Ducks off and running at NCAA's
EUGENE, Ore. - Elizabeth Brenner got the women on the scoreboard and the Ducks saw five runners advance to the finals on a warm and sunny Wednesday at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships before 9,001 fans at Historic Hayward Field.
"Overall, the women have done well," said Oregon head coach Robert Johnson. "They have done what was expected, so there were no surprises. It's about getting to the next day. We worry about today, today, and tomorrow, tomorrow. Those that handle the highs and lows will be happy on Saturday."
Kansas led the women's competition with 17 points, followed by Georgia, Arizona State, Texas Christian and Iowa State with 10.
Mississippi and Texas shared the men's lead with 10 points, followed by Oral Roberts and Arizona State with eight each.
Brenner, the Ducks' four-sport star from Portland, Ore., uncorked a personal best throw of 168-9/51.43m that stood up for eighth place in the final standings and one team point. The throw, coming on her second attempt, spiked into the ground with nearly an eight foot personal best and moved Brenner up to fifth in the UO career top 10.
"I wasn't expecting to be here, but I was definitely going for it," said Brenner, who was not projected to score on the pre-meet form charts. "It was a really fun day for me.
"This is definitely a lot of fun. I've made a lot of friends in track and I'm having a lot of fun with it. I'm just very proud, it's been a great season. I've got great coaches and teammates who have been pushing me all season and it's been a lot of fun."
The women saw both English Gardner and Jenna Prandini make the finals in the 100 meters, Phyllis Francis move on in the 400 and Laura Roesler advance in the 800. The women's 4x100 meter relay also moved on.
For the men, Elijah Greer was confident in making the final in the 800.
Gardner ran the second fastest 100 meter semifinal time on Wednesday, taking second in her heat in a wind-aided 11.00. The junior from Voorhees, N.J., was edged by Central Florida's Octavious Freeman, who won in 10.99.
"My goal was just to make it to the finals and I did," said Gardner. "I have to take it day-by-day and race-by-race. I didn't run my hardest; I eased up a little because I only had to get in the top two."
Prandini continued her remarkable freshman season by making the national finals in the 100. She was second in her heat in a wind-aided 11.14, an all-conditions PR for the Clovis, Calif., native.
"It was so great being here with the Hayward magic," said Prandini. "The crowd cheered me on the whole way. When I finished and they cheered, I knew something good happened."
Francis also cruised to the finals in the 400. She coasted to second in her heat in 51.83, just behind Illinois' Ashley Spencer, who ran 51.61. Junior Chizoba Okodogbe placed fifth in heat three in 52.57 and did not advance.
Laura Roesler took control of her 800 meter heat to win in 2:03.63. The junior from Fargo, N.D., had the second-fastest time advancing to the finals.
The four sprinters - Francis, Gardner, Prandini and Okodogbe - led Oregon to a victory in its 4x100 meter relay semifinal heat. The Ducks won in their fastest time of the year, 43.72, which was third fastest in school history.
"Laura Roesler had a really controlled race and made it look easy, so I am happy with that," said Johnson. "Jenna (Prandini) wasn't suppose to even be in that race so for her to get to finals is huge."
Also for the women, sophomore Jillian Weir had a best effort of 196-10/60.01m in the hammer to place 17th.
Greer's dominance in the 800 meter semifinal was the highlight on a light day for the men.
The senior from Lake Oswego, Ore., once again took control of his race after the first lap and went on to win in 1:48.76.
"I didn't like my starting lane," said Greer. "I like being in lane five or six because it's hard to be right in front. I got boxed in during the first lap.
"I just want to put myself in a good spot - that's what I need to do. I need to run smart."
Junior Mike Berry had a rough race in the 400. He finished fourth in his heat in 45.70 and missed advancing to finals based on time by a few thousandths of a second.
Oregon's football contingent helped Oregon to a sixth place finish in the 4x100 meter relay. The Ducks did not advance, but the team of Dior Mathis, Arthur Delaney, B.J. Kelley and De'Anthony Thomas still ran a season best 39.89 that ranked as the sixth fastest in school history. Oregon placed 16th overall.
In the decathlon, Dakotah Keys stood 15th with 3,941 points. The sophomore from Sweet Home, Ore., highlighted his day with a personal best in the shot put of 43-7/13.28m.