The Home Stretch: When ducklings become ducks

Allie Woodward sets her sights on victory at the USA Junior Championships

Remember a time where you were the new person and everything around you was different and you felt almost completely lost? Take high school for example. That very first day of school, you arrive on a way bigger campus then middle school, there’s a lot more people, and you have no idea where your first class is located. You’re utterly lost.

This past weekend, three members of the Ducks track and field team had that exact feeling. Well…sort of.

Freshmen Allie Woodward, Claudia Francis and Chancey Summers were invited to the biggest event in their collegiate careers, thus far. The three athletes were called to the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships, Friday through Sunday, in Bloomington, Indiana (along with six other members of the T&F team).

Woodward is an expert at the 3,000 and 5,000 meters, Francis in the 800 meters and Summers owns the high jump. Woodward however is no stranger to the big stage. She finished fifth in the 10,000 meters at the 2012 NCAA Championships. The USA Junior Championships will serve as a qualifier for the IAAF World Junior Championships. Top performers will be part of Team USA that will compete in Barcelona, Spain, from July 10-15.

If you’ve been asleep or out of the country for the past couple of weeks, you missed a big event. Oregon’s men and women captured the 2012 Pac-12 Track and Field Championship in a complete team assault on every event and obstacle put in front of them. So for the three ducklings that jumped into a new pond, they went into it well prepared.

Since all three happen to be women, they have solid role models that no doubt helped prepare them for the unfamiliar territory. UO sophomore star English Gardner was in the same position last year, new and probably scared out of her mind. Now, she’s the team leading sprinter who demands the speed of light catch up to her, because she can’t wait around forever.

Gardner won the 100-meter and 200-meter titles at the Pac-12 Championships this season, and was a member of the 4×100-meter team that finished first at the league championships. She went on to win an individual national championship in the 100-meter, and aided the 4×400-meter team in setting an NCAA Championship meet and a Pac-12 Conference all-time record with a time of 3:24.54. Gardner was also a national champion in the 60-meter dash at the NCAA Indoor Championships in March.

I know what you’re thinking, that’s about as good as a role model for three ducklings that there can possibly be, but as I said, there’s more than one.

When talking about Ducks Track and Field team, you can’t talk about it without mentioning Brianne Theisen. The Humboldt, Saskatchewan native is simply a star. Somewhere, I think even the biggest Eugene track and Field legend Steve Prefontaine is saying that he’s glad he never had to line up in the box next to Theisen, and here’s why.

Theisen ends her collegiate career as one of the most prolific heptathletes in NCAA history, winning field athlete of the year honors for the second time in three years. She won her third Pac-12 heptathlon title in four years, amassing a then-conference record 6,353 points to win the title in 2012. She went on to win her third NCAA Championship title in the event, and completed the second-best heptathlon in NCAA history with 6,440 points, also a Pac-12 all-time best. She became only the third woman in NCAA history to win three heptathlon national titles. Theisen also won the women’s pentathlon title at the NCAA Indoor Championships earlier this year, the third of her career.

Because of his legendary accomplishments on the track surface, Prefontaine is known around the Eugene community and the state of Oregon simply as “Pre.” I would imagine that once Theisen officially moves on from UO she will be known unanimously as “Bri.”

For ducklings Woodward, Francis and Summers, their learning and growing process in a new and intimidating environment starts with great coaching, and great coaching they have. Vin Lananna earned both the men’s and women’s Coach of the Year honors for the third time in the last four years. He helped Oregon sweep their first-ever Pac-12 track and field championships at Hayward Field.

The women’s team’s 200.5 point performance was just the second time in meet history that a team had passed the 200-point mark. The women also went on to place second overall at the NCAA Championships, while the men finished in a tie for ninth. After leading the women’s team to an indoor national championship in March, the program was tabbed the USTFCCCA’s Women’s Program of the Year, for the fourth-consecutive year.

Right on cue, Allie Woodward did not disappoint at this past weekend’s Junior Championships in Bloomington, Ind. Woodward ran a personal-best 16:15.27 to win the women’s 5,000 meters on Saturday. She defeated runner-up Cayla Hatton, who ran 16:24.87. With the win, Woodward is eligible for the IAAF World Junior Championships.

Of course, Claudia Francis and Chancey Summers didn’t do so badly either.

Claudia Francis also qualified for the World Junior meet by virtue of her fourth place finish in the 800 meters with a time of 2:08.69. Chancey Summers placed fourth in the women’s high jump with a best clearance at 5-8.75/1.75m.

Allie Woodward wins the 5,000 meters at the World Junior Championships

Allie Woodward, Claudia Francis and Chancey Summers all arrived at the University of Oregon this year, most likely with that panic feeling of ‘what do I do and where do I go?’ However, the three of them did the smartest thing any young, intimidated freshman athlete can do in that situation; they listened and learned from two of the best women track and field athletes in the country, and arguably the best coach in the country.

As a result of their will to listen and learn; Woodward, Francis and Summers got to compete at the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field Championships. While one of, if not the greatest women’s track and field athletes simply known as Bri makes her exit from Eugene, she passes the torch onto three new stars whom she helped mold into promising athletes. We haven’t seen the last of Bri on the big stage, and we’re only seeing the surface of what Allie Woodward, Claudia Francis and Chancey Summers are capable of, and most importantly, what the new era of Ducks Women’s Track and Field holds for Tracktown USA.


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