In case you haven’t been paying much attention to the Oregon athletic program lately outside of football, it’s been quite a year all-around for the Ducks. Men’s Basketball, Volleyball, and Lacrosse all made post-season tournaments. Acrobatics & Tumbling became back-to-back national champions. The Women’s Track & Field team added a national championship of their own by taking the indoor title, and finished 5th in cross-country. Oh, and the football team was pretty good too, hello Rose Bowl champions! (just ask our friends at AddictedtoQuack.com, it never gets old saying that)
It’s been a year of great team and individual achievements, trophies and other accolades.
But if you thought that the post-Rose Bowl hangover lasts nine months, if this is a time to hibernate until football starts anew, then this past weekend was a loud wake up call announcing that the University of Oregon athletic program is only just getting started.
It’s getting to be championship time, spring sports are wrapping up, settling the annual arguments of who is the best in the land. Conference championships abound as a precursor to the national competitions where the trophies that really matter are won, and in the thick of it in nearly every active sport the Oregon Ducks are poised to be among the best in the land.
It wasn’t always like this, in fact it’s never been like this. The University of Oregon may have a proud history, but never before have the Ducks been so dominant in every sport. There have been times when the Ducks have been very good at football, or basketball, or track; but not simultaneously. Not like this.
This past weekend only further validated that Oregon has truly arrived as one of the premier athletic programs in the entire country. Duck athletes showed their merit in grand fashion inside the great cathedrals of sport scattered around the UO campus. When the dust settled, championships were won, along with a formal invite to host a national tournament, with the prospect of more to come on the horizon.
At Howe Field, Oregon softball completed a remarkable year by taking 2-out-of-3 in their final home-stand over UCLA. The 12th ranked Ducks finished the regular season third in the Pac-12 with an overall record of 39-15, doing so despite a brutal schedule rated as the 8th toughest overall RPI, playing teams ranked in the top-25 an astonishing 23 times over the course of the season. Sunday the NCAA Tournament draw was announced, with Oregon picked as the 11th seed of the 64-team tournament, selected as the host and top-seed of a four-team regional now set to take place May 17-19 at Howe Field.
Also on the diamond, over at PK Park the Oregon baseball team was making quite a bit of noise as well. It’s been an unbelievable year for Coach Horton’s crew, a season that has been marred by a rash of injuries yet ever defiant somehow the team has triumphed, going from unranked to start the year to now top-10 and in first place of the Pac-12 conference.
While the softball team was busy taming UCLA, across the river it was the other Los Angeles school being taught a lesson, as the Ducks defeated USC 4-3 and 4-2 over the weekend, the finale of the series taking place Monday afternoon again at PK Park. The wins enabled Oregon to retain top billing in the Pac-12, almost certain to now host a regional and possibly super-regional once tournament play begins. Nine regular season games remain on the schedule, with Oregon in the drivers seat coming off this weekend’s performance to soon be crowned Pac-12 champions, with visions of Omaha to follow.
But the real attention all weekend was on Hayward Field, the grand old house of run, the epicenter of TrackTown U.S.A. Built in 1921, it is as vibrant as ever, hosting the inaugural Pac-12 Championships this weekend, with track & field’s mecca set to also host the Olympic Trials in June.
Once again the Oregon track & field teams shined. The men’s team received a boost from a few athletes now available following the completion of spring football, in particular DeAnthony Thomas. The women’s team, ranked #1 all season, needed no extra help, as Oregon’s dominant performances one after another led to an easy victory. When it was all settled, Oregon’s women’s team had tallied 200.5 points, the next closest school was Stanford with 123.5.
Pure dominance. Better yet, call it a four-peat, four straight, or just plain winning. No matter what sport it may be, an almost 80-point victory is the kind of total absurd performance usually reserved only for Harlem Globetrotters vs. Washington Generals games. This was the epitome of being taken out to the woodshed, making them cry Uncle, stealing their lunch money kind of dominance.
It was proven on Hayward’s track over the weekend, the Ducks are tops in the conference, and now set their sights on being tops in the country.
The men’s team fared almost as well. Arizona State was the favorite coming into the weekend despite Oregon’s home advantage. The home cooking proved just what was needed, as several gutsy finishes Sunday pushed the Ducks onward to take the Pac-12 title with a final tally of 140 points, the favored Sun Devils finishing second with 116.5.
For the men’s squad, it was the sixth consecutive Pac-10/12 outdoor championship.
But not everything was 100% golden, as the one sport not in Eugene for the weekend came up just short, literally. The women’s golf team, ranked #21 and playing well at the NCAA Central Regional Tournament in Columbus, OH, missed the final cut by one single stroke. Their ninth place finish was 18-over par, 306 total, in a very competitive field, the top eight teams advancing to the NCAA Championships. Their season now officially over, attention switches to the #11 men’s golf team performing in their NCAA Regional May 17-19 in Ann Arbor, MI.
But that’s kind of the point, even if the title isn’t emblazoned with UO, their performance is memorable, like every Oregon team this year. Nearly every single Oregon athletic program was nationally ranked in 2011-12, some climbing from way down the list to earn national respect and recognition for their achievements. Whether men’s golf, baseball, or softball win a championship of their own is almost irrelevant at this point, it would be merely a cherry on top, as the performances comprising the rest of Oregon athletics over the school year have already etched this time in the record books as the single-greatest year in the history of UO sports.
It started with a bang, Oregon women’s volleyball defeating the #1-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions to open the year, ending a home winning streak that was the third longest in NCAA history in any sport, and the good times have kept rolling. A Rose Bowl trophy now sits comfortably inside the Casanova Center, next to an Indoor Track & Field national championship, an Acrobatics & Tumbling national championship, and multiple conference titles.
Best of all; with baseball, softball, and track all still pursuing post-season dreams, Oregon athletics are not done yet. For the 2011-2012 year, in sports there has not been another school in the entire country that can claim to be Oregon’s equal of program-wide success. Enjoy it Duck fans, these indeed are extraordinary times.
Monday, May 14th – USC vs. Oregon at PK Park – 6pm
Friday, May 18th – Seattle vs. Oregon at PK Park – 6pm
Saturday, May 19th – Seattle vs. Oregon at PK Park – 2pm
Sunday, May 20th – Seattle vs. Oregon at PK Park – 12pm
Thursday, May 17th – Portland State vs. Oregon at Howe Field – 6pm
Friday, May 18th – 2nd round games of tournament begin – 11am
May 17-19 – NCAA Regionals – Ann Arbor, MI
Track & Field
May 24-26 – NCAA West Preliminary Rounds – Austin, TX