Having successfully defended their Pac 12 title for the 13th consecutive season, the Duck men headed to the West Regional at Texas A&M, a meet which established who will compete at the NCAA Championships starting today. The Ducks survived any major mishaps as they battled the Texas heat along with thunder and lightning and all projected NCAA scorers will be on hand through Saturday as the Ducks attempt to replicate their indoor title.
As I mentioned in my last article, outdoor track is a quite different animal than indoor track and one could argue that sprint-heavy teams win outdoors while distance-oriented teams have an advantage indoors. This appears to be the case this year as the LSU Tigers are a prohibitive favorite to win the men’s crown, according to Track and Field News and the US Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, whose numbers reflect top performances of the year.
Like the Ducks, the Tigers got all their major stars through the East Regional, thus it will take a Herculean effort by the Ducks along with a few LSU stumbles to make this a competitive meet. At this point, the venerable Track and Field News prognosticators have the Ducks losing by 32 points to LSU while finishing 11 points ahead of USC in the battle for second.
However, one need only look back to the heavily favored Duck women’s team of 2017. Favored by over 40 points, the Ducks needed the run that put Raevyn Rogers on the Tower to nip Georgia by a single point. Stuff happens.
Perhaps as a concession towards keeping Duck athletes healthy and ready for the Olympic Trials in a few weeks, we’ll only see one middle or long distance specialist, Cole Hocker, attempting to double whereas indoors Hocker, Cooper Teare, Charlie Hunter, Reed Brown and Luis Peralta all ran at least two races.
The KEY Oregon Events to Watch Will Be:
—The 100 meters as freshman Micah Williams attempts to defend his indoor sprint title. Williams tied Kyree King for the second best 100 meters in Oregon history at the Regional and will be attempting to break 10 seconds for the first time.
—The 800 meters which will feature the one-two punch of Charlie Hunter and Luis Peralta, the No. 6 and No. 7 fastest Ducks of all time in the event. Hunter is expected to represent Australia at the Olympics.
—The 1500 meters might be the race of the meet. Defending champ Yared Neguse of Notre Dame took down Duck aces Cooper Teare and Cole Hocker at the Oregon Twilight this year and while Teare is only running the 5000 in this meet, Duck superstar Hocker will be out for revenge. He’ll be joined by teammates Reed Brown and James West.
—The 5000 will feature both Cooper Teare and Cole Hocker, arguably the two best Duck distance men since Edward Cheserek graduated. Teare and Hocker have the two fastest times in the NCAAs this year and this race should bring down the house, though as I write this, the Hayward house will only be half-full.
—The Steeplechase features longtime Duck stalwart and Sheldon HS grad Jackson Mestler in what will be his last race on the track as a Duck. Mestler is picked to finish ninth, but I think the home crowd will bring him into scoring position, which is top eight.
—4×100 Relay: The Ducks should score and it will be interesting to see if they can top the school record of 38.72 set in 2019. The current squad has run 39.02 and ran a rather easy 39.30 in Texas as they cautiously got the baton around. Caution will be thrown to the wind this week.
—Triple Jump: The indoor champ, freshman Emmanuel Ihemeje, has taken merely three jumps this outdoor season, yet demolished the old school record by nearly two feet. He’s a lock to make the Italian Olympic Team, but still needs a few more inches to guarantee a slot in Tokyo. (I think he’ll get that and more in this meet)
–Decathlete Max Vollmer who finished 6th in the indoor heptathlon isn’t picked to score, but he’s right on the cusp and with a little home field advantage is poised to score several points.
Though the men will be a longshot to win, the battle for second should be interesting as USC, Iowa State, Georgia and Texas A&M will be in the hunt to challenge Oregon. Not to forget the women, they’re only picked to finish eighth, but sprinter Kemba Nelson has moved onto the top 10 Duck list; this is a list full of Olympians and she will try to defend her indoor sprint title. Expect the Lady Ducks to score in the 100, 4×100, Steeplechase, 10,000 and triple jump. It’s conceivable they could move up to sixth overall.
This is why we have the meet at venerable Hayward Field, to see if the Men of Oregon can do it again! Do check the various point prognostications and follow any revisions to those numbers right here.
“Oh, how we love to ponder about Our Beloved Track & Field Ducks!“
Top Photo from Oregon T&F Twitter
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. He is now competing in Masters races, and is undefeated in his age category in the 5K over the last two seasons.
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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