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OSU Track & Field Shows Signs of Growth at High Performance Meet
By Steve Ritchie/Special to the Statesman Journal
May 2, 2014

Kelly Sullivan, Head Coach OSU Track and Field
EUGENE - Oregon State's track and field program took another large step forward at Friday night's High Performance Meet at the Whyte Track & Field Center on the OSU campus.

Hosting 500 athletes from six Division One schools and smaller colleges in the region, and being able to stage a quality meet for fans and athletes was an accomplishment for the young program. Even more impressive, though, was the emerging talent on display for the Beavers.

Melissa Ausman, a freshman thrower from Nyssa High School, gave the home crowd a taste of what may be to come when she unleashed a monster throw of 168' on her final attempt in the discus competition. Ausman, who had broken Beth Nygren's 1988 school record of 155-2 on her first throw of the evening, decided to go for broke on her final attempt.

"After the first (school record) throw that I took and (reaching) my goal for the year, I thought I've got nothing to lose since I've reached my goal. Now it's time to just go for it, and it worked." Ausman finished second in the event behind Oregon senior Laura Bobek, who also had a personal best. Her mark of 177-10 moved Bobek to third on the Oregon all-time list.

Ausman said she has been focusing her freshman season on improving her technique, and she wasn't even sure where her 18-foot personal record placed her in the Pac-12 rankings. But both she and Head Coach Kelly Sullivan knew the significance of her performance for a program that has been primarily distance-oriented since being re-established in 2005.

"Kelly came up to me and he told me, 'We've got some throwers!,'" a beaming Ausman said after receiving congratulations and hugs from a host of her coaches and teammates.

"Our throwers had a great day," Sullivan said, emphasizing that his group of throwers are "very young." In addition to Ausman, he pointed to freshman Christina MacDonald, who improved her javelin school record to 138-11 earlier in the day, and to sophomore transfer Rachell Picknell, who set a new personal best in the shot by more than a foot, moving her to fourth in OSU history at 43-11.25.

OSU women's track and field

SOSU sophomore jumper Michelle Turney again etched her name in the school record book on Friday evening. Turney, who broke the OSU triple jump record last year and again this season, set three new records in the triple, ending with a best mark of 40-0. For good measure, she also set four personal records in the long jump competition, and moved up to tie for sixth all-time with her best wind-legal jump of 18-1.75. Turney's wind-aided mark of 18-07.25 was good for the runner-up spot behind Portland State's Baileh Simms' jump of 19-03.50.

There were no records for the OSU women on the track, but there were some strong performances.

Redshirt freshman Morgan Anderson, a Silverton High School grad, was the top OSU finisher in the 1500 meters, taking sixth in 4:27.58. Anderson had a break-through race two weeks ago at the Oregon Relays when she dropped seven seconds from her PR with a time of 4:27.15, which is fourth on the all-time OSU list. She and Sullivan believe she is close to getting a time that will get her to the NCAA preliminary round.

After a freshman season when she dealt with a serious bicycle accident, illness and frustrating running injuries, Anderson said she is happy to put all of that behind her and focus on being successful at this level.

"(Last year) was rough because it wasn't how I expected it to go at all," Anderson said. "My freshman year definitely took down my confidence and self-esteem. I didn't have any sustained training because stuff would keep happening.

"I had to sit down with Kelly and the other coaches, and it was a hard conversation to have. I knew something had to change. The talk was hard, but it really changed my motivation and outlook on the sport. It made me want to live the life of a runner and that has made the difference for me this year . . . just really having my entire heart into it. I became a lot happier with running."

The sizeable contingent of University of Oregon athletes at the meet also had a good meet. While many of Oregon's top athletes were either training through this weekend, or heading for distance-friendly conditions at Sunday's Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford, Oregon won seven events here.

Along with Bobek, Duck winners were Brittany Mann in the shot (51-1.75), Sammie Clark in the pole vault (13-3.50), Brett Johnson in the 1500 (3:44.73), Chancey Summers in the high jump (5-8.75), and Alec Smith in the 800 (1:49.73).

Coming at the end of a successful meet and a week in which Oregon State announced a donation of $220,000 to help with the Phase 2 construction on the Whyte Center, the always ebullient Sullivan was stoked. His young women’s squad is showing promise and the Phase 2 goal is within reach.

"I really liked what I saw," Sullivan said. "It's nice for them to have a home meet. It's what we've been missing since I've been here. When it's at your place, there's just a different energy.

"We need $4.5 million to finish Phase 2 (of the Whyte Center), and we're at $2.8 million now. And what we're looking at finishing is phenomenal. We're real hopeful we'll get that (remaining) $1.7 million. The whole goal is that by 2017 we'll have a phenomenal facility and we'll have some firepower."

TrackTown USA President Vin Lananna, formerly head coach at Oregon and chief orchestrator of major meets at Hayward Field, drove up from Eugene to watch the meet. Sullivan has acknowledged many times the support he has received from Lananna and the Oregon track community. Lananna voiced his support again on Friday evening.

"It's not a good thing for the University of Oregon to be the only (track and field) show in town," Lananna said. "It's exciting what has happened here, and the community should be very proud of the asset they've built here."


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