DES MOINES, Iowa - The Women of Oregon were perfect in semifinals on Thursday, while Matthew Centrowitz cruised through his semifinal heat of the men's 1,500 meters on a thunderstorm-plagued Day Two at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Before the day's competition could be completed, an intense weather system unleashed a powerful series of rain and thunderstorms on Drake Stadium. Competition was initially halted at 8:14 p.m. and then postponed for the night at 10:23 p.m.
Before the weather hit, the women advanced all five entries - two each in the 1,500 meters and 3,000 meter steeplechase plus the 4x400 meter relay - on to Saturday's finals. That means over the course of the meet's final two days, Oregon will have seven finalists on the track, plus a pair of entries in the women's pole vault.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on Thursday was Becca Friday in the 1,500 meters. The sophomore from Bellingham, Wash., put on a charge over the final 250 meters to finish second in her heat in 4:15.17, a two-second personal best. That time puts Friday at No. 8 on the UO top 10.
"I was just trying to get in the top five and not trying to win," said Friday. "But either way, I'm pretty happy with my race."
In the same heat, Jordan Hasay ran a smart, conservative race, tucked in behind eventual heat winner Morgane Gay of Virginia for nearly the entire distance. The sophomore from Arroyo Grande, Calif., safely finished third to advance in 4:15.86.
"I'm just excited to get that race over with because now I just have two finals," said Hasay, who will run in Friday's final of the 5,000 meters. "I'm real excited that Becca made it through.
"I felt someone making a charge and I looked over and thought, 'Is this an Oregon uniform?' This is great," said Hasay.
The women also caught a break as both the women's 3,000 meters steeplechase runners and the women's 4x400 meter relay finished just before another round of severe thunderstorms suddenly hit Drake Stadium at 8:15 p.m. and caused a lengthy delay.
In fact, Oregon's section of the 4x400, heat two of three, was the last race run before the competition was halted.
In the first semifinal of the steeplechase, Claire Michel ran a heady race and maintained her position in the top third of the field before finishing fifth in 10:06.63 to move on to the finals.
"You just want to stay relaxed," said the senior from Clackamas, Ore. "The goal is just to qualify - see that qualifying position the whole race.
"This is just step one."
In heat two, freshman Lanie Thompson fought off a handful of competitors to claim the sixth and final automatic finals qualifying spot. She timed a personal-best 10:03.74, which was the second-fastest in school history.
In the women's 4x400 meters, the team of senior Michele Williams and freshmen Chizoba Okodogbe, Phyllis Francis and Laura Roesler won heat two in 3:31.04 to advance to Saturday's final.
Williams had the Ducks in third after the first lap, Okodogbe pushed the Ducks up a spot into second with a 51.5 leg and Francis ran 52.3 to pull Oregon to the lead before Roesler held off a number of opponents, including Arizona, Penn State and Louisiana State to win. She closed in 52.3.
The time was the third-fastest in school history.
"I was feeling really good," Roesler said. "As an 800 meter runner, I don't run that race like a sprinter so I got out slow. We were against the wind on the back stretch, so I ran my leg pretty conservatively and stayed calm."
In the men's 1,500 meters, Matthew Centrowitz took control of his heat early and glided home to win in 3:48.67 and move on to Saturday's final. Senior A.J. Acosta was seventh in that heat in 3:49.81 and did not advance.
"It was a slow race, so there was no need to stay in the back," said the junior from Arnold, Md.
"I have not lost a 1,500 all season," said Centrowitz. "Having that thought in my head will give me momentum going into Saturday's final. Just to have a shot at a title is exciting."
The weather delays wreaked havoc on the decathlon, including Oregon's David Klech. The start of competition was initially pushed back 1:45 due to severe thunderstorms that plagued Des Moines all Thursday morning, and then the competition was halted about halfway through event nine, the javelin.
That means the decathlon will be a rare three-day event. Through eight events, Klech was 18th with 6,158 points.
In the men's hammer, senior Jordan Stray had a best throw of 202-8/61.79m and finished 18th.
Klech opened the second day of the decathlon by running 14.11 in the 100 meter hurdles. That was the second-fastest time on Thursday. He followed that by going 99-9/30.40m in the discus and clearing 14-1.25/4.30m in the pole vault.
The delays also meant a number of events have to be delayed to or completed on Friday, including Oregon's Luke Puskedra and Parker Stinson in the men's 10,000 meters. Other events affected included the men's 4x400 meter relay, the third heat of the women's 4x400 meter relay, the long jump - which was halted with three jumps remaining in the competition - and the decathlon.