When spring hits Eugene and the Oregon outdoor track and field season begins, a buzz can be felt around the city — it lives up to its nickname “Track Town USA.”
Historic Hayward Field has been the home to some of the best athletes in the world. This season looks like it will be no different with the Ducks possessing strong men and women’s programs.
Several athletes headline the team and are looking to have a big year for Oregon, including freshman distance runner Edward Cheserek. The freshman put on a display at the indoor championship meet, winning both the 3,000 (8:11.59) and 5,000 meters (13:46.67). Cheserek also won the 2013 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
On the women’s side, Phyllis Francis anchors the group. Last year as a junior, Francis was a three-event All-American at the NCAA championships and finished third in the 400 with a personal-best time of 50.86. Now as a senior, she already set the indoor record in the 400 with a time of 50.46.
The Ducks head into the outdoor season on the heels of a near perfect indoor season. Oregon sent a school-record 23 athletes to the NCAA Indoor championships, where the women were ranked No. 2 and the men were ranked No. 6. The women were also looking to win a fifth consecutive title, a feat that would tie the longest streak in NCAA history. Impressively, both the men and women were able to finish first, a feat that hasn’t been done in the same meet since Arizona State did it in 2008.
Now as they approach the outdoor season, Oregon will appreciate not having to constantly travel for all of their meets. Oregon doesn’t have a venue to allow them to host indoor meets, meaning their season is marked by a large amount of traveling.
Their first meet, the Oregon Preview, already took place. The Preview traditionally serves as a way for the team to showcase talented newcomers to the fans. This year was no different as several young Oregon athletes set meet records. Freshman Christian Brennan set a meet record of 23.61 in the women’s 200, the ninth fastest time in Oregon history. She also won the women’s 400. Brittany Mann set her own meet record in the women’s shot put, throwing for 16.27 meters. That throw by the redshirt freshman was the second longest in school history.
Even if you missed the Preview, there are many more opportunities to watch the Ducks compete at home this season with several notable meets headlining the schedule. The Pepsi Arizona Dual meet, Oregon Relays and the Oregon Twilight will all be held at Hayward Field. But of course, the best meet for fans to attend begins on June 11, when Eugene hosts the NCAA outdoor championships, which is sure to feature plenty of Duck athletes competing against the nation’s elite.
All indicators point towards another championship level finish from both the men and women during the outdoor season.
iFollow Chris Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur