FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The final day of the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds was a fruitful one for the Oregon track and field team, as the Ducks qualified 19 more entries to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, bringing their total to 39 for the week.
“It was mission accomplished,” said head coach Robert Johnson. “We got a lot of key people qualified and really did what we had to do to move on.”
Throughout the season, Johnson has accentuated his focus for a well-balanced program in the different event areas, something that has come to fruition in the championship season as the Ducks have a diverse group of key qualifiers advancing to Eugene. That balance is present among the men’s and women’s teams as well. The women will have 20 entries in Eugene while the men send 19.
“It was a great balance in all areas,” Johnson said. ”If you look at the events, in most of them, there are qualifiers from Oregon which is a tribute to the well-rounded team we have this season.”
Devon Allen broke a 10-year-old school record in the 110 hurdles, winning his heat in 13.27, setting a lifetime best by two tenths of a second in the process. The time is the third-fastest in the NCAA this season, with the top two being set Saturday as well. Allen’s journey to reach an elite level on the collegiate scene has been steady. With only one exception, Allen has improved in 110 hurdles at every meet this season. He will be joined by Johnathan Cabral who finished sixth with a time of 13.56.
Not to be outdone, Sasha Wallace broke her own school record only minutes later in the 100 hurdles. Wallace crossed the finish line in 13.23 which was third in her heat, advancing her through to Eugene.
And with the excitement to see the two school-record hurdlers compete with the nation’s best at Hayward Field in a matter of weeks, one might forget that the two will be donning an Oregon uniform for a matter of years, as both are still true freshmen.
Wallace was on the track again as part of the women’s 4x100 team with Phyllis Francis, Jenna Prandini and Marybeth Sant as they won their heat to move on to Eugene. The group’s time of 43.47 was the second-fastest time in the region and ranks fourth in UO history.
Ninety minutes later, Prandini solidified a spot at the NCAA Championships in her third individual event and fourth overall. After qualifying for the long jump and 100 earlier in the weekend, Prandini won her heat of the 200 in a time of 22.73, the fourth-fastest of the day.
Both the men’s and women’s 4x400 teams advanced to Eugene and left their mark on the school’s top-10 lists. The women’s team of Chizoba Okodogbe, Laura Roesler, Christian Brennan and Francis ran 3:27.34 which was the fastest time of the meet and ranks third in Oregon history. The men’s team of Marcus Chambers, Arthur Delaney, Allen and Mike Berry ran 3:04.10 to qualify second, with the fifth-fastest time in school history.
The distance squad qualified by the masses on Saturday, with four athletes advancing in the men’s 5,000, two competitors in both the men’s and women’s 1,500 and another in the women’s 5,000.
Eric Jenkins and Parker Stinson finished first and second in their heat of the 5,000 to move on and were followed by Edward Cheserek and Trevor Dunbar who took third and fifth of the second heat, making the Ducks account for one-third of the qualifiers out of the West Preliminary.
After spending nearly the entirety of his 1,500 heat at the back of the pack, Mac Fleet used a burst down the home stretch to win handily in 3:44.67. Sam Prakel was part of a fast second heat in which he finished seventh, but his lifetime-best time of 3:42.30 was faster than any time set in the first heat, and advanced as the final qualifier.
Sarah Penney and Alli Cash were part of a similar situation in the women’s 1,500, with the top five from each of the two heats plus the next two fastest times advancing on to run in Eugene. Penney (4:20.24) and Cash (4:21.48) finished sixth and seventh in heat two, respectively, but with Cash’s time one-hundredth of a second faster than the sixth-place finisher of the first heat, both advanced to run in front of their home crowd in less than two weeks.
Frida Berge’s lifetime-best time of 16:17.27 qualified her in the women’s 5,000 in seventh.
Delaney ran 20.52 to finish second in his heat of the 200 and secure a spot at the NCAA Championships. The time is a personal best for the junior who now ranks third on the Oregon all-time list.
Lauren Crockett cleared 5-9.75 (1.77m) in the high jump to advance to her third NCAA Championships meet.
Jillian Weir started the day by advancing sixth in the women’s hammer throw. The Pac-12 champion finished with a distance of 197-2 (60.10m).
The No. 3-ranked Men and Women of Oregon will close their season in Eugene with the NCAA Championships being held June 11-14 at Historic Hayward Field. The Ducks will be looking for their first outdoor title since the women’s team won in 1985. Tickets to the event are still on sale at www.goducks.com/tracktickets.