It was just day one, yet the Oregon women suffered a pair of crushing blows to its chances of winning the overall team title at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Projected to finish second by Track and Field News, the women’s 4X100 dashed a clear opportunity to score anywhere from six to 10 points after the team dropped the baton on its first exchange of the semi-final.
Expected to be involved in a three-team competition among Florida and Texas A&M, Oregon was disqualified in the 4X100 and also received another setback when Annie Leblanc, who was projected to finish third in the 800, failed to qualify after her time of 2:05.29 left her in 11th.
According to Track and Field News’ projections, those two occurrences cost the women 12 points. The evident effect – it’s chances of winning are now a long shot.
The women’s team did receive a dose of contributions from the field events however. Jillian Weir finished sixth in the hammer throw to put the Ducks’ first points on the board. The sophomore who finished 17th in last year’s championships posted a final mark of 63.88m (209-7).
Then near the meet’s finish, perhaps the busiest Duck of the day aside from the decathletes, Jenna Prandini won the long jump with a lifetime best mark of 6.43m (21-1¼). Prandini also moved onto the finals in the women’s 100 meter after posting a 11.11 midway through the long jump competition. The redshirt sophomore did not run in the 4X100 due to the baton being dropped, a blessing in disguise in some senses.
“That’s what happens in meets,” Prandini said. “Ups and downs. I kind of looked at it as its just another event I can stay fresh for.”
Liz Brenner would fail to score in the Javelin though. Her mark of 47.31m placed her in 17th.
While Leblanc did not qualify in the 800, her teammate Laura Roesler did what was expected and came away from the semifinals with the fastest-time (2:02.60).
Phyllis Francis will be the fifth seed in the women’s 400. Francis, who was the anchor leg in the women’s 4X400 that ignited the women to their fifth straight NCAA Indoor National Championship, finished her heat in a time of 51.69.
On the other hand, the Oregon men, who are projected to finish first, did almost everything they could have Wednesday. Highlighted by Edward Cheserek’s win in the 10,000, Oregon also witnessed strong showing from both Dakotah Keys and Mitch Modin in the decathlon.
Keys, who won the Pac-12 Championships, currently sits in seventh with Modin right behind him in eighth. Keys PR in the shot put (13.74m) was a big step for him in what will be an uphill climb tomorrow in the final events of the decathlon.
“I think it went really good,” Keys said. “Its all positive, it was just about competing. You can get here with your marks, with your best, but anything here can happen. Just come out here, compete hard.”
Modin, who was competing in his first national championship, scored a lifetime best in the long jump with a mark of 7.20m. Channeling off the example Keys made during the indoor championships, Modin made it clear that he is not simply here to take in the sights as a freshman.
“I want to win a a national championship and so does the rest of the guys team,” Modin said. “So does the girls team. So whatever I can do. As Parker Stinson said at the indoor, Dakatoh started the fire so whatever I can do to help start that fire I’m going to try and do.”
Mike Berry breezed through his semi-final heat in the 400 with a time of 45.41. The mark seeds him third going into Saturday’s final.
As well, Trevor Dunbar and Parker Stinson’s fifth and eighth place finishes, respectively, teamed with Cheserek’s win, scored fifteen points for the Ducks in just one event.
A complete reversal of what the women’s team ran into on the first day, the men look to be right on course to winning a national championship. However, with three days left Prandini and the rest of the women are fully aware of the obstacles they now face and aren’t ruling anything out.
“Our whole team came closer together and we know we have to scrap for points and its going to be a fight till the end,” Prandini said.
Follow Justin Wise on Twitter @JWISE25