EUGENE - Track fans had the opportunity to watch two extraordinary UO athletes - Liz Brenner and DeAnthony Thomas - in action at the Oregon Preview on Saturday.
Oregon soph (redshirt freshman in track eligibility) Liz Brenner threw the javelin in competition for the first time since she was in high school. Coming off a volleyball season in which Brenner was a key performer on a team that advanced to the national championship match, Brenner went straight into basketball. With the Ducks' basketball team struggling and decimated by injuries, Brenner solidified the front line and was a major contributor for the rest of the season. The week after the basketball team concluded its season with a loss to Washington at the Pac-12 tourney, Brenner joined the track and field squad and started practicing javelin. After two practices, Brenner competed at the Preview, taking third with a very respectable mark of 141-05.
Last spring, Brenner joined the softball team, so her foray into track gives her four different varsity sports at Oregon, and she is now in her sixth season of varsity sports in two years at Oregon.
"I think it's going well. I'm learning a lot and having fun with it," said Brenner after competing. "I feel good, I'm excited to do it . . . I have more fun doing track (versus softball) and I am learning something new."
Brenner said taking time off from sports following a season is not for her. She is used to going from sport to sport and sees no reason why this should change for her in college. Most coaches would worry she wasn't giving her body enough down time, but Brenner said the only injuries she has ever suffered are "a couple of sprained ankles.
"I don't even take a week off (after a season). Maybe a weekend. I don't know, when I take time off, I get pretty bored. I love working out, going to practice, competing. I'd rather be doing that than taking time off."
While it is just a week old, it seems like the quick transition into track is going well. Brenner said she has already thrown 150' in practice, even though her footwork "needs a lot of work" and she is using a very short approach at this point.
"I would love to throw 175 feet this year," Brenner said with a smile. "That would be a 20 foot improvement from my PR in high school and I think if I throw that, I will be able to place in nationals."
Asked if she knew and had competed against Brianna Bain, the Oklahoma thrower who is the NCAA favorite this year, Brenner flashed her ever-present smile and said, "I did (compete against her) in high school. I beat her."
Another athlete who apparently dislikes down time is DeAnthony Thomas, the electrifying running back-wide receiver on the UO football team. Thomas, or DAT as he is known to Oregon fans, demonstrated his love for track in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl when he took the opening kickoff back all the way for a touchdown and punctuated the moment with a sprinter's finishing lean as he crossed the goal line.
On Saturday, DAT anchored the winning 4 x 100 team in a meet record 40.35, won the 100 meters in 10.31, though with a trailing wind slightly above the allowable, and won the 200 in a legal 21.17. Quite a day for the moonlighting football star, but afterwards it sounded like he is ready for more like it.
"I'm not really sure (when I've run this much in a meet), but I felt like I got some good work in today. A great practice meet and it should be a great season this year."
Thomas hopes to be running for the Ducks this spring, even as he will be participating in spring football practices during April.
"We've got spring ball coming up and I'm still trying to get ready for that. I'm just here to contribute to the (track) team. My mind is ready for it and I think I can (do both)."
Thomas, who made the cover of Sports Illustrated last fall as the fastest man in college football, said his PR in the 100 meters is "about 10.5" and that he was pleased with his 10.31, even though it won't count as a legal mark due to the wind being .1 meter over the limit.
What about that Fiesta Bowl TD with the sprinter lean? Thomas said he didn't decide to do it until about five yards from the goal line.
"I was just out there having fun and that was just a momentum change for our team. It was a great finish and I feel like I really got our team going.
"College track is really fun and being out here with the competition is really great."
A couple other random notes from the meet . . .
. . . Shades of Mary Cain - the NY high school star who set the track world abuzz this winter with her record setting times and beating her elders in indoor races - was high school sophomore Alexa Efraimson, who won the 1500 meters in 4:19.50. Efraimson, who lives in Camas, Washington, won the faster heat of two fairly easily, eclipsing 30 or so college runners.
. . . The Oregon State team continues to show signs of progress toward becoming a solid, Pac-12 program. Michele Turney, a freshman from Crescent Valley, set a new school record of 38-06.25 in the triple jump. The mark was good enough for second place in the event, three inches ahead of Oregon's Maggie Pietka. Oregon State will host its first home track meet in nearly 25 years on March 23.