Fresh off their dominating win at the NCAA Indoor Championships in Fayetteville last month, the Duck men are beginning their quest for yet another National Championship, though an outdoor title would be their first since back-to-back outdoor championships in 2014-15. With a sparkling new stadium, both solid sprint and distance corps, and a handful of field event potential scorers, the Duck men would have to be considered early favorites against perennial track powerhouses such as Texas A&M, Arkansas, LSU, Texas Tech and Florida, all of whom have stood atop the podium in the past decade.
While indoor success doesn’t necessarily always translate to outdoor success, the multi-dimensional Duck squad shouldn’t experience much of a drop from their indoor success, the main disadvantage being that their 10 Distance Medley Relay (DMR) points won’t come into play outdoors since the DMR isn’t contested outdoors, but rather replaced by the 4×100 relay. Fear not, Duck fans, since the men posted the fourth fastest 4×100 time in school history ten days ago in San Diego and expect to be finalists when the Championship meet comes to Eugene in June.
The Ducks have already had some surprising outdoor success at such an early point in the season. The sprint squad led by NCAA champion Micah Williams put up four of the top ten Oregon historical marks during their first meet, while the distance squad sat mainly on the sidelines. During this past weekend’s Hayward Premiere, it was the sprinters’ turn to ease up while the distance runners took the stage, albeit often in races other than their specialties.
Despite that, the newest Duck superstar, Cole Hocker, raced to the fastest time in the NCAA in the 800, while also posting a win in the 1500–in two exciting races that established his refusal to lose, despite being in a heavy training regimen which generally leads to tired legs. He’ll run a lot faster as the season progresses.
At this time in the season, championship caliber teams begin the heavy training workload that translates into late season success. One might argue that the sprint success two weeks ago was a carryover from the indoor training peak, while the distance squad was beginning the “heavy lifting” training phases that usually involve many hard miles geared towards building endurance combined later with speed work for those final sprints to the finish.
Make no mistake, this is a team which measures success by National Titles as opposed to regular season meet success. For this reason, many of Oregon’s distance stars were entered in races either shorter or longer than their specialties during last weekend’s meet, as a means to either build endurance or speed.
A National Title cannot be won without going through the Regionals which are held in the East and West, with teams roughly being divided by the Mississippi River. Despite the heavy training regimen and based on 2019 entries, the Duck men added a dozen men to the list and coupled with the eight presumable qualifiers at the first outdoor meet 10 days ago. Thus the Men of Oregon already have twenty qualifiers with some men yet to compete in their specialties. All in all, a successful beginning to the long season.
With 13-time USTFCCCA Coach of the Year, Robert Johnson at the helm along with associate coach of the year Curtis Taylor (sprints), three-time associate coach of the year Ben Thomas (distance) and Eric Whitsett who has developed three National Champions in the throws, the Ducks can expect solid guidance to once again win it all.
Check into FishDuck over the course of this outdoor season, and I’ll keep you updated on the Men of Oregon in their quest to win another National Championship!
Top Photo by Bruce Nelson
Bruce is a reformed USC grad, class of 1972. Bruce competed as a middle distance and cross country runner in college and also coached track and field briefly. Bruce is rather obsessed with track and field and travels both countrywide and worldwide to attend meets. Bruce is a proud resident of Tracktown USA, a status that makes his track fan friends around the world green with envy.
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