Ducks sweep indoors

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Birmingham, Ala. – Although they achieved their goals in different ways, both the men and women’s track and field teams will board their plane home to Eugene as 2016 Indoor National Champions. The Men of Oregon put together another dominating performance, scoring 62 team points, 23 beyond second-place Arkansas, while the women gutted out a three point win over the Razorbacks with 53 team points.

The men had their national title on ice even before Edward Cheserek completed a triple that had only ever been done once before, but the women had to use every ounce of effort in the final event of the day to secure their spot on top of the field.

That final event was the women’s 4x400, which Oregon entered with a five point lead over Arkansas knowing they had to either finish ahead of, or very close behind, last year’s team champions. The team of Alaysha Johnson,Deajah StevensBrooke Feldmeier and Raevyn Rogers put together the second fastest time in Oregon history (3:29.77) to finish third and clinch the sixth women’s title in seven years, matching LSU’s record run from 1991-97.

“We’re a combined program,” said head coach Robert Johnson. “We take pride in being a combined, balanced program at that, we score all across the board in all the disciplines. For them to all share and celebrate together is awesome.”

The balance is something Johnson has reiterated since he took the helm of both programs in 2013, and it was on full display over the weekend. The women’s team scored in seven events from 12 different people while the men scored in seven events from nine individuals.

Though the balance is key, a little star power never hurts. The Ducks have that in spades with Cheserek, Rodgers and Devon Allen who each won individual titles on Saturday.

After winning the 5,000 and distance medley relay on Friday, Cheserek was looking for one more individual title in the 3,000. The junior waited patiently until there were 500 meters left in the race, then decided to push the pace.

“Coach told me to just relax as much as you can, sit back and just wait until a couple laps left and then you can go,” he said. “I knew everyone in the field was giving it a last kick so my gut was telling me just go and I was ready to go.”

His gut instinct paid off, as Cheserek won by a second in 8:01.40. The only person to ever win those three events (5k, DMR, 3K) in the same national championship was former Oregon great Galen Rupp in 2009. It marked the 13th national championship for the Oregon phenom and 11th individual trophy. With still another year of eligibility remaining, he has recorded 63 points during NCAA Indoor Championships, second behind Suleiman Nyambui’s 79.

He was joined at the top of the podium by Allen who set another personal best and school record while winning the 60 hurdles in 7.56 seconds. Allen is the first Oregon athlete to win the event and now has both indoor and outdoor titles to his name after winning the 110 hurdles in 2014. Although both his prelim and finals races were not as clean over the hurdles as he would have like them, the dual-sport star said it was mission accomplished.

“I’m just exited to get the win,” he said. “I just came out here to compete and score points and I did my job. It was a little sloppy, but I hit a new PR so I can’t complain.”

Rogers claimed the women’s 800 crown while looking to be in complete control. The Houston native found her position behind the leader and surged with 150 meters to go, winning in 2:04.68 while also conserving some energy for her anchor leg of the 4x400.

It was the only win of the meet for the Oregon women’s team, speaking to the strength and depth of the 15 entries into the field. The Ducks had two scorers in three different events, with 13 points coming from Hannah Cunliffe andJasmine Todd in the 60. Cunliffe matched her preliminary time of 7.12 in the final to finish second while Todd took fourth in 7.19, her fastest time of the season.

Cunliffe doubled up in the 200 where she finished third in 22.85, the second fastest time in school history and was followed by a fourth-place finish from Stevens who ran 23.02, marking the second consecutive year an Oregon freshman has scored in the 200.

The women’s team had two scorers in the 60 hurdles led by Sasha Wallace who improved on last year’s fifth-place finish with a runner-up finish this year. Wallace shattered her own school record of 7.96 with a time of 7.91 in the final which is tied for eighth on the NCAA all-time list. Alaysha Johnson tacked on another crucial point to the team total with an eighth-place finish in 8.16.

It was women’s team that was surprisingly inexperienced at the NCAA Indoor Championships given the team’s recent success, with the Ducks relying on a lot of young talent and newcomers to rally from a major deficit during the second day of competition. After Todd finished her 60, she was hoping her new teammates could feel the same joy she felt in 2014.

“The feeling of getting that title with that team was amazing,” said Todd. “It’s such a big group of us out here now and I’m excited to share that with all these ladies.”

