Upset City at Penn Relays

Isaac Gibson FishWrap, FishWrap Archive

The Ducks flew east to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania this past weekend to compete at the oldest collegiate track meet in America, The Penn Relays. With its A-squad of runners, Oregon went up against the best relay teams the nation has to offer. The results provided plenty of upsets for the Ducks, both good and bad.

On the women’s side, Oregon was the favorite heading into the final of the 4 x 100 meter relay, but a mishap at the first baton exchange left superstar Jenna Prandini waiting for a baton that never came.

Jasmine Todd, one of the school's top  sprinters is also ranked in the nation as one of the top long jumpers

Jasmine Todd, one of the Ducks’ top sprinters, is also one of the nation’s top long jumpers.

Disappointed, and perhaps a little angry from that performance, the Oregon women went into the sprint medley relay with retribution in mind.

The first 200 meter leg was run by Jasmine Todd, who went out hard and finished first in her leg. She handed the baton off to Prandini, who is the current world leader in the 100 meter dash. Prandini blasted out of the exchange and continued to push the lead further until she handed off to Raevyn Rogers to run the 400 meter leg.

Rogers went out slowly and was enveloped by both the Clemson and the UTech team of Jamaica. Rogers held third place when she handed the baton to Annie LeBlanc to run the 800 meter leg. It seemed a very tall task for LeBlanc to close the win since she would have to face off against three-time NCAA 800 meter champion Natoya Goule, but she stayed with the pack before making her move at the 600 meter mark.

With 100 meters to go, LeBlanc shot out of the back curve, pulling closer to Goule with every stride and out-leaning her at the finish line. LeBlanc ran a 2:03 800m leg to score a major upset for the Ducks.

Oregon women post race.

The Oregon women post-race.

On the men’s side, the Ducks were making their first distance medley relay (“DMR”) appearance since winning the indoor title. Johnny Gregorek ran the opening 1200 meter leg and went out conservatively, hanging with the lead pack. With a lap to go he moved up well and handed off the baton in third place, avoiding a barrage of collisions in doing so.

Marcus Chambers took off in his 400 meter leg and moved quickly into first. Chambers did well to hold off both Columbia and Indiana and handed off in first to Nikolaus Franzmair to run the 800 meter leg. Franzmair quickly dropped to second, where he stayed until he handed off to the anchor of all anchors, Edward Cheserek. Cheserek went out in his usual tactical fashion and held second the entire leg. At the 1400 meter mark, Villanova’s Jordan Williamsz made a strong move to first, leading to a battle of kicks that saw Cheserek prevail.

The loss, however, did not sit well with Villanova. The next day Cheserek and Williamsz met again in the 4 x 1600 relay, and Williamsz  did not make the same mistake twice. Despite receiving their batons in front of the field, things took a strange turn as soon as Cheserek and Willamsz began their anchor legs. Instead of going out fast, both decided they did not want to lead. This led to most of the field catching up, completely negating the effort of the first three legs.

Oregon's big three at the Pepsi Invitational.

Oregon’s big three at the Pepsi Invitational.

In an even stranger occurrence, when everyone caught up, Cheserek and Williamsz decided they still did not want to lead. This resulted in the teams coming to a near stop on the track, waiting for someone to make a move. This was the pattern for the race until 300m left, when the anchor from Wisconsin decided to finally make a decisive move.

After that, the fireworks went off between Cheserek and Williamsz. Cheserek took the lead at 250 meters, but Williamsz kept his composure and caught Cheserek on the back curve where they ran neck and neck. Williamsz broke away towards the finish and redeemed himself after the DMR, dethroning Cheserek and Oregon in the process.

The result of the 4 X 1600 relay caused considerable debate as to whether the tactical form of running displayed by Cheserek and Williamsz is hurting the sport. Does this practice limit or perhaps hide those who are truly the most talented runners? Tell us your opinion  in the comments below.

Top photo by Gary Breedlove

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