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Pepsi Invite goes to Oregon
By Steve Ritchie
April 10, 2010

Nicole Blood congratulates a UW runner after the 1500 meters
EUGENE - In a showdown of the top two collegiate womens’ teams at Hayward Field on Saturday, the University of Oregon women showed they are for real, taking down the number one ranked Texas A&M Aggies. Duck sprinter Amber Purvis, who won the 100 and the 200 and was arguably the brightest star of many, did nothing to douse the flame on the budding rivalry between the two teams when she said, “It was really important to show them we have sprinters and we are ready for them anytime.”

The next time the two teams meet will be at the NCAA meet at Hayward in early June and it should be quite a show. The latest Track & Field News Formchart for the NCAA meet, prepared before the Pepsi meet unfolded, has the Duck women winning by three points over A&M. The next formchart might be even more in the Ducks favor, given how they performed on Saturday.

The Aggies had their moments Saturday. Jessica Beard was dominating in the 400 meters, running a 51.64 that confirmed her growing rep as a future star in the quarter mile. Gabby Mayo laid down the hammer in the anchor leg of a close until then 4 x 100 relay, and she led a Texas A&M sweep of the 100 meter hurdles. But Purvis destroyed Porscha Lucas in the 100, and then had the temerity to tell reporters she wasn’t sure she ran a very good race. Look for Purvis to move up the formcharts.

Jordan Hasay leads the 5000 meters at the Pepsi Invite

The distance races, as expected, went to Oregon, though UW’s Katie Follett outdueled UO’s Nicole Blood in the 1500. Jordan Hasay – in her first race at Hayward in a UO singlet and her first 5K on the track – got off to a great start, opening a sizeable lead after the first kilometer, but admittedly struggled a bit through the latter parts of the race. Blood, who always impresses as mentally tough-as-nails, broke away from a trailing pack mid-way through the race and went after Hasay, closing on her considerably over the last mile.

Freshman Anne Kesselring looked strong in winning the 800 in a promising 2:06.9 and Claire Michel won the 3000 steeplechase handily.

In the field events, the Ducks had a slight edge over their Texas rivals, winning four events to the Aggies two. The biggest surprise was in the pole vault where Melissa Gergel, who has the top outdoor mark among collegians, no-heighted, leaving it to UO teammate Jordan Roskelley to win at 12-10. Texas A&M showed their strength in the horizontal jumps, going one-two in the triple, but UO’s Jameesha Youngblood evened things by taking the long jump. These two events will also be critical in deciding the outcome of the June battle.

The Oregon men also prevailed, but the score was a little less decisive and the performances a little less impressive than the women. Perhaps that’s because there was no Andrew Wheating, no Jordan McNamara, no Cyrus Hostetler – three of the top UO athletes who were all held out of the meet for one reason or another.

Jamesha Youngblood wins the long jump at the Pepsi Invite
But there was an Ashton Eaton! Now officially a rock star of track and field, at least at Hayward, Eaton is simply amazing in his consistency and all-around prowess. One minute he is running a windy 13.64 to win the high hurdles, while the next he is long jumping 25-06 to easily win the long jump. And there he is again running a strong lead-off leg in the long relay. Is there a more dominant collegiate athlete in this sport? He makes it look easy.

Certainly the Duck men are a strong team, powerful in the mid and long distances, javelin, and decathlon, but at this point in the season it doesn’t appear that they have enough standouts to stay with Florida and Texas A&M at the NCAAs. They will need huge performances from Wheating, Centrowitz, Hostetler and McNamara, and break-throughs from a number of others. That’s why less-than-stellar performances by A. J. Acosta and Luke Puskedra on Saturday have to concern Duck fans. They will need points from their Acostas and Puskedras to mount a challenge. As dominant as Eaton is in the decathlon, it’s still only ten points and he really can’t be asked to come back in other events (long jump? Relay? 400?) can he? It might take that kind of miracle.

UO sprinter Mandy White gets set to run the 4 x 100 relay at the Pepsi Invite

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