It was a similar experience on the men’s side for sophomores Blake HaneySam Prakel and Nate Moore, who were competing at the NCAA Indoor Championships for the first time of their careers. The moment was not too big for the mile duo which put up the first points of the day, eight from Haney’s second-place finish and five more for Prakel taking fourth. Moore tacked on four with a fifth-place finish in the triple jump and broke his own school record with a mark of 53-6.25 (16.31m).

The turnover on both sides was a talking point around Eugene this winter after losing the likes of Eric Jenkins and Jenna Prandini and sweeping the outdoor national titles last spring. Johnson, who won his 10th national title as the Ducks’ head coach, said it has been a long journey for this team which began with team meetings on October 1. That is when the team settled on the mantra “Our Time Now,” words displayed on running shirts Worn during Thursday's practice in Birmingham.

The slogan shows the history of Oregon track and field, which has now owns its 27th and 28th team titles, is not lost on the new faces.

But for these Ducks, their time is now.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Edward Cheserek stole the show during the first day of the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on Friday, adding two more national championships to his collection and helping the Men of Oregon earn 20 points between the 5,000 and distance medley relay.

Heading into the day, even the Ducks coaches were unsure if they would use Cheserek in both events, with the 3,000 looming on Saturday. In the 5,000, it was a two-man race with Virginia Tech’s Thomas Curtin but Cheserek pulled away with two laps remaining to win in 13:47.89. It wasn’t until the junior came off the track at the end of the 5,000 that a final decision was made.

“I cooled down and talked to (my coach) and he said, ‘Are you sure you want to run the DMR?’”  Cheserek said after his day was over. “And I said ‘Why not? Let me try it.’”

Cheserek had some help in his second race of the night. Matthew Maton ran the 1,200-meter leg before handing off to Ben Thiel for 400 meters. Grant Grosvenor started the third leg in the middle of the pack, and ran an unofficial 800 of 1:47.82, the fastest split in the field, and handed off to Cheserek. The Newark, N.J., native had his work cut out for him against Washington, which had this year’s NCAA mile leader on the anchor leg, Izaic Yorks. Cheserek made his way behind Yorks and with 100 meters left, began his move to win a second NCAA title in the span of 30 minutes, crossing the finish line in a meet record 9:27.27 and a split of 3:52.84 over 1,600 meters.

“I was a little scared because the 5,000 went out so hard,” said head coachRobert Johnson. “I kind of wanted it to be a little slower and then get moving in the latter part of the race but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise so we’ll take it.”

Greg Skipper added five more points in the weight throw to bring the men’s leading point total up to 25 after the first day. Skipper finished fourth, marking back-to-back years as an All-American in the event. The senior’s best throw came on his third attempt, reaching 73-11.75 (22.55m), setting a personal best and breaking his own school record.

On the women’s side, Oregon received two points from its distance medley relay of Lilli BurdonAshante HorsleyAnnie Leblanc and Ashley Maton who finished seventh in 11:05.76.

The Ducks also did plenty to set themselves up for the final day of competition, advancing 10-of-12 to finals races on Saturday.

Hannah Cunliffe will be in two finals tomorrow after running the fastest preliminary time in the 60 of 7.12 and the second fastest 200 of the day in 22.96. Both times were personal bests for the sophomore, and the 60-meter time ties English Gardner for the Oregon school record and the sixth-fastest time in NCAA history.

Cunliffe will have company in both events. Jasmine Todd qualified for the 60 final in 7.23 and Oregon newcomer Deajah Stevens will join her in the 200 after running a personal best of 22.98. The time for Stevens moves her up to No. 4 on the Oregon all-time list, right behind her teammate who will share the track with her tomorrow.

Oregon athletes had the fastest times in both the men’s and women’s hurdles thanks to Devon Allen and Sasha Wallace. Allen started things off with a school record of 7.58 and Wallace followed with a mark of 7.97. Alaysha Johnson will join Wallace in tomorrow’s final after running a personal best of 8.08 in the prelim to take sixth. Johnson improved on her previous best of 8.12 which already ranked second in school history behind Wallace, and the two best hurdlers in school history will look to continue their tremendous seasons by adding points to the Ducks’ tally on Saturday.

The Ducks will also have two competitors in the men’s mile final, as Blake Haney and Sam Prakel each qualified through the prelims. Haney used his speed to win the second of two very tactical heats in 4:09.33. Prakel finished fifth in the first heat but qualified through with a time of 4:07.76.

Raevyn Rogers held her position as the top qualifier in the women’s 800, leading the field in 2:03.13. Rogers was joined by her teammates Annie Leblancand Brooke Feldmeier with all three of the Ducks in the second heat. Leblanc just missed a finals appearance, finishing 10th and missing the cut by just over a tenth of a second.

