Following the crucial losses of English Gardner and Jordan Hasay, the Oregon women’s indoor track and field team has its work cut out in order to defend the NCAA championship.
After last spring’s NCAA outdoor track and field championships, Gardner announced that she would forgo her senior season to train professionally. Gardner, who now runs for Nike, finished second in the 60-meter dash at last year’s indoor championships and was a key member of Oregon’s first-place 4×400-meter relay team.
Oregon will certainly miss Gardner’s presence in the sprints, but it returns the remaining members of the championship 4×400 team: Phyllis Francis, Chizoba Okodogbe and Laura Roesler. Francis notched a fourth-place finish in the individual 400-meter event, while Roesler finished runner-up in the 800 meter run. Sophomore Jenna Prandini will look to improve on her fifth-place finish in the 60-meter dash.
Leading the way for Oregon’s freshmen is Marybeth Sant, whose high school personal best of 7.30 seconds in the 60-meter dash would have netted fifth place at last year’s indoor championships. Sasha Wallace was named the California Girls Track and Field Gatorade Athlete of the Year in 2012 and 2013 after dominating prep competition in the 100-meter hurdles and triple jump.
On the distance side, the Ducks will need to find a way to soften the blow of graduating Hasay, the most decorated distance runner in school history.
The Ducks also graduated distance runners Alexi Pappas and Becca Friday and will turn to senior Megan Patrignelli to pick up part of the slack. Patrignelli is fresh off her most successful cross country season and has the potential to score points for the Ducks in the middle distance events.
The Oregon men finished sixth at last year’s indoor championships, driven largely by Elijah Greer’s 800-meter victory. Greer may have graduated, but Oregon stands a fair chance at improving on last year’s finish due to its incredibly deep pool of middle distance and distance runners.
Senior Mac Fleet came away with a victory in the 1,500-meter run at last spring’s outdoor championships and is just a few months removed from a strong cross country season. Fleet, along with senior Brett Johnson, figure to pick up points in the mile.
Northeastern transfer Eric Jenkins was on his way to a second-place finish in the 3,000-meter run at last year’s indoor championships before being disqualified for impeding. Coach Andy Powell told Flotrack that Jenkins was dealing with an achilles injury during the fall, which was the likely culprit that prevented him from racing during the cross country season. When healthy, Jenkins, along with senior Trevor Dunbar, has the potential to be a top scorer in the 3,000-meter run.
In the 5,000-meter run, the Ducks are led by Edward Cheserek, who is coming off a historic freshman cross country season that was capped by an individual NCAA title. Cheserek is considered one of the early favorites in the 5,000-meter run and will look to teammate Parker Stinson to pick up additional points in the event.
In the sprints and hurdles, senior Mike Berry should be a top contender in the 400-meter dash. Berry finished runner-up in the event last year to Houston’s Errol Nolan, who has since graduated. Junior Johnathan Cabral will seek to improve on his sixth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles.
The Ducks kick off the season with the Washington Preview, a two-day event that begins on Friday, Jan. 17.
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