The Oregon Ducks Men’s Track & Field team held form and then some on the first day of the 2015 NCAA Championships at Historic Hayward Field, setting up a Friday showdown with co-favorite Florida. The Ducks scored 33 big first-day points to take what looks like a commanding lead, but Florida, with 16 points, stands poised to cut deeply into the lead on Friday.
Thursday the Ducks got expected wins from Sam Crouser in the javelin (79.19 meters) and Edward Cheserek in the 10K (28:58.92). Cheserek edged teammate Eric Jenkins (28:59.35) at the line to seal a 1-2 finish and 18 big points for the Ducks. Greg Skipper added a third-place finish in the hammer (71.25 meters) to round out the scoring for the Ducks.
Dakotah Keys positioned himself well in the decathlon and stands in fifth place half way through the ten events, which conclude Thursday. Also competing for the Ducks are Joe Delgado (currently in 17th place) and Mitch Modin (currently in 19th place).
The Ducks also advanced five contestants to Friday’s finals, and they will join the 1-2 punch of Cheserek and Jenkins who have already qualified for Friday’s final in the 5,000 meters. Ducks faithful got a pleasant surprise when Oregon advanced Daniel Winn (3:45.78), Blake Haney (3:40.81) and Johnny Gregorek (3:40.89) to the finals in the 1500. All three finished strong, with Haney and Winn finishing second in their semi-final heats and Gregorek coming in right behind Haney. Track & Field News projects the Ducks to pick up only one point in the 1500, so if two or three of the Ducks slip into the top eight in the 13-runner field, it would solidify Oregon’s chances for the team win.
Johnathan Cabral, penciled in for a fifth place finish in the 110 hurdles, ran the second-fastest semi-final time with a 13.49, and Marcus Chambers had one of the three fastest qualifying times in the 400 at 45.43.
T&FN has picked Cheserek and Jenkins to duplicate their 1-2 10K finish in the 5K. If they succeed and Keys holds position or improves in the decathlon, Florida will be hard-pressed to catch the Ducks. The original form chart had Oregon winning by a scant two points, but Skipper picked up one bonus point in the hammer. If the Ducks take care of business for the rest of the meet the way they did Wednesday, Florida will have little opportunity.
The Gators also have eight remaining entries. But to make up the current three-point projected deficit, Florida will have only six opportunities. The Gators are projected to win both the triple jump and the 200, so there will be no improving on projections in those events. That leaves both relays, where they are projected at second (4 X 400) and third (4 X 100), the 400 meters (projected third) the 800 meters (projected seventh), the 400 hurdles (projected fourth), and a single entry in the twelve-contestant final of the steeplechase.
The Gators simply do not have a lot of wiggle room for upward mobility, so at this point it appears that the meet is the Ducks to win or lose, based upon their performances. And so far, the Ducks have equaled or surpassed all expectations.
The lone women’s contest Wednesday was the first four events of the heptathlon. Ashlee Moore currently stands in 18th place with three events remaining.
Other Ducks wrapped up their season today, and their performances deserve our congratulations. Simply qualifying to compete in an NCAA championship meet requires a strong combination of talent and dedication. Ducks who made it to the meet and will be cheering their teammates on from the sidelines include Trevor Ferguson (long jump), Arthur Delaney (200 meters) and Tony Brooks-James and Charles Nelson (relays).
Action continues Thursday with the final day of competition for the decathlon starting at 10 a.m., the heptathlon (noon), women’s field events beginning at 1:30, semi-finals of women’s running events beginning at 4 p.m. and the final of the women’s 10K at 6:38 p.m.
Top photo by Gary Breedlove