All about the future here

Their runnerup finishes and strong comebacks in the Pac-12 Championships set up the USC track and field teams for the upcoming NCAAs.

A couple of things you noticed about the USC teams as they sat listening to Track and Field Director Caryl Smith Gilbert review Sunday's Pac-12 Championships performance.

The Trojans seemed solemn and serious. Not much celebrating here for the courageous comebacks that had them jumping from fifth for the women and sixth for the men after Day 1 to second behind Oregon after the final day -- after each briefly led with two events remaining.

Both teams, in fact, had scored more points on Sunday than the other 10 programs except Oregon had managed in both days of the meet.

There was also this. With all the Pac-12 squads meeting up on the UCLA practice field adjacent to Drake Stadium, it was obvious how many fewer Trojans there were. All the large state schools surroundng them were overflowing from their team tents on the UCLA practice field with many more athletes than USC's 49.

"We brought 22 men, 27 women" Smith Gilbert said. That was it.

Only it wasn't. There were these other numbers like the 13 events USC won, the 182 points the women scored, the most ever by second-place team, with an amazing 156 scored on Sunday, and the 22.5 points racked up by Trojan sprinter Andre De Grasse, the meet MVP and the first athlete ever to run a sub-10-second 100 meters at Drake Stadium or in the Pac-12 Championships.

"I think they know we're here," Smith Gilbert said of the scare USC gave Oregon's teams winning the men's for a record ninth straight year and the women winning their seventh straight. The Trojans took over the leads in both men's and women's with two events left.

"We took control of a lot of events," Smith Gilbert said. But not quite as many as they needed to.

Unfortunately, one of the two they couldn't control was the 5,000 meters. "We just didn't have enough bodies," said Smith Gilbert, who wasn't sure what the chances were for USC going into that event. "You just don't know how many they're going to throw into the distance events."

Too many, as it turned out with the Duck women scoring 25 points there to USC's none. But this doesn't end it here.

"We're not going away," Smith Gilbert said.

Oregon coach Bob Johnson agreed. “We were in for a fight, and as you can see, it turned out to be that way," he said. "I’d be crazy if I tried to go over all the highlights here, but I know there were lots of them."

Without them, the Ducks would not have won here against a USC team that compiled plenty of "big meet points," Smith Gilbert said.

"We're ready. I think we'll do better in the NCAAs than we did in the conference," she said as USC moves on to the NCAA Regionals in Austin, Texas in two weeks before finishing up at the NCAA Championships in Eugene.

'I think that's what everybody believes," Adoree Jackson said after winning the long jump Saturday and following up with a personal best 10.48 hundred meters Sunday, even if it allowed him to finish just seventh behind USC's impressive best-in-the nation 1-2 of De Grasse (9.97) and Beejay Lee (10.16). "A lot of people ran well although I think I should have done better in the 100."

That's what's been so good for Adoree, he said. "It's great to be around athletes like that, to see how hard they work," Jackson said of the Toronto native De Grasse, the nation's top college sprinter in his first year at USC and the senior Lee.

"This isn't the end of USC," senior Vanessa Jones said after becoming just the second USC woman to win the Pac-12 title in the 400 meters. She was talking about two things -- the NCAAs coming up and the future of the program under Smith Gilbert. "We have so many incoming freshmen coming in. It's not the end of us."

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.


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