|Mac Fleet - University of Oregon
|EUGENE - Mac Fleet's dramatic win in the 1500 meters propelled the Oregon
men to a strong final day performance and fourth-place finish at the NCAA
Outdoor Track & Field Championships before a crowd of 11,482 at Historic
Hayward Field on Saturday afternoon.
Fleet used a 52-second last lap and a strong kick in the homestretch to
move from eighth to first, and he had enough of a margin at the line to
give the crowd a little gesture of excitement.
Coming off more than two seasons of injuries made the victory especially
sweet for the Oregon junior.
"It means everything," Fleet said. "Coming close my freshman year indoors,
I had a little taste of it, then I had everything taken away the next two
years. It puts it into perspective how hard it is to get at this level
again. Just a fantastic day."
Sam Crouser's third place in the javelin, Johnathan Cabral's fifth in the
110 hurdles, and the 4 x 400 meter relay's team's third also contributed
vital points for the Ducks in the close men's team race. Oregon ended with
44 points, just behind pre-meet favorite Arkansas' 46.5.
Fueled by wins in the javelin, 200 and 110 hurdles, the Texas A&M men
appeared to be headed to an easy victory in the team race. They took a nine
point lead and a strong 4 x 400 team into the meet's final event. But the
Aggies dropped the baton on the first exchange in the 4 x 400 relay and
finished last. This opened the door for Florida, which won the race going
away in 3:01.34, earning ten points and a co-championship tie with A&M at
53 points apiece.
Meanwhile, the UO women's title hopes fell apart in heart-breaking
fashion. Entering the final day 15 points behind Kansas, Oregon needed
everything to go perfectly on Saturday to have a chance of catching
It didn't happen.
The women's 4 x 100 team performed as expected, taking fourth in 43.80,
just ahead of Kansas. But the very next event - the 1500 meters - ended the
Ducks' dreams of an NCAA title and a triple crown of championships in
Seniors Becca Friday and Anne Kesselring, both experienced and successful
runners in NCAA competition, finished 11th and 12th, respectively, and out
of scoring position. Friday ran most of the race at the back of the pack,
but Kesselring was in the thick of it entering the homestretch. As runners
started to pass her, Kesselring appeared to tie up badly about 30 meters
from the finish line and then she fell to track. She struggled to get up
and finish before a stunned crowd.
| Becca Friday - University of Oregon
Kesselring, who won a NCAA title in the 800 as a sophomore, seemed
stunned, too, after the race.
"I felt pretty good coming around the (final) turn, and then I really
don't know what happened" Kesselring said. "I was looking at the finish
line . . . my legs just wouldn't come up and could feel myself going down."
With their title hopes gone, facing a loaded field and 100 meter champion
English Gardner sitting the race out with a bum ankle, the UO's normally
strong 4 x 400 relay had a tough task in their race. They managed a
fourth-place finish in 3:28.24.
That pushed the Ducks point total to 43, one point behind runner-up Texas
A&M. Kansas breezed to their first women's national championship with 60
points, which was three points higher than projected coming into the meet.
"We definitely gave it everything we had on the day," Head Coach Robert
Johnson said. "I couldn't be more proud of the girls."
Gardner stopped in the media tent after the 4 x 100 relay to announce that
she has decided to turn professional and would be giving up her last year
of eligibility at Oregon. Though the outdoor championship once again eluded
the Oregon women, Gardner said she was proud of her effort and of the team.
"I went out there and fought tooth and nail for my team," Gardner said."Anything I could do for them I was willing to do . . . I'm going to miss
being a Duck. I love being here at Oregon. I love wearing the uniform and
I'm going to miss wearing the O. I'm just glad they gave me the opportunity
to experience and witness the magic here at Hayward."
Mac Fleet was also savoring the moment after adding his win to the UO's
long history of NCAA titles in the 1500 and mile. After finally overcoming
a series of foot injuries, Fleet said he sat down with UO distance coach
Andy Powell in early September last year to map out a plan to win the NCAA
"We had a long talk about what we needed to do over the course of all
those weeks. It was long months of dedication and really focused training .
. . When I put some months (of training) together I can be dangerous."
Fleet also said he and Powell shared a similar career trajectory, since
Powell was also injured during his college career at Stanford. Fleet
believes that experience gave Powell the insight to guide him through the
long months of not being able to compete or train.
"Without Andy, I don't think I am here today. He works so hard and cares
so much about all his athletes. I owe a lot to him."
"We have been through a lot together," Powell acknowledged. "When things
aren't going well that's when you need to spend a lot of time (with an
athlete). We were able to really connect not just at practice but spending
time talking about things, about life."
Notes . . . LSU senior Kimberlynn Duncan became the first three-time
champion in the 200 meters. Duncan tied the fastest-ever NCAA 200 meter
time of 22.04 but her time was wind-aided and won't count as a record . . .
Olympian Emma Coburn of Colorado polished off a distinguished college
career with another victory in the 3000 meter steeplechase. Coburn will
join a number of other collegian standouts from this meet in Des Moines
later this month to try to make the US world championship team . . . UO
Head Coach Robert Johnson said a contingent of Ducks would also be among
those headed to Des Moines in a couple of weeks. Expect English Gardner,
Laura Roesler, Jordan Hasay, Phyllis Francis, Mac Fleet, Mike Berry, Elijah
Greer and possibly a few others to be in that group . . . Brianna Rollins
of Clemson will be a strong contender for the US team, too. Rollins set a
new collegiate record of 12.39 in winning the 100 hurdles, a time that is
just .06 seconds off Gail Dever's 13 year-old American record . . .
Collegiate high jump record-holder Brigetta Barrett of Arizona didn't set a
record, but cleared 6-04.75 to win the event by more than three inches . .
. Another Arizona athlete, Lawi Lalang, won the 5000 meters on Saturday to
go with his 10000 meter win on Thursday . . . Despite finishing third, UO's
Sam Crouser was disappointed in his performance in the javelin, telling
reporters, "I'm disappointed to say the least. I expected a little more.
I'm used to the headwind more than anyone, so there's no excuses, (because)
this is my home field." Crouser's best throw was 239-09, well below his
season and personal bests. Texas A&M senior Sam Humphreys won the javelin
with a throw of 255-09.