Day 1 of the 2014 NCAA Div. I Track and Field Championships at historic Hayward Field was highlighted by spectacular performances from multiple Duck athletes.
Oregon’s Laura Roesler excited the home crowd while winning her preliminary heat and running the fastest overall women’s 800 meter dash of the day. Roesler spent most of the race comfortably running in third place, prior to racing into the lead with 200 meters left. She then burst down the 100-meter home stretch in front of a cheering Hayward audience, finishing with a time of 2:02.60 seconds, just fast enough to hold off Claudia Saunders of Stanford who finished second.
Phyllis Francis finished third in the third heat of the women’s 400 meter dash. Francis however ran a 51.69, which was still fast enough to advance her to the women’s 400 meter dash final as the seventh seed.
In the men’s 400 meter dash preliminaries, Oregon’s Mike Berry cruised to a comfortable s 400 meter final.
All Duck competitors performed well for the team overall, but it was sophomore Jenna Prandini and freshman phenom Edward Cheserek who highlighted the first day of the NCAA Championships the most with their incredible performances.
Prandini ran an 11.11 second 100-meter dash time, exploding in the last 50 meters to barely win the closest heat of the day and advance herself to the final. Immediately after her victory in the 100-meter preliminaries, Prandini returned to the women’s long jump final, which she had checked out of in order to race in the sprint.
With the home crowd still loudly cheering after her victory, Prandini burst down the long jump runway to a boomingly loud traditional “Hayward clap” for her second attempt of the final. Prandini jumped out to a lifetime-best 21′ 01.25″ advancing her from third place to the women’s long jump national champion.
In the final of the 10,000 meter run, the last event of the evening, Cheserek sparked the loudest eruption from the Hayward audience of the day. He spent the first 24 laps of the race up in the front of the pack with three other competitors.
At the start of the final 400 meters of the race, Cheserek sped up to running neck and neck with the lead runner. With around 250 meters remaining in the race, Cheserek began running like a man possessed. He exploded from his comfortable run to a dead sprint, progressively distancing himself further and further from the runners behind him. He eventually finished approximately 30-40 meters ahead of the second place finisher.
Cheserek crossed the finish line, with a time of 28 minutes and 30.18 seconds, proudly holding up the trademark Oregon “O” with his hands in front of a roaring Hayward Field audience. It has been a long road to this national title for Cheserek, who first came to the United States in 2010 from Kenya. Once in the U.S., Cheserek attended Saint Benedict Prep in Newark, New Jersey, where he eclipsed the 49-year-old record in the high school indoor 2-mile held by Gerry Lindgren, one of only two runners to defeat Steve Prefontaine in any NCAA Championship. Cheserek will look to add to his lengthy resume on Friday, when he will compete in the men’s 5000 meter run final.
Trevor Dunbar also contributed to the total team points by finishing fifth in men’s 10,000 meter run with a time of 28 minutes and 58.81 seconds.
The Ducks were able to carry this momentum through the second day of the NCAA Championships.
After a spectacular Day 1, Prandini came back to win the third heat of the women’s 200-meter dash preliminary round with a time of 22.95 seconds. With a long jump national championship already under her belt this week, Prandini will be competing in both of the women’s 100-meter dash finals on Friday and the 200-meter dash final on Saturday.
Oregon’s Laura Bobek also had an exceptional performance in the women’s discus throw. Bobek was seeded 18th in the discus throw coming into the championship. However, after making it to the final round, Bobek threw a 184″08′ on her sixth and final attempt of the competition, which was good enough to bump her up to third place in the competition. This was a huge performance for Bobek and provided a huge swing in points for the women’s team.
The men’s team also acquired some needed points in the field from Greg Skipper, who placed fourth in the final of the men’s hammer throw.
Also, Devon Allen won his preliminary heat of the men 110-meter hurdles with a time of 13.52 seconds, which advances him as the third seed for Saturday’s final.
After spending the first two-and-a-half laps of the 1500-meter run in the back of the pack, Mac Fleet exploded to the lead with 100 meters left to win his heat in exciting fashion. While Fleet was bursting past the pack for the win, Oregon’s Sam Prakel was following right behind him to secure second place and advancement to the final as well.
Both of the Duck’s men’s and women’s 4×400 meter relay teams finished second in their respective heats, and secured spots in the finals.
After a strong first two days of the championships for the Ducks, they are now looking to maintain their momentum and take advantage of their opportunities the rest of the way. Both the men’s and women’s teams will need capitalize primarily in the distance races, 4×400 meter relays, and remaining field events in order to give them the best shot at securing the title on Saturday.
Feature photo by Ben White