LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. - Luke Puskedra and a bevy of freshmen led the No. 23 Oregon men's cross country team to a third-place finish at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships, run Saturday morning at Wigwam Golf Resort. Jordan Hasay paced the Duck women with her third-place individual finish.
"I thought the guys did a pretty good job, considering we have one senior and the rest of the team are freshmen and sophomores," said Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna. "They ran tough. We still have some work to do. Luke (Puskedra) did a great job, and most of our young guys did a good job."
Puskedra sparked the men with his fifth-place finish, while sophomore Parker Stinson backed him with a seventh-place showing. After that, the next five Ducks to cross the finish line were freshmen.
Puskedra, a from Ogden, Utah, ran with the lead pack the majority of the race and covered the 8,000-meter course in 22:58.
"In the end, I kept my distance a little bit, and caught myself in the lead," said Puskedra. "It was a good accomplishment. I just kind of have to work on the start. I was diligent in training, so I think it might have been a blessing in disguise starting running later. With everybody that's coming in around the conference, I just have to race the way I have been."
It was the fourth time that Puskedra has placed in the top five at the conference meet, and was his seventh straight top-10 finish dating back to the beginning of last season.
Stinson, from Austin, Texas, was strong with his seventh-place run in 23:28.
A trio of freshmen then locked up the Ducks' third-place finish. Jeramy Elkaim came across the line in 20th in 23:51, followed by Lukas Verzbicas in 23rd (23:55). Freshman Ryan Puckering was Oregon's fifth scorer, taking 39th in 24:29.
Freshmen also helped the Ducks displace opponents' runners in the team standings, with Cole Watson grabbing 51st in 24:45 and Boru Guyota taking 57th in 24:58.
Conference newcomer Colorado pulled a mild upset to take the inaugural Pac-12 men's crown. The sixth-ranked Buffalos scored 46 points, followed by No. 4 Stanford with 54 and No. 23 Oregon at 96. No. 20 UCLA led the next group with 122 points, followed by California (140), No. 22 Washington State (148), Washington (153), Arizona (190) and No. 25 Arizona State (195).
Individually, Arizona freshman Lawi Lalang led nearly the entire race and won going away in 22:37. Chris Derrick of Stanford was the runner-up in 22:45, followed by Colorado's Richard Medina (22:54), Stanford's Jake Riley (22:55) and Puskedra.
Colorado made it a sweep in its first Pac-12 competition, with the 16th-ranked Buffalos taking the women's title with 50 points. No. 2 Washington held off No. 8 Stanford for second place, scoring 71 points to the Cardinal's 73.
No. 11 Oregon was next with 87 points, followed by No. 5 Arizona (126), Arizona State (126), No. 10 California (186), Utah (203), Oregon State (248), UCLA (287), Washington State (290) and USC (384).
The women's 6,000 meter individual race was extremely entertaining.
Stanford's Kathy Kroeger went to the lead at the opening gun, with Hasay falling in right behind along with Washington's Katie Flood. They led a large pack through the first third of the race as no one moved to break from the field.
Stanford moved up with a pair of runners in the top six halfway through, along with Hasay and Flood.
Hasay, the defending Pac-10 champion, then pulled to the front at the 10:00 mark as Kroeger and Flood broke with her and the three opened up a three-second lead on the trailing pack with 2,000 meters left. The trio then battled to the end, with Flood pulling away taking the title in 19:31 over. Kroeger was second in 19:40 and Hasay placed third in 19:49.
Seniors Claire Michel and Bronwyn Crossman stepped up in their final league championships. Michel, from Clackamas, Ore., was 15th in 20:26, while Crossman, from Bellingham, Wash., took 17th in 20:28.
The Ducks also counted a 22nd-place finish from sophomore Lanie Thompson (20:40) and a 32nd-place showing from freshman Molly Grabill (20:59). Junior Sarah Penney took 34th in 21:02 in her first league meet and junior Taylor Wallace was 37th in 21:08.
"The whole thing was just to do well as a team, and we didn't do as well as we wanted, but we just gave it our best," said Hasay. "We have a lot of things to work on for the next couple of races.
"Individually, I wanted to practice getting a hard run in the middle, and it didn't work, but I just kept pressing and didn't have it in the end. It was a good effort, so I'm happy with it. I'm the defending champion, so I wanted to win it again, but Katie (Flood) did great, and I had a good race."