ducks sweep NCAA meet


On Saturday, Johnson's résumé gained an item that moves to the top of the list. One year after the Men of Oregon ended a 30-year title drought at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the women did the same Saturday at Hayward Field. That gave the Ducks a sweep of the outdoor team titles in 2015, and for the first time in school history.

"That's the crown jewel," Johnson said, a few minutes after being doused with the contents of an ice bucket — for the second time in as many days.

The Oregon women's march to the NCAA team title wasn't as dominant as that of the men. And the Ducks dug themselves a hole at the outset of the final session of the four-day meet — the 4x100-meter relay quartet was disqualified after a bad second exchange.

Where the women followed suit with the men was in getting a couple of meet-changing performances that busted the form chart. The first came when Jenna Prandini leaned to the 100-meter title in a windy 10.96 seconds, and the second came 30 minutes later when precocious freshman Raevyn Rogers claimed the 800-meter crown.

Those performances helped the Ducks pile up 59 points, nine more than runner-up Kentucky.

"Ever since I've been here they've been emphasizing winning that team title outdoors," said Prandini, a junior who contributed to NCAA Indoor team titles in 2013 and 2014. "I've been here four years — I redshirted my freshman year — and we've never been able to get it. To come out here and do it in front of this crazy crowd, it's incredible. I don't even know how to explain it."

Oregon's only other women's outdoor title came in 1985, led by the likes of Claudette Groenendaal, Kathy Hayes, Leann Warren and Quenna Beasley. The Ducks finished second four straight years from 2009-12, and finally broke through on Saturday.

"We've been second at this one for a long time," Johnson said. "So for us to finally get one, on the anniversary of the '85 team, is pretty special."

With other teams unable to grab momentum, Oregon's biggest lingering threat as Saturday wore on was Texas A&M and its talented sprint crew. Luckily for Johnson and the Ducks, they had their superstar Prandini ready to go head-to-head with the Aggies.

The showdown began in the 100. Texas A&M's two entries finished fifth and eighth, five team points that were only half the 10 that Prandini earned for Oregon with her victory. Her start didn't provide much of an edge, but Prandini surged past Morolake Akinosun of Texas over her final five strides and leaned past Akinosun at the tape.

Final margin of victory: one one-hundredth of a second, 10.96 to 10.97.

Next on the track was Rogers. Clemson's Natoya Goule, the 2013 champ, went out well ahead of the 800 field as usual; Rogers demonstrated maturity beyond her years — and some quality coaching — by not taking the bait. She led the rest of the pack through the first 400, ignoring Goule.

In the backstretch, Rogers made her move, beginning to reel in Goule. Rogers took the lead in the Bowerman curve, then continued driving toward the finish line to cross in 1:59.71, a PR by nearly two seconds.

In winning, Rogers became the second freshman ever to win the NCAA Outdoor women's 800, and ran the fastest time in collegiate history by a freshman. She also fulfilled the primary accomplishment on a list of goals she wrote out in August, at the urging of coaches.

"Something gave me the confidence to write that down at the time," Rogers said. "I've kept it in my head since then (and) it was on my mirror. I just had to keep that in mind. Our coaches reminded us every day to stay focused on accomplishing our goal every day in practice."

Rogers also picked up her team, at a critical moment in the meet. Not only had the 4x100 relay been DQ'd, but freshman Nikki Hiltz was unable to steal a point in the 1,500 — a double dose of bad news to start the meet that didn't necessarily auger a national championship.

Rogers changed all of that.

"Our team, we have each other's backs," Rogers said. "I just wanted to give back the happiness to those girls. They worked their butts off; those are my teammates, my sisters, and I wanted to work hard for them just as they've worked hard this whole year."

In turn, Prandini got a boost from Rogers' effort. Running in a new format that largely split up the men's and women's competitions — and also condensed the meet schedule — for the sake of a national TV audience, Prandini had to run three times within two hours.

Her final race, the 200, featured two more runners from Texas A&M. Oregon had just one more chance to score points, Molly Grabill, who was not on most form charts in the 5,000. Prandini could either wrap up the meet for the Ducks in the 200, or leave the window open for the Aggies.

