It was a cold, gray, drizzly day at Hayward Field on Saturday, but that didn’t stop the Oregon track and field team from impressing in front of 4,402 TrackTown USA fans at its first outdoor meet of the season.
Though most of the Ducks who competed in last weekend’s indoor national championships sat the meet out, a handful of dual-sport athletes — and one quadruple-sport athlete — made their debuts on the track.
Liz Brenner, the four-sport super woman who has already competed for the Ducks in volleyball and basketball this year, made her first appearance at Hayward Field in javelin. She came in at an impressive third with a throw of 141-05, well off her personal best 155-11 but very respectable considering it was her first time throwing in nearly two years.
“I would love to throw 175, and I think I definitely could do that. I actually hit 150 in practice this week, so today was kind of disappointing,” said Brenner, who has practiced with the team only twice since the end of basketball season. “When I take time off, I get pretty bored. I’d rather be doing something. I love working out, going to practice, competing — so, I’d rather be doing that than taking time off.”
The men’s 4×100 meter team comprised of De’Anthony Thomas, Dior Mathis, Arthur Delaney and B.J. Kelley also debuted at Hayward and bested a 21-year-old Oregon Preview record, finishing first in 40.35 seconds. Thomas, anchoring the Ducks in his first action on the track this year, extended Oregon’s lead to at least seven meters in his leg.
“We just practiced (handing off) only yesterday, so it was really great to go out there and run,” Thomas said after the race.
The women’s 4×100 team did not fare so well. The foursome of Phyllis Francis, English Gardner, Chizoba Okodogbe and Jenna Prandini were poised to smoke the competition. But after Francis made up the stagger in the first leg and Gardner extended the Ducks’ lead to nearly 10 meters, Gardner and Okodogbe fumbled the handoff, and the Ducks did not finish the race.
“4×100 is a race where anything can happen, and we always switch and swap each position, so today we tried something new,” Gardner said. “It happens. We’d rather do it now than six weeks later or even at Texas Relays when it counts. Get the kinks out now, fix the mistakes and go to work for later. Today just wasn’t our day, I guess.”
She redeemed herself in the women’s 400 meters. She led the pack from the beginning, overcoming Prandini at the 300-meter mark — after the two had been racing neck-and-neck — to take the race in 54.31, just half a second off her personal best. Prandini finished in second in 55.58.
“It’s always a love-hate relationship with me and that race,” Gardner said. “I definitely went out hating it, (but) we always love to win, so it was definitely a fun experience. It’s just all a part of training, so I’m learning to love it a little bit.”
In the 1,500 meters, Oregon redshirt freshman Chris Brewer was neck-and-neck at the finish line with Oregon Track Club Elite’s Ben Blankenship, who barely edged the former in 3.48.57. Brewer’s 3.48.60 was a lifetime best. The women had a respectable showing in the 1,500, with junior Laura Roesler coming in third at 4:22.33 and junior Sarah Penney in fourth at 4:23.74.
After anchoring the 4×100, Thomas ran a blistering wind-aided 10.31 in the 100 meters, easily beating his previous personal best of 10.57. Mathis and Kelley came in second and third, respectively, wrapping up an Oregon sweep of the 100 meters.
The sun came out, fittingly, just before Thomas’ last and perhaps most impressive outing of the day: the 200 meters. After a false start delayed the race, he jumped out to an immediate lead and held onto it throughout, cruising to the finish in 21.17, just about half a second off his personal best.
“I feel like I did some great work today,” he said. “I feel like it’s gonna be a great season this year.”
Other notable Oregon winners included junior Cole Watson in a dominant 5:57.35 performance in the steeplechase and All-American sophomore Johnathan Cabral, who turned in a meet-record 13.68 in the 110 meter hurdles. The Ducks also finished 1-2 in the men’s 800 meters, with senior transfer Matt Miner coming in first in 1:51.85 and sophomore Chad Noelle in second in 1:52.49.
The Ducks will compete next at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays and the Stanford Invitational, which both take place on the last weekend in March. The next meet at Hayward Field will be the Pepsi Team Invitational April 6.