|English Gardner - University of Oregon
EUGENE - On the first day of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field
Championships at Hayward Field, the University of Oregon men took a major
body blow when Mike Berry failed to advance in the 400 meters, but the
Oregon women sailed through qualifying without a hitch in their quest for
their first national title since 1985.
If they are successful, the Duck women can also lay claim to an
unprecedented "triple crown" of national championships - cross country,
indoor track and field, and outdoor track and field - something no NCAA
Division 1 women's program has ever accomplished in the same academic year.
The Ducks won the NCAA Cross Country Championship last November in
Louisville, and ran away with the indoor title in March in Fayetteville,
Arkansas. After four straight runner-up finishes at the NCAA outdoor meet,
the UO women are clearly hoping that the "Hayward Field magic" will finally
help push them over the top.
Wednesday's qualifying events and finals, with a Hayward crowd of 9,001
ready to support the Ducks at every turn, made their title quest seem a
little more likely. The Ducks got all their athletes through to the finals,
while Kansas, the team projected to narrowly beat Oregon, suffered a major
casualty when 400 meter runner Diamond Dixon placed third in her qualifying
heat and did not advance to Friday's 400 final.
The meet form chart put together for Track & Field News by Jack Pfeifer
has the UO women placing second, one point behind Kansas, and 12 points
ahead of Arkansas, so Dixon not making the final could prove to be big in
the team race. She was projected to place fifth, worth five points for the
UO junior English Gardner, who is being counted on by the Ducks to score
big in the 100 and 200, as well as contribute on both relays, did her part
on Wednesday. Gardner anchored the Duck 4 x 100 relay team to a victory in
their semifinal, and had the day's second-fastest time in 100 meter
qualifying, a wind-aided 11.0.
Gardner burst out of the blocks and seemed to be in control of the race,
when University of Central Florida sophomore Octavious Freeman caught her
at the tape and got the win by .01 second.
"I definitely eased up a little bit . . . (but) I only had to get top
two," Gardner said. "You always want to get out there and go for it but
you've got to be smart. I've learned how to run rounds and that is what I'm
trying to do."
Gardner's teammate, freshman Jenna Prandini also qualified for Friday's
100 meter final, running a major personal best of 11.14, a development that
may significantly boost the team's title prospects.
"I'm ecstatic," Prandini said. "I told myself if I wanted to get to the
finals I would have to PR and do what I haven't done before. I got out
there and ran as best as I could and I got through."
Gardner said that Prandini's break-through helped her and the team.
"I told her as long as you push and get out you're going to make it,"
Gardner said. "She listened, she got out of the blocks, and she executed
and she did well. (Having her in the final) definitely took a little of the
load off my shoulders. I'm carrying two big sandbags right now so it
definitely helped me.
"The whole team is hungry so we're definitely ready to get out there and
put on a show for our fans because they deserve this . . . I love being
here, I love my fans and I love the Hayward magic."
Other Oregon women advancing to the finals were junior Laura Roesler, who
won her 800 semi comfortably in 2:03.63, and junior Phyllis Francis, who
looked strong in running a fast 51.83 in her 400 semi.
Oregon's Liz Brenner hit a huge eight-foot PR of 168-09 on her second
throw of the javelin competition to make finals. While she did not improve
on that mark, the four-sport star managed to hold on to eighth-place,
earning one point - essentially a bonus point in the team race, since she
was not figured to score in the javelin.
The Hayward magic was not as strong for the Oregon men.
Junior Mike Berry, who came into the meet with the fourth-fastest time in
the 400, went out fast in his semi, but struggled down the homestretch and
finished fourth. It looked like he might still make the final as a time
qualifier when he and Akheem Gauntlett of Arkansas, who ran in a different
heat, tied for the eighth-fastest time. But when the timers took it the
official times to thousandths of a second, Berry lost out by .004 seconds.
He will get another chance when he anchors Oregon's 4 x 400 meter relay in
Thursday's qualifying, but the lost points in the 400 probably doom the
Oregon men's team chances.
Senior Elijah Greer, the clear-cut favorite in the men's 800, had to step
on the gas in the second lap of his heat to win going away in 1:48.76. A
former Oregon high school champion from Lake Oswego, Greer won the indoor
title in the 800 and has the fastest outdoor time this season by any
collegian at 1:46.20. He said he was happy to finally get to race.
"I'm glad I'm here, I'm glad (the meet's) here and I'm glad I'm ready,"
Greer said. After dropping back and having to run hard the last 400 to
qualify, Greer added, "I need to run smart and not spot those guys so
Decathlete Dakota Keys didn't have his best day, but the sophomore from
Sweet Home held it together and even managed a personal best in the shot
put. His best events are all on the second day, so he may be able to move
up into the top eight. Based on his PR 8,001 decathlon at the Pac-12 meet,
Keys was projected to finish fourth here, but that looks to be in doubt.
Keys is in 15th place with 3,941 points after day one.
Coach Robert Johnson didn't seem worried, however, either about Keys or
about his team's chances.
"There are going to be ebbs and flows in any championship meet," Johnson
said. "Those that are able to handle the highs and lows will be happy on
"Dakota is moving right along. Steady Eddie is what we call him. Pretty
much just a solid day for Dakota and we get some of his highlight events
tomorrow with pole vault and javelin."
Notes . . . Ryan Crouser, the former Oregon high school champion from
Barlow High School, won the shot put title with a mark of 66-07.5.
Amazingly, it was Crouser's only legal throw of the competition - all of
his five other attempts were fouls . . . Betsy Saina of Iowa State sprinted
away from Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton of Wichita State in the last 200 meters
of the 10,000 meters to win in 33:08.85. The women's 10K was the only final
on the track on Wednesday . . . The men's 100 meter semifinals resulted in
some very fast times on Wednesday evening. The three qualifying races were
won by Dentarius Locke of Florida State in 9.97, Isiah Young of Mississippi
in 10.00, and Charles Silmon of TCU in 9.92. The times of Young and Silmon
were wind-aided, but Locke's time will count as the eighth-fastest all-time
for a collegian . . . The UO men's 4 x 100 relay team, anchored by
De'Anthony Thomas ran a season-best 39.89 but finished sixth in their heat,
and failed to advance to the final.