The track and field season is finally coming to a close as the best athletes from around the nation will congregate in Eugene for the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Among the teams with a shot to win it all are the Oregon Ducks, who potentially could sweep both the men and women’s competitions.
“We are going to approach it one day at a time,” Oregon senior distance runner Trevor Dunbar said. “Everyone has their individual plans and our coaching staff has done an amazing job getting us ready. It is all going to come down to the 4×400, and we are hoping our team will be in it for a National Championship.”
For Dunbar, this is his first appearance in an Outdoor National Championship after he missed out last year.
As a whole, the Ducks performed fairly well last season at the championships. The women finished third (43) while the men came in fourth (44). Kansas won for the women and Texas A&M won for the men. This year, after some already solid performances in several championship meets, the Ducks feel like they have a good chance to win it all.
“We had the best preparation in our conference meet and even heading back to the Indoor Nationals, where we had a very similar feeling,” Dunbar said. “There we weren’t on paper supposed to score as well, but then again, we did.”
An added bonus for the Ducks is that they get to compete within the friendly confines of Historic Hayward Field for the championships, allowing the athletes to feed off the energy.
“Having the home crowd and the Hayward magic is something special,” Dunbar said. “Being in Tracktown USA and seeing the atmosphere a week before the championships and preparing for it everyday at Hayward field has us ready to go.”
In total, Oregon was able to qualify 39 athletes during the West Preliminary Round.
“It was great balance in all areas,” head coach Robert Johnson said, at the conclusion of the Regional meet. “If you look at the events, in most of them, there are qualifiers from Oregon, which is a tribute to the well-rounded team we have this season.”
Sophomore sprinter Jenna Prandini will be a key athlete to watch as she looks to have a busy week. Prandini will be competing in four events: The 4×100, 200, 100 and long jump.
Seniors Laura Roesler and Mike Berry are two more athletes who can score points for the Ducks. Roesler should be the favorite in the women’s 800 while Berry will try to run away with the men’s 400.
Of course Oregon will also be competitive in the distance events, a place where they should have multiple scorers per event. This year the distance group is lead by star freshman Edward Cheserek. Cheserek has already proven he isn’t afraid of the big moment, winning two events at the Indoor National Championships as well as the National Cross Country Championships.
“Edward has been an inspiring teammate,” Dunbar said. “He is just a freshman, but he fools all of us, because the way he races is very savvy and experienced. The entire team looks up to him.”
As for himself, Dunbar will be competing in both the 5,000 and 10,000.
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur