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Oregon Men Triumph at Pepsi Meet; Women Take Second
By Steve Ritchie/Special to the Statesman Journal
April 6, 2013

Mac Fleet at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field - Pepsi Team Invitational

EUGENE - The University of Oregon women's track and field team has aspirations of a national title, but it was the Oregon men who emerged victorious on Saturday afternoon in the four-way Pepsi Team Invitational at rain-drenched Hayward Field. The Duck men, currently ranked fourth nationally, scored 194.5 points to prevail over NCAA favorite Texas A&M, 180.5, Washington State, 165.5, and Washington, 129.5.

The Oregon women had to be content with second place, with their 181 points well behind Texas A&M's 201. Washington took third with 146, and Washington State fourth with 138. The runner-finish for the Oregon women is all too familiar, as they have finished second nationally outdoors for the past four years.

After capturing the NCAA Cross Country title in the fall and the NCAA Indoor Championship last month, the Oregon women have a chance to complete an unprecedented sweep if they can win the Outdoor Championship in June, when the NCAA meet will be held at Hayward Field. No women's program has ever captured all three titles in the same academic year, though it has been done multiple times by Arkansas and UTEP on the men's side.

Pepsi Invitational, Hayward Field

The Oregon men broke open a tight battle with Texas A&M late in the meet, with Jeramy Elkaim and Parker Stinson sweeping the 5000 meters and, almost simultaneously, Greg Skipper and Miles Walk finished first and third in the hammer throw. The 31 points from those two events gave the Ducks an insurmountable lead going into the 4x400 relay, which was the last event of the meet.

Oregon Head Coach Robert Johnson said the win was big for the Duck men, who haven't been a major factor nationally the past two years, even though they have won the Pac-12 championship six straight years.

"Great job on the men's side . . . You had the number one team (nationally) there in Texas A&M, and to have the number four team (Oregon) upset them that just bodes well for our men's program."

Johnson noted that it was just the opposite on the women's side with the fourth-ranked Aggies upsetting the second-ranked Ducks.

"We'll go back to the drawing board and try to retool on the women's side . . . we're a little short there depth-wise," Johnson said.

Distance star Jordan Hasay did her part for the team on Saturday. Hasay, who ran the season-leading time for collegians in her first attempt at the 10,000 meters last Friday night at Stanford, dropped down to the 1,500 meters for this meet. The UO senior showed that her new training focus on the longer distances hasn't hurt her closing speed - and maybe has even helped it - as she easily pulled away from teammate Becca Friday and the rest of the field over the last 200 meters to win in 4:20.19.

"(This race) was just a great opportunity," Hasay said after the race. "I don't have too many more chances to run in front of this crowd in an Oregon uniform . . . I was really enjoying it today.

English Gardner, University of Oregon

"That was probably the best kick I've had so far this year. I told Coach Johnson I felt like a sprinter. I think the strength (training) is only helping my speed."

Hasay said that she and most of her teammates are in the midst of a heavy training phase, and she was surprised by how good she felt on her finishing sprint.

It could be a sign of great things to come for Hasay, who said she is "all in" for concentrating on the 10,000 meters this spring.

English Gardner, the Ducks' standout junior sprinter, was matched up against Texas A&M's Kamaria Brown and Ashton Purvis, two of the nation's top sprinters, in her first 200 of the season. Gardner took second in 23.32, just .05 seconds behind Brown. The heaviest shower of the day hit right before the race, soaking the track and the athletes, but Gardner said she tried not to let the adverse conditions affect her.

"It was just make it look like it's not bothering you at all, let them do the complaining. Play mind games, of course. I was just going out there like it was all sunshine, talking to the crowd. It's what the game is all about . . . putting on a show for the crowd."

A trio of other Ducks delivered strong performances for the women. Phyllis Francis won the 400 in 52.54, the second-fastest collegiate time of the season. Laura Roesler won the 800 in impressive fashion in 2:03.94, and Jillian Weir recorded a lifetime best of 192-08 in the hammer, a mark that is number three all-time at UO.

Junior Mac Fleet, who has struggled with injuries the last two years, ran his first race at Hayward since 2010, his freshman year, and energized the crowd of 5,367 with his strong win (1:48.70) in the 800 meters. Fleet was followed to the finish line by teammate Boru Guyota, and their 1-2 sweep seemed to turn the tide in Oregon's favor.

Fleet, who looked like he might be Oregon's next great miler as a frosh, said he was just happy to be training hard and racing well again.

"I couldn't wait to come back and race here," Fleet said. "There's nothing like Hayward Field. I'm just really happy right now. It's a nice way to come back to Hayward."

Several other Duck men also contributed significantly to the upset victory. Mike Berry won the 400 in 46.20, the fastest collegiate time this season at that distance. Jonathan Cabral did double duty in the hurdles, winning the 110s in 13.81 and taking second in the 300 hurdles in a lifetime best of 52.42. Hammer thrower Greg Skipper continued his strong freshman season, winning with a mark of 216-04, just an inch off his best.

However, Sam Crouser's expected duel with the Aggies' Sam Humphreys did not materialize. All three of Humphreys' throws were better than Crouser's best throw of 238-05, which is well off his best. Humphreys won with 256-03.

Notes: De'Anthony Thomas took third in the 100 meters in 10.61 after participating in football practice in the morning. The Duck 4x400 team took second in 3:06.31, sixth-fastest in school history. Freshman Jenna Prandini's 11.47 in the 100 meters makes her the third-fastest Duck ever at that distance. She took second.

 
 

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