DES MOINES, Iowa - Wins by Melissa Gergel in the pole vault and Anne Kesselring in the 800 meters lifted the Women of Oregon into the overnight lead with 33 points Friday night at the NCAA Track and Field Championships. The men also got on the scoreboard thanks to Elijah Greer in the 800 meters, Mike Berry in the 400 meters and Luke Puskedra in the 10,000 meters.
Heading into the final day, the Oregon women have a slight lead over Oklahoma, which sits second with 29 points. Stanford is third with 25, Texas A&M is next with 23 points, and Louisiana State is lurking in seventh with 20.5 points.
"Our women are in good shape," said Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna. "We've got a lot to go and a lot to accomplish.
"The points didn't come out exactly the way we anticipated, but that's the way it always goes over a four-day championship."
Kesselring made a bold move with 100 meters remaining and had just enough left at the line to win the women's 800 meters by the narrowest of margins over Oklahoma State's Natalja Piliusina.
Sitting in third around the final turn, Kesselring went all out with 100 meters remaining to escape being trapped on the rail and barreled past Tennessee's Chanelle Price. Kesselring then had just enough left to hold off a hard charge from Piliusina at the line. The Nurnberg, Germany, native finished in 2:02.15, with Piliusina second at 2:02.16.
"I'm just so happy," said Kesselring. "Coming off the turn, I was a little boxed in, but I knew I had to make a move and it worked out."
Kesselring joins Rebekah Noble as the only 800 meter NCAA champions in school history. Kesselring's time was a personal best and the fifth fastest in school history.
A little over an hour later, Gergel finally captured an NCAA crown in her final meet as a Duck.
She tied the NCAA meet record by clearing 14-7.25/4.45m to win. Tina Sutej of Arkansas also cleared that height, but Gergel took the crown based on fewer misses. In her vault series, Gergel had first attempt clearances at 13-1.5, 13-5.5 and 13-9.25, before needing a clutch third attempt clearance at 14-1.25 to stay in the competition she then took one attempt to clear 14-3.25, two jumps to get over 14-5.25 and then had her winning clearance on her first attempt.
"After I made 4.40 meters, I told myself, ‘I'm going to win'," said the Glenwood, Ill., native. "It's really just the perfect ending.
"Thinking of those team points was huge. I'm so happy I could deliver when it counted."
Gergel joins Becky Holliday from 2003 as Oregon's only pole vault champions. She also set an outdoor personal best in the vault with the second-best clearance in school history.
Jordan Roskelley cleared two bars in the pole vault, including a best at 13-1.5/4.00m. The senior from Spokane, Wash., finished 17th in her first NCAA Championships.
The women also counted points from Jordan Hasay in the 5,000 meters and English Gardner in the 100 meters.
Hasay, undertaking a difficult double in the 5,000 and 1,500 meters, took the lead in the long race with three laps remaining before finishing fourth in 15:41.00. Villanova's Sheila Reid won in 15:37.57 with Emily Infeld of Georgetown second in 15:38.23 and Abbey D'Agostino third in 15:40.69.
"I really felt good with 300 meters remaining and I just tried to hold them off," said Hasay. "There's not really anything I would do differently.
"I just wanted to finish as high as I could for the team."
Gardner, her leg still sore from a collision Wednesday in the 4x100 meter relay, ran gamely in the final of the women's 100 meters and finished seventh in 11.25.
The men cobbled together 15 points to stand in ninth place after three days. Florida State led the men's race with 29 points, with Virginia Tech and Florida tied for second with 28 points.
Greer ran a tough race and placed third in the men's 800 meters in a personal-best 1:45.06. That was the third-best time in school history. He was seventh at the bell and fifth going into the last turn. The sophomore from Lake Oswego, Ore., kicked hard coming off the curve, but Virginia's Robbie Andrews went with him and eked out a win down the stretch in a meet record 1:44.71. Charles Jock of UC Irvine was second in 1:44.75.
Still, only Olympic gold medalist Joaquim Cruz (1:41.77) and Olympian Andrew Wheating (1:45.03) have run faster in Oregon history.
Berry took third in a very close race in the men's 400 meters in 45.18. He was actually the fourth runner to cross the line, but Texas Tech's Gil Roberts was disqualified, moving the freshman from Seattle up a spot. Kirani James of Alabama won in 45.10, with Tony McQuay of Florida second in 45.14 and then Berry and Demetrius Pinder of Texas A&M fourth in 45.23.
"I wanted to run the last 150 (meters) as hard as I could," said Berry. "It was a tough race at the end."
Friday also saw a great performance in the delayed men's 10,000 meters for Luke Puskedra. The junior from Ogden, Utah, ran a personal-best 28:33.47 to finish sixth, his best showing at the NCAA Track Championships.
"I tried to stay as relaxed as possible for the first 5K," said Puskedra. "I just sat back and tried to conserve as much energy as possible."
After the top three runners broke away early, Puskedra worked with Stanford's Chris Derrick and Jake Riley on a consistent pace throughout the race. His time ranked sixth in Oregon history. Freshman Parker Stinson was 23rd in 31:04.85 in a race that was originally scheduled to be run Thursday night.
The exciting 10,000 meters was won by Leonard Korir of Iona in 28:07.63. With Arizona's Stephen Sambu finishing third in 28:19.61, the Pac-10 accounted for half of the top eight.
David Klech rallied on the third day of the decathlon. The competition was halted on Thursday halfway through the javelin. He made the most of his remaining attempt, improving to 123-0/37.50m. He missed a PR by nine inches.
The senior from San Ramon, Calif., then finished off his third career decathlon with a personal best 4:06.72 in the 1,500 meters. He was second overall in the final event, and his finish boosted him from 20th to 16th in the final decathlon standings with 7,469 points.
"I was definitely hard," said Klech, of the three day trial. "It's mentally exhausting doing it in just two days. It was definitely a challenge."
"We did a lot of work on my 1,500, so I'm happy with my 15," he said. "This season has been remarkable. I had a great, healthy, long season."
Steve Finley was 13th in the men's 3,000 meter steeplechase in 9:05.94.
Justin Frick cleared two bars in the men's high jump with a best of 6-10.75/2.10m. The senior transfer from Princeton finished 19th.