Another Track ‘Natty? Maybe… Another Pac-12 Championship? Likely!

Bruce Editorials

The National Championship for 2021 Mens Indoor Track was the first for Oregon in a couple of years, and the question many Oregon fans had was whether it would translate to the Outdoor season? Could the Men of Oregon come through with a ‘Natty at the newly renovated Hayward Field in June? The original article in this series is right here, and let’s get Duck fans updated on the prospects for a second Mens National Championship for 2021!

Since my last article, LSU has put up some stunning numbers that have the Track and Field News and TFRRRS prognosticators projecting an easy win for the Tigers, who finished a distant 23 points behind the Ducks at the NCAA Indoor Championship meet in March. As I explained before, indoor track is a somewhat different sport than outdoor track and while the Ducks have been performing admirably outdoors, LSU has piled up a ton of projected points in events that aren’t held indoors.

For instance, they project to score an extra five points in the 100 meters versus the Indoor 60 meters, 10 points in the 400 hurdles which aren’t held indoors, eight points in the 4×100 relay which isn’t held indoors and five points in the hammer throw, also not held indoors. That’s a lofty 28 extra points.

Oregon T&F Twitter

Great to see Devon Allen winning the hurdles again at Hayward Field!

Meanwhile, the Ducks will sorely miss their 10 points in the distance medley relay which isn’t contested outdoors, so based on those few events, we’re looking at a 38 point switch. To make things more difficult, when the NCAA went to a four day meet with alternating days for men and women, that forced a very tight time schedule for the men’s final day which makes doubling in some events nearly impossible.

Unfortunately, most of those events are distance races which are the bread and butter for our men’s team. With prelims on Wednesday and finals on Friday, it would be extremely difficult to double in the 800 and 1500 which are held a scant 60 minutes apart. The 1500 and 5000 will be a tad more doable given that there’s about an hour and 45 minutes between races. The simple fact is that the Ducks are going to have to double down in many events to climb back into contention, unless LSU has a dramatic drop-off.

However, one doesn’t have to look very far into the past to remember the astonishing 2017 women’s title meet when the Ducks were favored by nearly 50 points, yet won by a single point after most of the meet went in the wrong direction for the Lady Ducks, so anything is possible.

Oregon T&F Twitter

The Oregon Track & Field seniors were honored at the Oregon Twilight Meet.

I’m not giving up on the men’s team as the coaching staff always prepares their teams for top performances in the meets that really count. I do have some concerns about injuries which have limited indoor triple jump champ Emmanuel Ihemeje to just a single meet thus far, and speedster Xavier Nairne, who had a breakout meet in March–hasn’t competed since. I’ve been told that both will compete in next weekend’s Pac 12 Track Championships, in which the Ducks are heavy favorites versus USC as they seek to extend their conference title streak to an astonishing 14 straight. That’s right, FOURTEEN STRAIGHT. Some of the Duck fanbase wasn’t even born the last time the Ducks didn’t win the conference!

This weekend’s Twilight meet served as a tune-up for the Ducks as they prepare to head to USC for the Pac-12 Conference Championships on May 14-16. In the only race of much concern, James West, Cooper Teare and Charlie Hunter all achieved regional qualification marks in a terrific 1500 meters and one might expect that several more athletes will qualify during the Pac-12s for the West Regionals which will be held at Texas A&M’s new facility starting May 29. As of this writing, the men have 36 qualifying marks and the women have 32. This could change as results from around the country are tabulated.

Oregon T&F Twitter

The new facility for Hammer Throwing at Hayward Field.

Finally, a shout out to redshirt freshman Mason Strunk, whose 61.16 in the Men’s Hammer throw on Friday would have set him up for Regionals had he not elected to redshirt this season and thus compete unattached on Friday. To put Strunk’s throw into perspective, I compared it with Greg Skipper who scored 22 NCAA championship outdoor points during his illustrious career and 34 Pac 12 championship points. Strunk’s PR throw yesterday was only a meter shy of Skipper’s frosh mark. This is a guy to watch and with the assistance of our excellent throws coach, Eric Whitsett, the potential for championship points is huge.

Anyone wishing to join the conversation is welcome to visit this excellent Duck Track forum as it’s free, fun and informative for all Oregon fans.

Bruce Nelson
Eugene, Oregon
Top Photo by Oregon Track & Field Twitter

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