Nobody was more tired than Oregon’s Jenna Prandini at the conclusion of the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
The sophomore was asked to do a lot, and boy did she come through for the Ducks. First place in the long jump, second in the 200 and third in the 100. A total of 24 points, which helped the Oregon women to a third place finish in the team competition.
“I am really happy and proud of myself,” Prandini said. “I think I am going to grow off this and get better as an athlete next year.”
Before the success, however, disaster struck. Prandini was slated to run with the women’s 4×100 as the third leg. Coming into the meet the group was the second fastest group and expected to factor into the team competition in a big way.
Unfortunately for Prandini, she never got a chance to run, as the baton was dropped between the first and second legs. Rather than let this demoralize her, she instead chose to remain optimistic and look ahead to her other events.
“That’s what happens in meets: ups and downs,” Prandini said. “I kind of looked at it as just another event that I can stay fresh in, and it helped me in the long jump.”
Whether it was her rested legs or her impressive speed on the runway, Prandini dominated in the long jump.
“Over the outdoor season we kind of worked on it a little bit,” Prandini said of the long jump. “I got my approach down and got my takeoff down and each meet I got better.”
If she got better with each meet, this weekend was her best, lifetime best. Prandini’s final jump of 21-1.25 was a new personal record. Even more impressive was that she left midway through the long jump to compete in her preliminary heat of the women’s 100.
“I tried to stay focused,” Prandini said. “My coaches had a plan for me so I just tried to do what they said.”
Being focused helped in the 100-meter finals as Prandini found herself in a tough spot. She was slow getting out of the blocks, putting herself dead last in the early going.
“It wasn’t one of my best starts,” Prandini said. “Just had to pick up as much ground as I could.”
She was able to get back into the race, crossing the line at a deadlock for third with Florida’s Shayla Sanders. It was impossible to tell who had won the race live, so the athletes and crowd turned to the board to see the results.
The result garnered a roar from the Oregon fans and a relieved smile from Prandini.
“She is a fighter,” Oregon head coach Robert Johnson said. “And (she) was able to squeak her way back from last place to third.”
Prandini’s final fight came in the 200. Coming in she had the fourth fastest time in the event, behind a pair of runners from Texas A&M in Olivia Ekpone and Kamaria Brown, and Morolake Akinosun of Texas.
Like the 100, the race came down to the final moments as it looked like four racers all crossed the line at the same moment. Again the crowd and Prandini turned to the video monitor.
They were rewarded once more.
Prandini finished second behind Brown. The final times were yet again close, as Brown finished in 22.623 and Prandini in 22.630.
“She was huge for us,” Johnson said of Prandini. “Absolutely huge.”
While Prandini was humble as ever and focused on the future and getting better as an athlete, she did allow one moment of celebration.
“It has been a fun meet,” Prandini said with a smile. “I am excited by how I performed.”
Follow Chris Keizur on Twitter @chriskeizur