Her response: A second-place finish in 22.21 seconds, while the A&M runners finished third and sixth. Oregon had clinched its first women's NCAA Outdoor title in 30 years.

"There's definitely some Hayward magic out there right now," Prandini said. "I watched Raevyn's race under the stands (prior to the 200), and I was so pumped for her. I knew I just needed to get out there on the track, run a good race and clinch the team title."

Mission accomplished. Crown jewel achieved.

Entering the final day of men's competition in the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the Ducks had the ultimate ace in the hole. Or make that aces: Edward CheserekEric Jenkins and Will Geoghegan in Friday's penultimate event at Hayward Field, the 5,000 meters.

Whatever happened the rest of the day, Oregon knew it could count on big points from that trio.

What the Ducks didn't know was that, as it turned out, they wouldn't need them.

Cheserek, Jenkins and Geoghegan nearly repeated their 1-2-3 finish from the NCAA Indoor 3,000, running 1-2-4 on Friday. That gave the Ducks 23 points — in a meet they won by 29 over their closest competition. Thanks to surprising second-place finishes by Johnathan Cabral in the 110 hurdles and Marcus Chambers in the 400, Oregon had the team title all but wrapped up before the 5,000 even began.

"Great day for the Ducks," said UO coach Robert Johnson, who celebrated the Men of Oregon's second straight NCAA Outdoor title, and seventh overall. "Great day to be a Duck. Great day, all Duckies. Unbelievable performance."

Nursing a first-day lead but wary of potential SEC spoilers Florida, Arkansas, Texas A&M and LSU, the host Ducks saw nearly everything go as well as expected or better. None of the competition could get on a roll the way Oregon did.

The Ducks' series of pleasant surprises began in the 1,500, as freshman Blake Haney took third. On track to redshirt midway through this season, the freshman instead capped a meteoric rise by running 3:55.12 for six points toward the team score; he became just the fourth freshman since 1999 to finish third or better in the 1,500.

Two events later, Cabral followed up Devon Allen's national title in the 110 hurdles last season by taking second, parlaying an exceptional start into a wind-aided time of 13.22. And two events after that, Chambers stayed relaxed through the windy back stretch, then unleashed a furious kick to finish second in the 400 in 45.59.

"Blake had a great race — I was excited for him," Chambers said. "And then Cabral came out and took second, ran great. That just gave me more energy for my race. We're all just doing what we can, feeding off each other."

Chambers was one of five Ducks who scored for the UO national title teams both indoors and outdoors this season. But this week's effort was much more balanced. The indoor title came largely due to Oregon's distance runners; the same can't be said of the contributions outdoors.

"We don't want to always rely on Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins," Chambers said. "They're great runners, we all know that. But we want to show people that other people on our team can score, too."

By the time the 5,000 runners were toeing the line for the start, only Arkansas remained a threat. The Razorbacks trailed Oregon by 18 points, with the potential to get 10 in each of the last two races.

Conceivably the Ducks could have come out of the 5,000 with no points, and thus Arkansas remained mathematically alive.

Less than 15 minutes later, those hopes were dead. Cheserek won in 13:48.67, Jenkins was second in 13:48.92 — repeating their 1-2 finish in the 10,000 on Wednesday — and Geoghegan was fourth in 13:49.35.

The duo of Cheserek and Jenkins capped a remarkable year-plus in which they helped lead Oregon to two NCAA Outdoor titles and one indoors, combining on 10 individual titles in the process if cross country is included.

"The training (together), really, it's everything," said Jenkins, a senior who ran his last collegiate race. "So when you go into races, it almost feels like another day — especially since it's a home. Coming into the last lap, when it gets tough and you see your teammates around — I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again, you just get a sense of relaxation."

The 23 points from the 5k gave Oregon 85 for the meet — three fewer than their NCAA record set a year earlier.

Cheserek's double this week in the 5,000 and 10,000 gave him eight career individual titles — one more than the great Steve Prefontaine.

"I think it's amazing," said Cheserek, who scored for all four of Oregon's title teams over the last two years — two each indoor and outdoor. "I'm trying to write my name, to be a legend like him one day."

That day may come sooner rather than later. But Friday was about the Men of Oregon as a team, and form chart-busting efforts by the likes of Cabral and Chambers that made it a runaway for the Ducks in the NCAA Championships.

Oregon men, women sweep Pac-12 championships



LOS ANGELES — The Oregon men’s and women’s track and field teams have done it again.

The Ducks swept the Pac-12 championships Sunday, the men winning their ninth straight conference title and the women surviving to win their seventh in a row.

Unlike in previous years, though, this year’s crop of championships was anything but dominating. Both teams were locked in a back-and-forth fight with USC, with the Trojans and their stable of sprinters giving them big points. Those points, though, couldn’t overcome Oregon’s closing kick in the 5,000 meters and the women’s 4x400-meter relay.

Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins finished 1-2 in the men’s 5,000 and Will Geoghegan and Jake Leingang were fifth and sixth, giving Oregon 25 points in the race to take a 138-115 lead on the Trojans with two events left. It was a lead the Trojans couldn’t overcome, and the Ducks piled it on after adding a few more points in the triple jump, discus and a victory in the 4x400 for a final tally of 152-121.

The Oregon women also took the lead back from USC in the women’s 5,000 and had to not falter in the final event — the 4x400. The Trojans won the relay, and the Ducks — needing a third-place finish or better — finished in 3 minutes, 32.12 seconds to finish second.

The final team scoring was Oregon 185, USC 182.

LOS ANGELES – In what is becoming tradition, the Oregon Ducks swept the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships Sunday at Drake Stadium.

The Oregon men won going away, and the UO women showed a flair for the dramatic. The bottom line was the same.

The Ducks have owned this meet since 2009, when the women began a streak of seven consecutive titles. The men have won nine in a row, and 10 of the last 11.

"Unbelievable team effort by both the men and the women," UO coach Robert Johnson said.

Oregon's women's team was without junior Jenna Prandini, who won three events at this meet last year. She apparently is ill.

Sprinter Ariana Washington, a probable scorer in two events and a member of the 4x100 relay, was left home with an injured foot.

Former national prep record-holder Haley Crouser left the team during the regular season.

The men were missing 2014 USATF 110 hurdles champion Devon Allen (knee), Pac-12 110 hurdles leader Johnathan Cabral (hamstring) and Johnny Gregorek, who qualified on Saturday for the 1,500 final but was left at the hotel because of an illness.

"There are some issues there that he has to go and clean up, and take care of," Johnson said.

It should have been trouble. Instead, Oregon won the men's meet with 152 points, outscoring USC, second with 121.

The Ducks nailed it down emphatically before a crowd of 1,212 by winning the men's 4x400 in 3 minutes, 5.05 seconds after the meet already had been wrapped up.

"We wanted to end the meet with a win," anchor Marcus Chambers said. "We never want to go out just to go around. We compete to win."

The UO women had their hands full with USC all day. The Ducks didn't clinch until anchor Ashante Horsley brought the 4x400 home in second place in the meet's final event to give Oregon 185 points. Second-place USC had 182.

Everywhere you looked, an Oregon athlete was stepping up.

The UO men scored in 17 of 21 events, and the UO women in 18 of 21. Some of the performances were spectacular.

Chambers won the 400 in 45.21, a personal record and the No. 4 time in school history.

The versatile Jasmine Todd, second on Saturday in the long jump, ran the key, second leg on the makeshift UO 4x100 that placed second, blitzed the field to win the 100, and led teammate Sasha Wallace to a 1-2 finish in the triple jump.

Todd's winning triple jump of 42 feet, 11¾ inches is a PR by more than a foot and No. 3 in school history. She finished with a meet-best 35 individual points.

