FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Oregon track and field tacked on six more event wins and two more school records, Saturday at the Razorback Invitational, adding to a long list of accomplishments from the men’s and women’s teams over the weekend.
Edward Cheserek was back in action after a sub-4-minute mile anchor leg in Friday’s distance medley relay, this time competing in the open mile. After the rabbit left the track, Cheserek was in front the rest of the way with teammate Blake Haney following right behind. The junior pulled away during the final lap to record another blistering time of 3:57.38, while Haney crossed second in 3:59.10 and became the 16th Oregon athlete to break four minutes indoors. The event is always one of depth for the Ducks, and Sam Prakel made it a 1-2-3 finish for Oregon on the other side of the 4-minute barrier with a personal best of 4:00.13.
The Ducks received another win from two-time 60 hurdles All-American Sasha Wallace, who surpassed her own school record in the process. The junior ran two impressive races, first winning her prelim in 8.15 before crossing the finish line in 8.05 during the final. The time broke her previous record of 8.08 set as a freshman and is second-best in the NCAA this season.
While the focus for Oregon during the indoor season is to put itself in a good position for the NCAA Championships, head coach Robert Johnson said his athletes are always happy to cross the finish line with a win.
“Winning can do wonders for your confidence and it solidifies what you do on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “Now we can build on that momentum, go back home, and get better.”
A pair of Ducks won their 800-meter section and inked themselves into the Oregon record book as well. Mississippi transfer Brooke Feldmeier dominated her race, cruising in to both the fifth-fastest mark in Oregon history and the eighth-fastest time in the NCAA this season at 2:05.18. Grant Grosvenor used a strong finish to record the sixth-fastest time in school history in the men's 800 (1:49.26), an indoor personal best by more than three seconds.
Reigning 800-meter outdoor champion Raevyn Rogers was not in the field for the open 800, as she helped the DMR team on Friday, and the 4x400 team on Saturday, post times that will likely qualify them for the NCAA Championships. Rogers anchored the 4x400 which included Ashante Horsley, Deajah Stevens and Feldmeier to a time of 3:33.34. The time is second in the nation heading into the weekend’s competition.
Dual-sport star Devon Allen made his return to the track for the first time in 18 months and appeared to be back in form in the men’s 60 hurdles. Allen won his prelim in 7.75 seconds, improving upon is personal record of 7.83 set during the 2014 indoor season. In the final, Allen improved again to 7.74 but was nipped at the finish line, taking second.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Johnson about the sophomore hurdler. “I’m sure the time is not quite where he wants it to be, or where it will be at the end of the season, but it’s a great start and he’s trending in the right direction.”
After two wins from the Ducks in the weight throw on Friday, Ryan Hunter-Simms continued the team’s strong throwing and broke the school record in the shot put Saturday afternoon with a toss of 58-11.5 (17.97m). In the women’s shot put, the duo of Itohan Aikhionbare (54-1/16.48m) and Brittany Mann (52-10/16.10m) finished fourth and sixth, respectively.
The Ducks had three athletes qualify for the final in the 60-meter dash – two on the women’s side and one on the men’s. Jasmine Todd and Hannah Cunliffe each won their prelim heats in identical times of 7.33 and went on to finish second and third in the final. Todd recovered from a slow start to finish second in 7.20 while Cunliffe was right behind in a season-best 7.29. Freshman Kirk Merritt ran 6.78 in only his second collegiate meet, moving him to seventh on the Oregon all-time list. The time advanced him to the final where he took eighth in 6.83.
The women’s team has proven to be a balanced one under Johnson, and they showed that with notable performances through the distances as well. Annie Leblanc finished second in the mile with a personal best of 4:36.61. The time is the sixth fastest in school history for Leblanc, who proves to be a threat both at 800 meters and in the mile. Her teammates Molly Grabill and Waverly Neer put in a 1-2 performance in the 3,000, finishing in 9:23.31 and 9:23.48, respectively.
Jake Leingang was the lone Oregon athlete competing in the men’s 3,000 where he finished second in 8:10.11.
Mitch Modin closed out the second day of the heptathlon with a sixth-place finish, tallying 5,377 points.
The Ducks will have next weekend off before they split for the Husky Invitational and the Don Kirby Elite, Feb. 12-13.