Mitch Modin finished the first day of the heptathlon in 12th place and will look to move up into scoring position on Saturday. The sophomore finished the day strong, clearing 6-6 (1.98m) in the high jump and tallying 3,131 points.

Modin will start the second day of competition at 10 a.m. PT before field events start at 12 p.m., followed by action on the track at 2 p.m. The meet will be broadcast live on ESPN3 beginning at 1:55 p.m. PT.

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The path may be different, but the goal is the same: Oregon’s men and women each will be in contention for a team title at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships this weekend in Birmingham, Ala.

The UO women qualified a large contingent of 15 entries, with the Ducks hoping to pick up points in the distances and throws to augment their talent in the sprints. The Men of Oregon, meanwhile, have the top qualifier in three distance events, including Edward Cheserek in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters, as the Ducks attempt to win a third straight NCAA Indoor title.

“We’re 100 percent in championship season, which is always a big thing for us,” UO coach Robert Johnson said.

Cheserek brings nine career NCAA individual titles into the meet, which begins with combined events Friday and Saturday at 10 a.m. PT. ESPN3 will stream the action when the bulk of the meet begins each day, at 3:30 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Last year Cheserek won the mile and was second to teammate Eric Jenkins in the 3,000. This time around Cheserek will attempt to win the 3k and 5k – but the Ducks still could repeat in the mile, where Blake Haney was the top qualifier.

Haney said he can look to Cheserek for clues as to how to handle running as the favorite.

“He gets nervous too; he’s human,” said Haney, who was third in the 1,500 meters at the NCAA Outdoor championships last spring. “Just seeing that, it definitely calms me down a little bit. And knowing I’ve done so many workouts with him helps me deal with the nerves and expectations of being a favorite, and competing for Oregon.”

Haney will be joined in the mile by the No. 6 qualifier, Sam Prakel, whose anchor leg at the MPSF Championships helped the Ducks qualify for the distance medley relay at NCAAs as well. Oregon also boasts the top qualifier in the 60 hurdles, Devon Allen, after his school-record 7.60 at MPSFs.

Oregon will also look to pick up points from Greg Skipper in the weight throw,Mitch Modin in the heptathlon, Nate Moore in the triple jump and Jake Leingang in the 5,000. And the Ducks got a boost when a late scratch opened up a spot for Travonn White in the long jump field this weekend.

The late-breaking news wasn’t as positive for the UO women, who will be without Waverly Neer after she scratched out of the 5,000. But the Ducks will boast a large contingent that hopes to return to the top of the podium after a run of five straight team titles ended with last season’s second-place finish.

Oregon’s sprint crew is well represented, by Jasmine Todd and Hannah Cunliffein the 60 meters, and Deajah Stevens and Cunliffe in the 200. Sasha Wallaceand Alaysha Johnson will contend for points in the 60 hurdles, and the Ducks’ 800 contingent features top qualifier Raevyn Rogers along with Annie Leblancand Brooke Feldmeier.

Leblanc qualified eighth and Feldmeier ninth, and thus will be keys to Oregon’s title hopes. The UO contingent also features athletes ranked 14th in the 3,000,Alli Cash; 14th in the 5,000, Molly Grabill; and 10th and 16th in the shot put,Brittany Mann and Itohan Aikhionbare, respectively.

The Ducks also are on the bubble for points with the No. 8 qualifiers in the 4x400 and distance medley relay.

“For them to be able to get into the meet and then be in the top eight would be phenomenal,” Johnson said. “Those people make the championship.”

Leblanc, the rare veteran of Oregon’s past NCAA Indoor title teams, just missed scoring in the 800 at the NCAA Outdoor championships last fall. She would like nothing more than to provide some points this time around, but doesn’t want that clouding her mind on race day.

“I can’t focus on an outcome,” she said. “I really need to focus on the process, and what I can do, and the race plan that day. … It’s all about staying composed and taking one step at a time.”

If everyone does just that, the UO women think their strength in numbers will get them back on the podium.

“In the past it’s happened that someone was predicted to score ‘X’ number of points and it didn’t happen, and someone who was not even planning on making the final did it,” Leblanc said. “So we’ll just take it one round at a time and one day at a time, and hope for the best.”

