The night was truly star-studded last night at the Oregon Twilight Invitational. Former, current, and future Ducks all toed the line, which made for some pretty special races.
Future Duck Matthew Maton had a night he would never forget. He became just the sixth high school prep athlete to ever break the 4-minute-mile barrier. Maton did not bear the colors of his high school, however – he wore his Nike Elite singlet due to a falling out with his high school coach that led to him quitting the team. According to Maton, ever since he quit his team and lowered his mileage he has felt great going into the championship season.
His acting interim coach is former Oregon runner Parker Stinson who coached him on the side of the field during his race. Maton said, “Going in we talked about how if I come in at 2:59 to 3:01 then I would work hard the last 200, but if I was under then I have to go!” And go he did; Maton closed what seemed to be a 30-meter gap between he and the leaders, Eric Jenkins and Will Geoghegen, in the last 300 meters of the race. The time of 3:59.38 places Maton at No. 3 on the all-time prep best list with only the legendary Alan Webb and Jim Ryun running faster.
Current Ducks competed in fields mixed with smaller colleges and professionals. Nothing particularly extraordinary was accomplished; for them the meet served as a tune up for the upcoming PAC-12 championships. According to most of the athletes the goal was to just get a race tune-up in preparation for the conference championships.
Many of the athletes ran shorter races to help them get a feeling for the speed they need at next week’s meet. Jenkins and Geoghegen entered in the mile when they should be expected to run the 5K and 10K. Marcus Chambers ran in the 4 x 100m relay when he typically runs the 400, Johnny Gregorek ran the 1000 meter when he was quoted saying he is going to try to run the 1500 at NCAAs, and Edward Cheserek ran the 3K when he has qualified to run the 5K and 10K.
Former Ducks competed as professionals and were the stars of all the races they were in. Former Ducks featured were World Championship gold medalist in the 4 x 100 relay Phyllis Francis, Olympic gold medalist and current decathlon world record holder Ashton Eaton, and World Championship silver medalist in the 1500 Matthew Centrowitz. The home crowd had a lot to be proud of to see what their former Ducks have become.
The former Ducks are just beginning to start their professional season and are trying to start off their grind into the Diamond League summer meets with races that will challenge them against some stiff competition from their former teammates.
The atmosphere of the Twilight meet was nostalgic in a sense. It all really hit at the conclusion of the last race when Maton went under four minutes. Mac Fleet, a former Duck, paced the race to help Maton accomplish just that, while Jenkins and Geoghegen wanted to see what an all-out effort in the mile would get them.
After the race when everyone executed their plans perfectly, I saw Fleet and Stinson run to Maton to hug him and congratulate him — and even Jenkins and Geoghegen got in on it. That was quite a sight to see — the love that multiple generations of Ducks have for each other. All in all it was a wonderful meet to close the regular season. Now it’s championship time!
Top photo by Scott Kelly