Coming off yet another relay disaster, Oregon track and field continued to compete well at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by Historic Hayward Field.
Thursday evening the Ducks learned that their men’s 4×400 relay had been disqualified despite their appeal. In a race that had the Ducks thinking they were advancing to the finals, a protest from fellow competitor Arizona State derailed their chances to place in the event. The Sun Devils claimed an Oregon athlete had committed a lane violation, an accusation that was later backed up by video evidence.
“They reviewed the footage from the ESPN feed, and Mr. Delaney stepped on the line consecutive times,” Oregon head coach Robert Johnson said.
Despite the loss of what could have been six points, both the Oregon men and women continued to impress.
The best event of the day was the men’s 5000, an event that pitted some of the most electric distance runners in the country against one another.
In the field were several athletes from Wednesday’s exciting 10,000: second place finisher Shadrack Kipchirchir of Oklahoma State, third place finisher and 2012 London Olympic participant from Wisconsin Mohammed Ahmed and Texas Tech senior Kennedy Kithuka, who was the top qualifier coming into the event.
Star freshman Edward Cheserek, junior Eric Jenkins, and seniors Trevor Dunbar and Parker Stinson represented Oregon. Cheserek was the winner of the 10,000.
In the end it was Lalang who was able to win the event, responding to a late kick from Cheserek to hold on for the victory.
“I feel really good,” Cheserek said of his performance. “Coming back from 10,000 is really tough, so it was a good recovery.”
Lalang finished first (13:18.36) followed by a trio of Oregon runners: Cheserek (13:18.71), Dunbar (13:26.90) and Jenkins (13:27.41). The times were a personal record for both Cheserek and Dunbar, with Cheserek beating his previous best by almost 30 seconds.
“These guys are inspiring,” Jenkins said of Cheserek and Dunbar. “They are both great runners and even better teammates.”
Two important events for Oregon that had real implications in the team competition were both the men and women’s 400. In both races the Duck athletes came in second place, picking up eight points apiece.
Because of her poor preliminary round, Oregon’s Phyllis Francis had to run in lane eight, which hurt her ability to respond to fellow competitors. The race however, still came down to a race between her and Courtney Okolo of Texas. In the end Okolo won (50.23) and Francis came in second (50.59).
“I executed my plan very well once I got out there, so I am really proud of myself for that,” Francis said.
The men’s race featured another duel to the finish line between Texas A&M junior Deon Lendore and Oregon senior Mike Berry. In a finish that was too close to call, Lendore barely edged out Berry, winning with a final time of 45.02. Berry crossed the line in 45.07.
The women’s 100 featured a close finish of its own. Remona Burchell of Alabama won the race (11.25) and Morolake Akinosun of Texas came in second (11.33). The real story, however, was the battle for third place.
Oregon sophomore Jenna Prandini and Florida sophomore Shayla Sanders both appeared to cross the finish line at the exact same time. After some deliberation from the officials, it was determined that Prandini finished third by 1/1000th of a second (11.416) and Sanders finished fourth (11.417).
“It wasn’t my best start,” Prandini said. “But I fought until the finish and got as much points as I could.”
A world junior record was set in the men’s 100 as Baylor freshman Trayvon Bromell was able to win the race in 9.97 seconds despite running into a slight headwind.
“I was excited,” Bromell said when he heard his final time. “It was a humbling experience, I didn’t even know what to say.”
Oregon senior Laura Roesler was finally able to win her first individual NCAA Outdoor Championship as she outkicked the field to claim first in the women’s 800. She crossed the finish line with a final time of 2:01.22.
Oregon continues to lead both the team scores, though the margin has narrowed significantly for the women.
The top three for the women are Oregon (43.0 points) and Texas A&M (41.0) with a two-way tie for third between Texas and Florida (29.0).
For the men, its Oregon (53.0), Florida (28.0) and Georgia (24.0).
The NCAA Championships will conclude tomorrow, with the first event scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m.
Follow Christopher Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur