EUGENE - The first day of the NCAA meet concluded just over an hour ago here at Hayward Field in Eugene. In terms of the team race, things went pretty much according to the formchart, which means the women's title chase is still a two-team race - Oregon and Texas A&M being the teams - and Texas A&M and Florida still look like the teams to beat on the men's side. The major news was an inury to Gabby Mayo, one of Texas A&M's top women athletes. Mayo runs on the 4x1 team and figured to score some points in both the 100 and the 100 hurdles.400-meter standout Jessica Beard will fill in on the relay, but losing her points, figured at 8-10 on my formchart, opens the door for the Ducks. We'll see if they can step through it and seize the championship over the next three days.
Some of the highlights of Day One at the NCAA Meet in Eugene:
BEST CLUTCH PERFORMANCE – Ryan Whiting of Arizona State was back in seventh place in the men’s discus competition in the next-to-last round when he popped one out to 193-9, good enough to take the lead over Kansas freshman Mason Finley. With a foul – his third of the competition – on his final throw, Whiting had to sweat it out while the remaining throwers took their last throws. The mark held up and Whiting got the win, completing the first and most challenging half of a possible discus – shot double.
Whiting may be making a habit of the come-from-behind victory – at the Pac-10 Meet in May, he won the discus competition on his last throw.
BEST TRIUMPH OVER THE ELEMENTS – Andrew Wheating, who else? Running in heat 3 of the 800 meter preliminaries, Wheating ran easily near the back of the pack, despite a slow 53- second pace on the first lap. Coming off the final curve onto the homestretch, the runners ran straight into a squall. The driving rain and wind seemed to visibly slow the field, except for Wheating, who moved effortlessly past the frontrunners and cruised to an easy victory in 1:48.80, a nice time given the conditions.
BEST FINISH – The day’s most impressive kick didn’t belong to Wheating, however. Virginia freshman Robby Andrews was in the first 800 heat, which took place before the heavy rain hit. Coming off a surprisingly fast pace through the first 700 meters, Andrews turned on the jets in the last 100, moving quickly from way back to win the race in a 2010 collegiate best-time of 1:45.54, and setting off a buzz in the crowd. Andrews has already used his kick to twice nip Wheating at the finish of races this year, and the stage is now set for a classic matchup of two big kickers on Friday evening.
BEST MOMENT FOR THE DUCKS – Senior Nicole Blood used the energy from the loud and raucous Hayward crowd to pull out a crucial third place in the 10,000 meters Wednesday night. Blood said after the race that she felt like she had “nothing left” near the end of the 25 lap race, but, with the crowd chanting her name and screaming for her, she found a way to keep going. She finished strong, moving up from fifth to third in the last 800 meters of the race. Blood, who will come back in the 5,000 meters on Friday, uttered the words that make a coach proud, “I ran my heart out tonight.” Her performance sent the crowd home happy and gave her team renewed hope for a team title.