COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- By himself, Galen Rupp would have tied for 10th at the 2009 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Fortunately, he had a whole team of Ducks behind him.
Rupp won the 3,000 meters and Ashton Eaton won the heptathlon to lead the Men of Oregon to the first NCAA Indoor national title in school history Saturday at the Gilliam Indoor Track Stadium. Rupp became the first person in NCAA history to win the 5,000 meters, 3,000 meters and the distance medley relay in the same championship.
"This has been a fun experience," said Rupp, who joked that he was going on strike from running for a week following his taxing two-day performance. "One of the most fun meets ever. I just wanted to come out today and run well.
"I figured it was my last indoor meet in college, so I might as well go out strong and go for it," said the senior from Portland. "I might hurt tomorrow, but I’m on an adrenaline kick right now."
Rupp also added to his all sports school record with his 12th career All-America award, and in the process passed Matt Scherer and Leann Warren for the most All-America certificates won in track and field with nine.
Meanwhile, the UO women continue to rewrite school history as a clutch performance from Nicole Blood helped Oregon set school standards for the best finish at the Indoor Championships - a tie for ninth - and points with 21.
"It was a great day, a big day for the Ducks," said Oregon Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna, who won his first NCAA Indoor championship. "(The men) had a chance to do something really special at this meet and executed the plan coaching staff developed just about as well as they could have.
"Our women got their first top-10 finish and took a fantastic step forward these past two days," Lananna added.
Entering the day with a commanding lead, the Duck men actually locked up the championship before Rupp set foot on the track, thanks to Eaton in the heptathlon and Andrew Wheating in the 800 meters.
Eaton used a personal-best 7.90 in the 60 meter hurdles to win that event and jump start his day in the heptathlon, building his cushion to 63 points over defending NCAA heptathlon champion Gonzalo Barroilhet of Florida State.
Eaton and Barroilhet then waged an entertaining contest in the pole vault, as both competitors posted a best clearance of 16-8.75, but not before Barroilhet just missed clearing the bar at 17-4.25, which would have tied the competition. That was Eaton’s indoor best and matched his outdoor top effort.
After that, the junior from Bend, Ore., just needed to stay within reach of Barroilhet in the 1,000 meters to win, and he did more than that by finishing fifth in 2:47.68.
"It was a great competition with (Barroilhet)," said Eaton. "It was a tough day, tougher than I expected.
"The hurdles just kind of kick starts you off," he said. "I had to establish that I was coming ready to compete."
Eaton posted the second-highest heptathlon total of his career, 5,988 points. Barroilhet was second with 5,879 points, while Nebraska’s Bjorn Barrefors took third with 5,795 points and Missouri’s Nick Adcock was fourth (5,719).
"I wanted to contribute my part to the team and I’m happy I did that," said Eaton, who scored 10 points for the Ducks.
At the time, Eaton gave the Ducks 33 points and a 13-point advantage over Nebraska, a 14-point edge on Florida State, a 19-point lead on Arkansas.
In the first men’s running event of the night, the mile, sophomore Matthew Centrowitz finished sixth in the mile, running 4:02.69 to add three more points to the Ducks’ total. Centrowitz earned the first All-America award of his career. Also in that race, Arkansas’ Dorian Ulrey took third, scoring six team points for the Razorbacks. That left Oregon with 36 points, 16 better than Arkansas and Nebraska, who were then tied for second with 20, and 17 better than Florida State.
Shortly after the mile, Kirkland Thornton finished fifth in the 60 meter hurdles (7.75) for Nebraska, cutting the Ducks’ lead to 11 points, 36-25.
Then Florida’s Christian Taylor won the triple jump with a leap of 55-8.5 to vault the Gators into second place with 30 points.
But then Wheating, tired from the 800 preliminaries and the distance medley relay a day earlier, fought to a second place finish in the 800 meters to give the Ducks what ultimately proved to be the decisive points of the championship. Wheating ran 1:48.54 to finish second behind Texas’ Jacob Hernandez who ran 1:48.04, as the two repeated their finish from the outdoor 800 meters NCAA Championships last June.
Still, it proved to be enough to ice the meet, as Rupp’s win at 3,000 meters in 7:48.94 merely added to the Ducks’ school record point total.
Oregon was victorious with 54 points, with Florida second with 36 points, Florida State third with 32 points, Louisiana State fourth with 29 points and Arizona State, Baylor and Nebraska tied for fifth with 25 points. Arkansas was eighth with 24 points.
"It’s the first time being part of a national championship team for me and I can tell you it feels pretty good," said Associate Head Coach Dan Steele. "I would like to do it again."
Oregon’s previous best men’s finish at the NCAA Indoor Championships was sixth in 2005 and 2006. The previous high point total was 29 in 2005.
Building on its solid first day, the women claimed points in the 400 meters, pole vault and 3,000 meters to climb into the top 10 and set a school record for points at the NCAA Indoor Championship.
Tennessee was a surprise winner in the women’s chase, scoring 42 points to edge Texas A&M’s 37.
Scoring for the Duck women on Saturday were Keshia Baker, Melissa Gergel and Nicole Blood.
Baker finished sixth in the 400 meters. Her time of 53.39 secured three team points, and also earned the junior from Sacramento, Calif., her first career All-America award.
Gergel, a sophomore from Glenwood, Ill., cleared 13-7.25 on her second attempt to tie for sixth and pick up two team points. She also grabbed her second straight indoor All-America honor and third career.
Then it was Blood, a junior from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., capped the Oregon scoring by hanging on for sixth place in the 3,000 meters in 9:15.84. Those three points broke the previous mark of 18 in 1996.
"I just relaxed and wanted to have fun," said Blood. "I wanted to run well and get All-America, but I was a little tired from (Friday) and when you’ve got tired legs, you’ve just got to stay in your comfort zone."
Saturday marked the sixth career All-America award for Blood.
"I’m very pleased with our women’s team," said Steele. "They certainly didn’t back down."
There is little time to celebrate the weekend as Oregon opens the outdoor season next Saturday by hosting the annual Oregon Preview.
- www.GoDucks.com -