy that we came in third," said White, a junior from Lake Oswego, Ore. "We knew the weather wouldn't be too hot in the morning, but unlike other teams we are used to it here. We all had good hand-offs. In every race, we try to edge other teams out."

Youngblood and Jordan Hasay rounded out the point scorers for the women.

Hasay was a surprise third-place finisher in the 1,500 meters as she stayed with eventual winner Charlotte Browning of Florida for much of the distance. Browning, a senior from Florida, took the race in 4;15.84, with Minnesota senior Gabriele Anderson second in 4:16.25.

Hasay, from Arroyo Grande, Calif., then became the highest-placing freshman runner at the 2010 NCAA Championships by taking third in 4:16.25. Junior Alexandra Kosinski, who finished third in the 5,000 meters the night before, was 11th in 4:20.93.

"I was trying to do my best to win points for my team," said Hasay. "I didn't even think I'd get into the finals and I got here so this was great." Youngblood, junior from San Pablo, Calif., rounded out the Ducks' scoring with a fourth-place finish in the women's long jump with a mark of 21-3.25.

Texas A&M used an impressive 1-2-5 finish in the 200 meters to win the women's title for the second straight year. The Aggies totalled 72 points, with Oregon next at 57 points. Florida was third with 40, followed by Penn State with 34.

"I'm glad we got second, I'm proud of them because second is not bad," said Lananna. "Jordan Hasay and Jamesha and the 4x400 relay girls did a great job today."

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