Nothing was stopping Edward Cheserek from pulling off the triple this weekend in Birmingham. 
A day after destroying our understanding of distance running with a 3:52 DMR anchor just 30 minutes post-5k victory, the Oregon junior calmly glided away from a deep 3k field with 600m to go and won title #3 in 8:00.40.
Cheserek covered his last 800m in 1:57, and just like that he joined fellow Oregon Duck Galen Rupp as the only athlete in NCAA history to take 5k-DMR-3k titles in one championship.On the backs of Cheserek, the Oregon men dominated the team battle with 62 points, as Arkansas was a distant 2nd with 39. 2016 marks the third straight year that the men of Oregon have been victorious at these championships.Devon Allen added 10 points to the heap with his 60m hurdle title.
On the women’s side, the ladies of Oregon made it a Ducks sweep with a narrow victory over the Lady Razorbacks of Arkansas. 
Coming into the final event Arkansas was down five points, but their slim defeat of Oregon in the 4x400— 2nd and 3rd, respectively— was not enough and the Ducks got back on top after winning five straight from 2010-2014. The Oregon women got big points from 800m champion Raevyn Rodgers, as well as from 60m runner-up and 200m third place finisher Hannah Cuncliffe, to help their cause.

Edward Cheserek completed a rare triple,Devon Allen won another hurdles title, and the Oregon Ducks men ran away with their third consecutive title at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships on Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama.

Not to be outdone, the Oregon women joined the men as champions as the Ducks swept both indoor titles, just as they did in 2014. The UO women have won six of the last seven indoor national championships.

Cheserek won Saturday's 3,000-meter title to go along with the 5,000 and distance medley relay titles he won on Friday. The junior joined Galen Rupp as the only two men to sweep that distance triple at the NCAA indoors.

Those three victories gave the Ducks 30 points, and they cruised to victory with a total of 62. Arkansas finished a distant second with 39 and Tennessee was third with 34.

Cheserek finished more than a second ahead of the pack in the 3,000 with a time of 8 minutes, 0.40 seconds.

Allen won the 60-meter hurdles, crossing in 7.56 seconds to top Freddie Crittenden of Syracuse, who was second in 7.64. The victory gave the sophomore speedster a second NCAA title to go with his win in the outdoor 110 hurdles in 2014.

The UO men also scored big points in the mile, with sophomores Blake Haney and Sam Prakel combining for 13 by finishing second and fourth, respectively.

While the men cruised to their title, the women's crown was in contention through the meet's final event, the 4x400 relay. The Ducks held a five-point edge over Arkansas going into the relay, at 47-42. Although the Razorbacks' relay team narrowly beat the Ducks to take second in the event, it wasn't enough to overtake Oregon in the team standings. The Ducks won with 53 points, with Arkansas second at 50 and Georgia third with 45.

Raevyn Rogers led the Ducks women, winning the 800 meters in 2:04.68, but Oregon also did plenty of damage in the sprints.

Hannah Cunliffe was a close second in the 60 meters, and teammate Jasmine Todd finished fourth to give the Ducks 13 points in that event. Oregon snagged 11 more points in the 200 as Cunliffe clocked a personal-best 22.85 to take third, and Deejah Stevens crossed in 23.02 to finish fourth.

Sasha Wallace took second in the 60 hurdles and Alaysha Johnson placed eighth for nine more points, and Alli Cash finished seventh in the 3,000 for two points.

It all added up to a familiar ending for the Ducks — back on top as NCAA champions.

IRMINGHAM, Ala. – Stars Edward Cheserek and Oregon and Molly Seidel of Notre Dame continued their domination of the distance events at the NCAA level as tonight both picked up their second individual titles of the 2016 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships by capturing the 3,000s with ease.

Men’s Race: Edward Cheserek Broke It Open With Three Laps To Go

King Ches completes the triple.

King Ches completes the triple.

Saturday night in Birmingham, Alabama, was the coronation of Edward Cheserek’s historic triple as he became just the second runner in NCAA history to complete the 5K-DMR-3K triple, joining fellow Oregon Duck Galen Rupp (2009). Such is his dominance in the NCAA, it might have been tempting to hand him the title before the race was even run, but pre-race, his victory here wasn’t an absolute certainty – at least on paper.

After all, Cheserek was coming back from the 5,000 and DMR on Friday night, where he was forced to run a fast opening 1,600 in the 5,000 (4:17) and a super-fast 3:52.84 1,600 split in the DMR and the level of his competition in this race was much higher than in the 5,000. Moreover, his top competition in Syracuse’s Justyn Knight, Stanford’s Sean McGorty and Washington’s Izaic Yorks were all fresher as they only had to run the DMR on day one or in Knight’s case, no races at all. Those are also guys with good kicks, so on paper one might have thought Cheserek would have to fight for the 11th individual NCAA title of his career.

