After an impressive 2014 season for the University of Oregon track and field teams, the Ducks are looking to win their first NCAA Division I National Championship since 1985. Oregon’s men’s team will enter the NCAA’s coming off their eighth consecutive Pac-12 Championship, while the women’s team has won six conference crowns in a row.
With an impressive contingent of 36 U of O athletes competing, the Track Town USA crowd at Eugene’s historic Hayward Field will be buzzing from June 11 – 15 to see if their Ducks – both squads enter the meet ranked No. 3 in the nation – can pull off a rare twin win.
The Ducks will be led by 18 women participating in 17 total events, and 19 men participating in 13 total events. This well-rounded balance in all areas will improve the Ducks’ chances of scoring valuable team points, especially since the Ducks have many qualifiers with previous marks placing them among the top ten seeds in their respective events. Of the women qualifiers, eight are ranked in the top ten of their events. On the men’s side, 16 Ducks are in the top ten across theirs.
Oregon sophomore Jenna Prandini is expected to be one of the primary point scorers for the women’s team. After winning three individual 2014 Pac-12 Championships, Prandini qualified for a total of four events in the NCAA’s.
Prandini has the second-fastest 100 meter dash time in the nation (11.17), as well as the fourth-fastest in the 200 meter dash (22.73). She will also be a member of the women’s 4×100 meter relay team, with Marybeth Sant, Sasha Wallace, and Phyllis Francis, who have the second-fastest relay time in the nation, at 43.55 seconds. Prandini will also participate in the women’s long jump, where she is the nation’s leader and favorite for the national title. Big performances by Prandini could mean big points for the women’s team.
The women’s team will also need their No. 1-ranked 4×400 meter relay team to finish as well as expected. Francis, Chizoba Okogobe, Laura Roesler, and Christian Brennan, with their season-best time of 3:27.34, have a nine-tenths of a second lead over No. 2 Texas’ best time going into the championships. The Longhorn women, together with third-ranked Texas A&M, present the biggest challenge to the Ducks quartet.
Roesler of the women’s 4×400 meter relay team will also be competing in the women’s 800 meter run, where she is ranked second in the nation. Roesler’s time of 2:03.1 is just seven-tenths of a second slower than the time of national title favorite Megan Malasarte, of the University of Georgia. If Roesler can uncork a big performance and beat Malasarte, this could be an important point swing for the women’s team that could give them a better shot at winning.
On the men’s side, freshman Devon Allen will be entering the meet after running the 110 meter hurdles in the third-fastest time in the nation (13.27), a personal best by two-tenths of a second. Allen has improved his 110 hurdle time every meet this season. Only 0.09 seconds behind the national leader, and 0.07 seconds behind the second-ranked hurdler, multi-sport phenom Allen could provide some much-needed extra points for the men’s team, if he continues to improve.
Allen will be joined by Johnathon Cabrel, who is the eighth seed in the 110 hurdles with a time of 13.56 seconds. Finishes in the top five and ten respectively by Allen and Cabrel would boost the men’s team points total substantially, and benefit their overall title chances. The men’s team will also require a solid performance from their distance unit, which includes seven runners competing in four races.
Sam Prakel and Mac Fleet are the seventh and eighth seeds in the 1500 meters, while teammate Tanguy Pepiot is the seventh seed in the 3k. Edward Cheserek is the third seed in the 5k meters, and the second seed in the 10k. Cheserek will be joined by Trevor Dunbar, who is the fifth seed in the 5k meters and the eighth seed in the 10k. Eleventh-ranked Eric Jenkins and fourteenth-ranked Parker Stinson will also compete in the 5k.
The Ducks will be looking to reap big points if all these distance runners at least cover the form chart. Any positive surprises, particularly from the highly ranked Cheserek and Dunbar, would provide a significant lift for the men’s team’s national title aspirations.
The Ducks can also make a push for points in the throws, with Greg Skipper boasting the fifth-best mark in the hammer, and Sam Krouser ranked sixth in the javelin.
Meanwhile Dakota Keys, with his third-best national mark in the decathlon, is also poised to be a significant point-getter for the Duck men. The men’s sixth-seeded 4×400 meter relay team of Allen, Mike Berry, Marcus Chambers, and Arthur Delany has the potential to unleash a big run in the meet’s signature event, cheered on by a wildly enthusiastic home crowd.
Clearly both Duck squads have a real good chance at capturing national titles. The stage is set for a riveting national championship meet, set in what is undoubtedly the best track & field-only venue on earth. Oregon fans lucky enough to be there, will be looking forward to becoming part of another stirring chapter in the storied history of Track Town USA.
Feature photo by Gary Breedlove
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