ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — All eyes were on the Oregon women heading into this weekend, with the Ducks looking for their fifth-straight NCAA Indoor Championships, which would tie LSU for the longest streak ever. After the first day of competition, the women’s team is primed for a move up the leaderboard with nine competitors in final events Saturday — but the local buzz is all about the Men of Oregon.
The Ducks lead after day one with 24 team points, thanks in large part to an electrifying 5,000-meter race that crowned Edward Cheserek as Oregon’s first 2014 NCAA champion, with Parker Stinson surging to third. The Ducks have an eight-point gap on Arizona, which is second with 16 points. Stanford is third with 14.
The men’s 5,000 was a much-anticipated matchup between NCAA cross country champion Cheserek and Arizona’s Lawi Lalang, and the two built up the excitement, putting distance between themselves and the field. With about 300 meters remaining in the race, Cheserek took off and left no doubt. The freshman roared down the homestretch to a standing crowd and threw up his arms as he crossed the finish line in 13 minutes, 46.67 somewhat, somewhat of a trademark in his young career.
While people knew Cheserek was in the mix at the top, Stinson came in as the 10th seed. But he surged in the last 80 meters to take third behind Lalang with a time of 13:54.46, giving the Ducks a combined 16 points in the event.
“I’m really proud of the way Edward and Parker competed,” said head coach Robert Johnson. ”Edward raced liked a veteran out there, and Parker showed his maturity at the end. Sixteen points in the 5K gets us started on the right foot for the rest of the weekend.”
The men’s distance medley relay also benefitted from a late surge, this time from Trevor Dunbar, who ran the 1,600-meter leg and put a stamp on the second-place finish, crossing in 9:40.47. The team was in good position starting from the first exchange between Brett Johnson and Marcus Chambers, and from there to Boru Guyota and Dunbar.
“That’s a huge race by Trevor, and of course Brett, Marcus and Boru did great as well,” Johnson said. “Trevor stayed patient and ran the last two laps smart to finish second.”
Dakotah Keys started the championships by setting a first-day personal best in the heptathlon with 3,266 points and will head to Saturday’s competition in sixth place. Keys’ day ended with a bang after he set a personal record in the high jump, clearing 6 feet, 11.5 inches (2.12m) and was one of four people to break the previous heptathlon high jump meet record of 6-11 (2.11m).
Coming into the high jump, Keys was able to build momentum with a PR throw in the shot put, logging 44-0.5 (13.42m) on his final throw. He started the day with marks of 7.15 in the 60, only .02 seconds off his PR, and a long jump of 23-2 (7.06m).
Jasmine Todd put up the first points for either Duck team in the long jump. She went 20-2.5 (6.16m) on her second jump, which stood for sixth in the event.
Three points from each event totaled six on the day for the women, who are tied for 14th and 16 points off of Stanford’s lead at 22 points. Florida sits in second with 19 while Texas A&M is third with 16.
Todd was forced to pass her final attempt in the long jump because of a timing conflict with the 60, where she qualified for the final with the fourth-fastest time of 7.23. She combined with Jenna Prandini to go 1-2 in the second semifinal of the event, with Prandini coming in at 7.27.
Phyllis Francis broke the women’s 400 school record, running 51.29 to break Keshia Baker’s 2010 mark of 51.63. She will enter Saturday’s final as the top seed.
Another school record on the women’s side came from freshman Sasha Wallace. Wallace broke her own Oregon record and American junior record in the second heat of the 60 hurdles, finishing fifth in 8.08.
Johnathan Cabral set a PR in the 60 hurdle prelims and tied the school record in the process. Cabral, whose fastest time this season was 7.68, tied Eric Mitchum in the Oregon record book with a fifth-seeded time of 7.67.
Top seeded Laura Roesler qualified with ease in the prelims of the 800. The senior earned a qualifying mark in the second heat by finishing in the top three with a time of 2:06.35.
Mac Fleet ran the fastest mile time of the day to advance to the finals. Fleet held back early and gradually moved up in the final two laps, crossing the finish line in 4:04.13 to edge out Lalang.
Mike Berry advanced in the men’s 400 with the seventh-fastest qualifying time of 46.10.
“I don’t know if you can ever be comfortable in a championship," Johnson said. "You can’t ever get too high or get too low. We qualified seven of seven into the finals tomorrow, so we have a lot left out on the table.”
The second and final day of the meet will begin at 10 a.m. PT. Coverage on ESPN3 will begin at 4:50 p.m. PT.