It turned out Cheserek won rather easily as he completely blew away the field with a final 1k of 2:28.40, with most of the damage coming in the last 600 as he blew the race open with a 28.22 third to last lap and then almost coasted home in 29.16 and 29.83 to get his third victory of the weekend in 8:00.40. Behind him, McGorty won the race for second place in 8:01.55, beating out Knight by .30 seconds. Yorks took fourth with Colorado’s Pierce Murphy fifth.

The Race

Wisconsin’s Morgan McDonald and Eastern Michigan’s Willy Fink took on the early pacing duties as the race started in a very tactical 2:18 first 800 and then sped up so the field went through the mile in 4:26. Cheserek, McGorty and Knight all sat in the pack, never leaving the 3rd to 5th positions. Then a bit before the 2K mark McGorty went to the lead and started pushing and was immediately followed by Cheserek, who was followed by Knight. The real race had begun.

For another 400m the race continued in that fashion with McGorty leading Cheserek and Knight, but then with three laps to go, Cheserek made a huge surge to the front and took off. Such was Cheserek’s gear change that he made the rest of the field look like they were standing still. He instantly gapped McGorty and Knight and while they made an effort to react, the race for first was pretty much over and they were fighting for second. Knight was stuck in third for a moment and by the time he got around McGorty into second, Cheserek was gone with over a second on the field with two laps to go and then more than two seconds of cushion going into his victory lap. Cheserek powered home to win the race in 8:00.40 while McGorty just got around Knight in the final straight to nab second place in 8:01.55 to Knight’s 8:01.85.

Results, quick-take analysis and post-race interviews appear below.  

Results *Lap-by-lap splits here.

1Edward CheserekJROregon8:00.40
2Sean McGortySOStanford8:01.55
3Justyn KnightFRSyracuse8:01.85
4Izaic YorksSRWashington8:02.24
5Pierce MurphySRColorado8:02.40
6Jefferson AbbeyJRColorado St.8:02.43 (8:02.422)
7Luis VargasSRNC State8:02.43 (8:02.426)
8Colby GilbertSOWashington8:02.83
9Patrick CoronaSRAir Force8:03.12
10Connor WinterSRColorado8:04.23
11Willy FinkJREastern Michigan8:07.81
12Morgan McDonaldSOWisconsin8:12.92
13David ElliottSRBoise State8:16.63
14Ahmed BileSRGeorgetown8:24.15
15Reid BuchananSRPortland8:36.41
Patrick TiernanSRVillanovaDNS

Quick Take #1: Putting Edward Cheserek’s Triple In Perspective

We explained in our men’s 5,000 recap yesterday that Cheserek’s probably wasn’t the most impressive double in NCAA history. Well, what about triple? In our preview we said that if Cheserek did the triple it would be “even more impressive” than what Galen Rupp did in 2009. Now that he’s done it and we are analyzing the stats, we’re not sure.

At first glance, Cheserek gets the nod because when Rupp ran his epic triple, he had a lot more time between the 5,000 and DMR (70 minutes of rest compared to Cheserek’s 30 minutes). So that made Cheserek’s double on Friday night more impressive and why some on the message board were asking if it was the greatest double in track and field history. Cheserek also ran a similar time in the 5,000 on Friday (13:47.89 compared to Rupp’s 13:41.45), but had his insanely fast 3:52.84 DMR split while Rupp “only” split 3:57.08.

So there’s little question that Cheserek’s double was better than Rupp’s as he ran better with less time, but then you have to factor in Saturday’s 3Ks. Cheserek ran 8:00.40 (a modest time by his and top NCAA standards) while Rupp ran an extremely gutsy race breaking the field by going out in 2:02 for the first 800 and finishing in 7:48 when his PR was only 7:44. So Rupp’s 3,000 was clearly better.

So who’s triple was better overall? We’re not going to make a call on that right now, but feel free to discuss it on our forums.

Quick Take #2: Cheserek Knew He Couldn’t Leave It Too Late In This One

Post-race, Cheserek admitted that he was “feeling” his double from Friday and actually had a lot of trouble sleeping, staying up until 3 a.m. Talking about making his move earlier in this race than he normally does, he said he knew the guys in the field had great kicks so he couldn’t wait too long. On completing the epic triple, “It feels good to keep momentum going and write my name up there like [Galen Rupp].”