After a strong showing in the preliminary rounds, the Oregon Ducks’ track and field team excelled on the final two days of the 2014 NCAA Championships as their men’s team won the national team title and the women’s team finished third overall. The women’s team scored 59 total team points, while the men scored 88 total points — winning them their first NCAA Outdoor Championship since 1984.
For the women’s team, Oregon sophomore Jenna Prandini was one of the Hayward Field crowd-favorites throughout the duration of the entire championships and had a spectacular final two days of the championships. After winning the women’s long jump national title on Wednesday, Prandini came into the final two days looking to place high in the women’s finals of the 100- and 200-meter dash.
In the 100-meter dash final, Prandini spent the beginning 50 meters of the race in the back of the group. In the final 25 meters of the race, Pradini exploded to the front, finishing in a cluster of runners indeterminately placing in second to fifth place.
While the audience loudly cheered in the final meters of the race, they became nearly silent immediately after the race as they anxiously waited to hear the final results. The audience joyously erupted once the Prandini was announced as the third place finisher over the intercom.
Prandini finished with an 11.417 time, just .001 of a second faster than the fourth place finisher. In the 200-meter dash final, Prandini finished second after being barely beaten at the finish line by Kamaria Brown of Texas A&M, who won the national title. Brown finished with a time of 22.623, while Prandini finished with a time of 22.63.
Laura Roesler also had a spectacular championship weekend for the Ducks as she won the national title in the 800-meter dash with a time of 2:01.02. Roesler spent the first 600 meters of the race in fifth place, prior to furiously bursting past the pack into first place with 200 meters left. She then extended her lead further to win the race by more than 10 meters in front of a cheering Hayward audience.
Roesler, also ran exceptionally well as the third leg of the women’s 4×400-meter relay team. She received the baton in seventh place to the other competitors, but raced her way into handing the baton off with the Ducks in third place, where they finished as a team.
Phyllis Francis was also able to provide the Ducks with a massive point swing in the 400-meter run. Francis was seeded seventh in the 400 meter final, and was placed in lane eight for the final race. She was able to maintain her staggered lead throughout the race, and finished second in impressive fashion. Francis finishing five places higher than expected provided the women’s team with a surplus of unexpected points that helped them secure their third place finish.
The men’s team was able to gain an abundance of points in the exciting men’s 5000-meter run final. Edward Cheserek, who won the 10000-meter run national title on day two, finished second to Arizona’s Lawi Lalang.
Cheserek was followed down the home stretch by his two teammates Trevor Dunbar and Eric Jenkins, who were able to sprint for third and fourth place finishes. While Cheserek lost in the final meters of the race, he, Dunbar and Jenkins secured second, third, and fourth place to provide the men’s team a huge point swing.
In the 1500 meter run, Mac Fleet provided one of the most exciting races for the Ducks over the weekend. Fleet came into the 1500-meter run final hoping to successfully defend his 2013 national title in the race. After the first two-and-a-half laps of the race running in second and third place, he put on a burst with about 150 meters left and exploded down the home stretch in front of a standing and roaring Hayward Field audience.
Fleet and Arizona’s Lalang (who won the 5000-meter run national title) battled as they sprinted side-by-side down the last 100 meters racing for the title. The two runners finished in extraordinary fashion. And after several seconds of quiet anxiety from the crowd, it was announced that Fleet had barely finished in front of Lalang, running an official time of 3:39.088, making Fleet the national champion.
Oregon’s Devon Allen, who has improved his 110-meter hurdle time every meet this season, won his first national championship, finishing with a time of 13.16. He popped through the last three hurdles of the race to burst past the leader and barely finish first in front of a standing and screaming audience. Allen’s finishing time broke the NCAA championship meet record, and made him the third-fastest 110-meter hurdle runner in collegiate history.
Oregon’s Sam Crouser also won a national championship of his own in the men’s javelin throw. Crouser entered the final round of the javelin in second place. The Hayward Field crowd clapped rhythmically and cheered as Crouser approached the javelin runway for his sixth and final throw of the competition.
With the fans behind him, Crouser was able to throw a whopping 252”07’, which pushed him to first place and the national championship. The already roaring crowd exploded again once the announcement was made.
Allen and Crouser’s first-place victories boosted the men’s score to 88 points, which guaranteed the men’s team the NCAA championship victory, regardless of what occurred in the rest of the day’s finals. The men’s team’s 88-point performance set a new meet-record for total team points and was the largest margin of victory the meet has seen since 1994.
After a captivating weekend at NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, the men’s national title now hangs in Track Town, USA.
Feature photo by Ben White
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