Freshman Raeyvn Rogers won the 800 from in front in 2:01.67, a PR and No. 4 in school history behind Claudette Groenendaal, Laura Roesler and Leann Warren. Annie Leblanc kicked from behind to finish second in 2:03.77.

Sophomore Ben Thiel blew up the form charts by winning the 400 hurdles in 50.32, No. 4 on Oregon's career list.

The UO men went over the top in the 5,000 when Edward Cheserek and Eric Jenkins coasted across the finish line in first and second. Cheserek's winning time was 13:45.25. Jenkins finished in 13:45.33. Teammates Will Geoghegan and Jake Leingang were fifth and sixth respectively.

Who saw all of that coming?

Even the UO coaches weren't sure. They convened a meeting with the Ducks on Saturday night.

"We gave them the facts," Johnson said. "Everybody has these dope sheets, and we have to exceed those."

Which is how it played out. The Ducks, Leblanc said, wanted to represent.

"We couldn't take this Pac-12 title for granted," she said. "In past years we've had the chance to go in with a cushion. People didn't need to double, triple, whatever. This one was a fight.

"The motto for the week was, 'Be Oregon.'"

Which, Johnson said, means living up to the school's track & field tradition.

"For them to do what they did today definitely harkens back to some of those great teams Oregon has had," he said.

The women took it to the wire.

The Ducks led USC 177-172 going into the 4x400. The Trojans had the league's top-seeded relay. Assuming a USC victory, Oregon need to finish third or better to win the meet outright.

Johnson pulled the members of his 4x400 – Rogers, Christian Brennan, Leblanc and Horsley -- together on an adjacent field before the race.

"We talked about how we had to be third or better," Johnson said. "Those are the facts of the meet. Now let's flush that thing down the stool and see if we can't try to win this thing."

The Ducks needed third, and finished second.

It figures. They were better than expected all the way.

Not much interest in the Pac-12 Championships in SoCal: Oregon track & field rundown

Liz Brenner
Oregon's Liz Brenner unloads the javelin Saturday at the Pac-12 Championships. She placed third. (Alex Gallardo/AP Photo)
Ken Goe | The Oregonian/OregonLiveBy Ken Goe | The Oregonian/OregonLive 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter 
on May 17, 2015 at 8:48 AM, updated May 17, 2015 at 8:50 AM

LOS ANGELES -- A couple things  ...

-- I thought the announced attendance of 1,194 at the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships yesterday looked about right, which means there is a pretty good track meet going on that nobody here seems to know about.

A big chunk of the fans who were in Drake Stadium seemed to be friends or family members of the athletes competing.

And to be honest, there isn't a lot of spectator appeal to what is a very long day at the track, especially if you don't already have a compelling rooting interest.

I'm not sure how motivated college track & field is to change this, or how much the average college coach cares whether there are fans around to watch. It's not surprising to me that the Pac-12 Networks don't want to show this thing live. It would be a nightmare to broadcast, with lots of dead time and preliminary heat after preliminary heat of qualifying races.

One guy who does care, though, is TrackTown USA president Vin Lananna. He is here and watching the proceedings with a careful eye.

When the NCAA Championships unfold next month at Hayward Field under Lananna's direction, the meet will be staged with spectators in mind. I think the decision to split the genders is really smart. The Friday and Saturday finals will be fast-paced, and fit neatly into compact television windows.

-- Oregon star Jenna Prandini scratched out of the Pac-12 Championships, and the Ducks still might sweep the meet.

Is there another college track team that could lose an athlete capable of winning three individual events, one who also runs a leg on a contending 4x100 team, and still be in position to possibly claim a team title?

It speaks volumes to how deep the Ducks are, and how good they are across the board.

Prandini is said to be ill. I don't know what is going on exactly. She is at the meet, and based on what I can see, looks pretty darn healthy. UO coach Robert Johnson spoke of her being "checked out and evaluated."

-- I'll be at the meet again today, and file updates on Twitter and as I can. It's not an ideal media set up. You can see well from press row, but the internet is spotty, and you're a long way from the mixed zone and athlete interviews. The internet is excellent from the mixed zone, but you can't see anything.