|University of Oregon senior Laura Roesler
EUGENE - The track and field meet between Arizona and Oregon on Saturday at Hayward Field could have been billed as “Throwback Saturday,” given the scarcity of dual meets – and team scoring meets in general – at the collegiate level. At one time the college track season consisted mainly of dual and three-way meets, but that ended a couple of decades ago, at least at the NCAA Division One level.
Saturday's Pepsi Dual between the two Pac-12 programs, which replaced the four-team Pepsi Team Invitational of recent years on the UO schedule, was won handily by both the Oregon men and women. On paper, it looked like to be a close matchup, with the second-ranked UO women versus the ninth-ranked Wildcats, and Oregon's fourth-ranked men taking on #16 Arizona, but it didn't work out that way. The Duck men dominated the out-manned Wildcats 114-47, and the Oregon women rolled to an equally-convincing 106-52 victory.
While the final outcome was never in doubt, it was still an opportunity for the Ducks to showcase their team depth and individual stars in head-to-head team competition, and for the 5,004 faithful in attendance, especially the old-timers feeling nostalgic about a now-rare dual meet format, to practice their math skills – five points for first place, three for second, one for third – as the events unfolded.
Oregon's emerging group of young throwers was a major factor in the dominant wins. Going up against an Arizona program that has in recent years been one of the nation's best in the throws, the Ducks flexed their muscles with a clean sweep, winning all eight throwing events.
Greg Skipper, a sophomore from Oregon City, led the way with an astonishing series in the hammer throw. Every one of Skipper's six throws was farther than his previous personal best. His toss of 231-6 gave him a 37-foot margin of victory, and moved him into second place on the Oregon all-time list.
“I'm really happy,” Skipper said. “Today was awesome. I'm excited about it but more excited about what is to come.” Skipper said that he didn't quite expect such a good performance considering he was coming off the hardest week of training “since the fall . . . We really hit it hard. We made some technical adjustments and something just clicked this week. The speed was there.”
Prize frosh Haley Crouser from Gresham was another standout thrower for the Ducks on this day, winning her second meet as a Duck with a throw of 164-05 on her last attempt.
“It was my first win at Hayward Field as a Duck so it was definitely something special,” Crouser said. “There's a ton of room for improvement but I'm definitely happy with how it is going.”
Crouser was a multi-event standout in high school, winning state titles in the shot put and 100 hurdles along with three titles in the javelin. However, she said the plan for her freshman year at least was to focus solely on the javelin, an event in which she holds the national prep record of 181-2.
Crouser is part of formidable javelin group at Oregon, which includes multi-sport All-American Liz Brenner, who took second on Saturday in her first appearance of the season, and Rachel Sherrell, who threw 166-4 last weekend. Crouser said it is an ideal situation for her.
“We have a lot of competition among the five or six of us in practice, and it's definitely good for us – I think we really push each other.”
The day's two featured races on the track were the men's 1500 and the women's 800. In the former Oregon's Mac Fleet, reigning NCAA champion in the event, was taking on Arizona's Lawi Lalang, holder of the NCAA indoor mile record as well as multiple national titles in track. Lalang went out hard, with a 57-second first lap, but couldn't shake Fleet who stayed right behind him until the final stretch. With 80 meters left, Fleet blasted past Lalang to take the victory in 3:44.04, .75 seconds ahead of the Kenyan native.
“I knew he was going to go out hard and then he tends to fade a little bit,” Fleet said. “I was comfortable following and decided to wait until I was inside 80 meters (to kick). It's great to get the win, and to not work harder than I wanted to early in the season.”
Unlike Fleet, Oregon senior Laura Roesler had no competition in the 800, but still went after a sub-2 minute time. Paced by former teammate Anne Kesselring for the first 500 meters, Roesler ran the last 300 against the clock, winning easily in a very fast 2:01.10.
At first, Roesler looked pained to come up just short of her goal, but later pronounced herself happy with the race. “Just to go out under 60 (on the first lap),” Roesler said, “and get a feel for that will help me later on because I'm not very comfortable with that. I'd rather sit back. But the 59 second first lap felt pretty comfortable. Anne really helped me out.”
The Ducks will now return to hard training before the Oregon Relays in two weeks, and the Penn Relays at the end of April. Their next “scoring meets” will be the ones that really count – the Pac-12 and NCAA championships.
Notes . . . Central High School grad Marcus McArdle, a sophomore at Oregon, took third in the hammer with a season-best mark of 172-10 . . . Freshman Devon Allen, a wide receiver on the football team, is splitting practice time between football and track this month. He has three spring football practices each week, and two track practices. The 2012 Arizona Gatorade Track & Field Athlete of the Year, Allen is the real deal in track. He won the 110 hurdles in 13.96 . . . UO senior Sarah Penney out-kicked her sister Kate, an Arizona sophomore, to win the 1500 meters in 4:18.74 . . . Arizona's Nick Ross, one of the nation's top high jumpers, won his specialty with a jump of 7-01.5. He also won the triple jump and was third in the long jump.