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UO Women look to Des Moines . . . and Beyond
By Steve Ritchie
May 28, 2011

University of Oregon's Laura Roesler
EUGENE - After three long, cold days of competition on their home turf, a sizeable number of University of Oregon track and field athletes will move on to the NCAA Championship Meet in Des Moines, Iowa.

Barring any withdrawals due to injury, it appears that 13 women and 11 men plus two women’s relays will make the trip to nationals. Sprinter Amber Purvis, who projects as a point scorer for the Ducks if healthy, did not run on Saturday in the opening round for relays, but possibly could recover to compete in the 100 meters and the relays in two weeks. Purvis is a key member of both the 4 x 100 and the 4 x 400 teams, which managed to qualify without her on Saturday.

University of Oregon's Anne Kesselring

While they won’t be favorites, the Duck women can’t be counted out of the title race, despite losing Purvis in the 200, as well as Brianne Theisen (heptathlon) and Alexandra Kosinski (5000 meters), who were both injured and ruled out of action weeks ago.

They have Jordan Hasay in the 1500 and 5000, and Hasay will be looking to repeat her indoor success, when she won the mile and 3000. They also have a strong duo of Laura Roesler and Anne Kesselring in the 800, and another tandem of seniors Melissa Gergel and Jordan Roskelley in the pole vault.

Purvis and freshman English Gardner are legitimate contenders in the 100, and Claire Michel and Lanie Thompson could deliver points in the steeplechase. Senior Jamesha Youngblood has plenty of NCAA experience in the long jump and will be looking for a solid finish to her college career.

The relays could prove to be key for the Ducks. If Purvis is healthy and running well, the Ducks could score in the 4 x 100, and contend for a top three finish in the 4 x400. Even that might not be enough, however. Texas A&M and LSU are strong and deep.

University of Oregon's Becca Friday

Looking beyond the NCAA meet, the performance of the Oregon women at the regional meet has to be considered encouraging. Their talented young corps of mid and long distance runners continues to get better. Junior Becca Friday had another break-through 1500 meter performance on Saturday by running 4:17.97, an improvement of nearly three seconds over her previous PR. She appears to be poised for a standout senior season.

Claire Michel set yet another school record in the 3000 meter steeplechase on Friday night. While the NCAA Championships will be Michel’s last as a Duck, freshman Lanie Thompson is just getting started. The steeple she ran here was just her third-ever and she had to contend with her shoes coming untied during the race, making it hard for her at times to pop out of the water pit effectively. Yet, she finished just four seconds behind Michel, whose hurdling and jumping technique is much better than Thompson’s. Steeplechase is typically not an event in which freshmen excel, and Thompson’s long term future in the event looks promising.

Another UO steepler, sophomore Taylor Wallace, has to be mentioned as well. Though she didn’t qualify for nationals, Wallace recorded a 22-second PR of 10:18.19, which was less than five seconds off a qualifying place.

UO's Taylor Wallace UO's Lanie Thompson and Claire Michel

Roesler and Kesselring seemingly have exceeded expectations in the 800 this season, joining the top echelon of the college ranks in the event. Roesler and fellow frosh Chizoba Okodogbe and Phyllis Francis have been a solid trio on what may be the youngest 4x400 to make nationals. This group should get better and better.

If Kosinski and Theisen come back for their redshirt senior seasons, and Oregon gets contributions from another strong recruiting class, the Duck women in 2012 might be in a position to win that coveted national title outdoors.

 

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