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Ducks Roll on Throwback Saturday at Hayward Field
Oregon Preview - Ducks Open Outdoor Track Season Still On a High from Indoor Championships


The College Track & Field Season Starts to Get Serious
By Steve Ritchie
April 9, 2011

University of Oregon's Mike Berry, dead even with two other runners as they start
the last leg of the 4x4 relay on Saturday
EUGENE - Every spring the Pepsi Team Invitational at Hayward Field seems to kick off the "real" collegiate track and field season. The preview meets and icebreakers are over, the sun's out (for the moment at least), now let's get down to business, and what better way to do it than with a team competition with some of the top collegiate programs in the country getting after it.

Both the UO men's and women's teams were certainly all business on Saturday afternoon, turning back the visiting squads from Nebraska, Stanford and Washington. The Duck women, coming off consecutive indoor national titles and a runner-up finish outdoors in 2010, show no signs of a letdown, winning the Pepsi meet by 14 points over a strong Nebraska team. If Alex Kosinski returns healthy from a stress reaction in her back (a big if by the way), they could be stronger than a year ago. Especially in the running events, the Ducks are talented and deep.

We knew the Oregon women would be outdoor title contenders this season, but the men lost two national champions and several other solid performers with the graduation of Ashton Eaton, Andrew Wheating, Cyrus Hostetler and others. Currently ranked 10th nationally, they looked to have their hands full in this meet with #8 Stanford and #9 Nebraska, and maybe for the rest of the season.

Start of the women's 1500

But Saturday's results were encouraging for the Ducks, who will go for their fifth straight Pac-10 title next month in Arizona. They outperformed the form charts and won by eight points over Nebraska. There were some strong debuts for the men of Oregon: freshman Mike Berry in the 400, senior Steve Finley in the Steeple showing sub 8:30 potential, and freshman Boru Guyota beating a strong field in the 800.

Plus Matthew Centrowitz looked exceptionally comfortable in winning the 5,000 in 13:56, as did A.J. Acosta in the 1,500. In the field events, Justin Frick was solid in the high jump, Alex Wolff was 3rd in a strong javelin field and Jordan Stray consistent in winning the hammer.

A few more random impressions from the meet:

UO freshman Mike Berry getting congrats from his 4x4 teammates

Is this Eugene or Baton Rouge? When did the UO become Speed City? Freshman English Gardner turned a lot of heads in winning the 100 and 200 and anchoring the winning 4x1 relay. The newcomer from New Jersey jumped into 5th on the UO all-time top ten list, and nearly cracked the 200 top ten despite running into a 2.4 mph head wind. Amber Purvis moved up to the 400 and ran a stunning 52.80 to become Oregon's number 4 all time in that event. Mike Berry followed suit a few minutes later, cruising a lap in 45.79 to become #5 all time in his first outdoor 400. What's going on - doesn't Coach Robert Johnson know Oregon is a distance program? I know I'm giving away my age here, but it takes me back to the 1960s when Bill Bowerman won NCAA titles with great distance runners and great sprinters and hurdlers, the latter including Harry Jerome, Otis Davis, Mel Renfro, and Jerry Tarr.

UO freshman Laura Roesler at the start of the 800

Score one for the small schools! It was a little disorienting for me to see Cole Watson from 3A Rogue River High School hold on for second in the men's 1500 in a 3:48 PR. The last time I watched Watson run was at the 1A/2A/3A State Meet last May in Monmouth. He won that race easily in record time, but here he is battling with a stud like Stanford's Chris Derrick - and outlasting him at the tape. As a 2A coach, that warmed my heart quite a bit.

Speaking of Stanford, where were all the Cardinal distance runners on Saturday? Well, some of them, notably Derrick and Elliot Heath, were not running their best distances at the Pepsi Meet. Heath, who was sensational winning the NCAA indoor title in the 3,000, moved down to an 800 and Derrick and Jake Riley similarly moved down to the 1,500. But where were all the others? Vin Lananna built Stanford into a distance power and the Cardinal has continued to recruit very effectively since his departure. Coach Dena Evans is certainly highly regarded, but was a little disappointing to see three women's distance races without a strong Stanford presence.

UO freshman Boru Guyota

Could Boru Guyota become the next relative unknown 800 meter runner to step onto a national stage for Oregon? Ten months ago Guyota was completing high school in Portland as the co-valedictorian at Jefferson. Since he was 20 years old, he was not allowed to run track his senior year, and it seemed he was headed to the University of Portland to study nursing. However, Guyota, who immigrated from Ethiopia at age 16, decided to go to Oregon when he was awarded an academic scholarship.

That was great news to the Oregon coaches who wanted him, but had no athletic scholarship to give the young man. Some of the promise they saw was realized on Saturday as Guyota went 1:48.65 in the 800 to edge teammate Elijah Greer and pro Russell Brown.

Guyota told reporters after the race that he really had no race plan or strategy, and was unsure of what pace to run. I'm not saying he is the next Andrew Wheating, but imagine what this young man might do once he figures this racing stuff out.

 

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