Reported live by FishDuck.com Track Correspondent, Bruce Nelson –
Once again, our mighty tracksters outperformed expectations and brought home two team titles from the Indoor NCAA Championships in Birmingham, Alabama. (Oregon won the double national championships for Outdoor Track last June!)
While the men were expected to win, the women were 17-point underdogs to Florida. When the Gators faltered, the Lady Ducks stepped up and grabbed the win, with the meet coming down to the final event, the 4 x 400 relay.
Both teams performed way ahead of projections with the men scoring 62 points against an originally projected 46 points, or a 35% increase over expectations. The women did even better, with a 53-point explosion, which shattered the 33.25-point projection by nearly 60%. That’s simply outrageous, but goes hand in hand with the recent article which emphasized the expertise of the Duck coaching staff getting their athletes sharp for the big meets.
For the men, this was the second consecutive Indoor team title and third since 2009. The women have been even more spectacular, claiming their 6th title in the past 7 years. Talk about a dynasty!
(Editor’s Note: The Men of Oregon and Lady Ducks have won 13 National Championships in the last 7 years between Cross Country, Indoor & Outdoor Track! The conference of champions has watched the Ducks pad the trophy case for the conference in a stunning display of coaching and individual performances.)
Similar to last year, the men were carried by the great Edward Cheserek, aka King Ches. Not only did Ches easily win the 3000 and 5000 meter races, but he took the baton in the DMR a mere 30 minutes after completing his 5000 meter win and out-raced a fresh, superb miler, Isaac Yorks of Washington to the line, padding the Duck total by an additional 10 points. For all intents and purposes, they might as well have awarded the men’s team title to the Ducks after Day 1. Forget about the fat lady singing, as the Ducks owned this meet with a final tally that exceeded second-place Arkansas by a huge 23 points.
The women had a tougher time, but they entered the meet a solid underdog to both Florida and Georgia, and it seemed highly unlikely that both teams would falter as they did. Not only did the Ducks pick up important points from non-projected scorers such as Alli Cash (3000) and Brittany Mann (Shot Put), but Hanna Cunliffe, Deajah Stevens, Cash, Sasha Wallace, Alaysha Johnson, Mann and the women’s’ 4 x 400 team all exceeded projections, with Cunliffe doing it twice (60 and 200). My vote for Duck MVP has to go to Cunliffe.
For the men, King Ches was far and away the star of the meet by simply meeting the almost impossible standards set for him. He had the crowd shaking their heads when he split a 3:52 relay mile less than 30 minutes after running the 5000. He’s superman and the greatest Oregon distance runner of all time (sorry Pre and Rupp fans, but Ches’ results speak for themselves). I asked him about his pending citizenship application, and he indicated that it was moving along and that he hoped it would be complete in time to run for the US at the Olympic Trials.
Other men who deserve honors would include Devon Allen, who returned from a devastating football injury and clinched his second NCAA hurdles title in two attempts, Greg Skipper who once again exceeded the form charts in what has become a regular occurrence in big meets. That guy comes to play and is always well-prepared.
A big shout out should also go to Grant Grosvenor whose 800 leg in the DMR brought the Ducks back into contention, freshman Matthew Maton who had the expertise to avoid a nasty collision in the race which took two runners next to him out of the race, and indoor freshman Nate Moore who added an unexpected 4 points in the triple jump.
The Duck NCAA entrants will spend the next few weeks tapering down and then get ready to defend their dual national outdoor titles at Historic Hayward Field, in June. The next home meet will be the Pepsi Invitational on Saturday, April 9.
Let’s all show up and give our National Champions the sort of homecoming they so richly deserve.
Top Photo by Bruce Nelson