May 14, 2016
SEATTLE, Wash. – The Ducks earned four individual conference titles at the first day of the Pac-12 Track and Field Championships, Saturday, while the women hold the team lead heading into Sunday and the men’s team sits in second.
The men earned three individual Pac-12 titles, where Cody Danielson and John Nizich put together a 1-2 finish. Danielson, the UCLA transfer, was eighth heading into the fifth round and fourth before his last attempt. In the final round, the junior pulled out a clutch throw of 238-5 (72.66m) to take the lead and finish atop the podium. The win continues Oregon’s impressive run in the men’s javelin where the Ducks have won the title for five straight seasons and in seven of the last eight years.
It was Nizich who he passed in the final round after Nizich himself took the lead with his fifth throw. The redshirt freshman out of Portland launched a personal best of 235-10 (71.89m) the eighth-best in Oregon history and 13th in the NCAA heading into the weekend.
“I’m so happy that I could pull it off and do it, not just for myself, but our team needs the points and we have a battle still,” Danielson said.
The women’s team had their own 1-2 punch in Brittany Mann and Itohan Aikhionbare. The pair took the top two spots in the women’s shot put to add a quick 18 points to the team score in the first final of the day. The two battled the rain and wind that swept around Husky Track in the morning, but Mann was ready on her first throw, marking a best of 55-7 (16.94m).
“Coach asked us to do as much as we can,” Mann said. “As a team, we want to score as many points as we can. Itos came in and did what she was supposed to do, and it ended up really well.”
It was a banner day for the throws crew which was very busy on Saturday. Greg Skipper broke through to win the men’s hammer throw with his season-best 230-9 (70.34m) after finishing as the runner-up in the event each of the past three seasons. Meanwhile Liz Brenner and Annie Whitfield added 11 points in the women’s javelin, Brenner finishing second and Whitfield sixth.
“There were a lot of hard fought performances for the men and the women today,” said head coach Robert Johnson. “Our throwers are definitely doing a fantastic job in the meet and it’s a testament to Coach Whitsitt and how he has them prepared them.”
Because of the impact on the team standings, and Oregon’s quest for an eighth-straight sweep of the conference meet, the field events may have even overshadowed Oregon’s most decorated NCAA Champion, Edward Cheserek, who added 10 more points to the total with a dominant win in the men’s 10,000. The junior ran most of the final two miles on his own, finishing in 28:58.57 and winning by nearly 100 meters. The run not only claimed a Pac-12 Championship for the junior, but solidified an NCAA regional qualifying mark. Teammate Matthew Melancon added three more points with his sixth place finish in 29:19.52.
The men will enter Sunday in second with 57 points, only four points behind Washington
The women’s team holds a 16-point lead over second-place UCLA, as Jasmine Todd, Frida Berge and Molly Grabill helped contribute to that total with second-place finishes in the long jump, the steeplechase and 10,000 meters, respectively. Todd made her long jump season debut on Saturday with a best of 20-7 (6.27m), a mark that ranks 10th in the NCAA heading into the weekend.
The distance duo of Berge and Grabill put in impressive performances spending much of their respective races in a two-person pack with the leader before eventually taking second. Berge set a school record in the steeplechase in 9:56.79 with an eight second personal best and was followed by Brianna Nerud who took fifth. Grabill finished as the runner-up in the 10,000 for the second consecutive year, crossing the finish line in 33:40.38.
While some Ducks were able to make immediate impacts on the leaderboard, much of the day was spent putting in legwork and advancing to tomorrow’s finals.
Devon Allen was busy in advancing to the finals of the 110 hurdles, where he set a Pac-12 Championships meet record of 13.32, as well as the 100 and 200. He will be joined in the 200 by Marcus Chambers who also qualified through for an opportunity to defend his title in the 400 and helped his 4×100 teammates of Christian Sourapas, Ben Thiel and Travonn White advance by winning their heat in 40.55.
The women’s sprinters progressed to the finals in large numbers. Hannah Cunliffe (11.08), Ariana Washington (11.18), Deajah Stevens (11.19) and Danielle Barbian (11.52) each qualified to the 100 finals while they also made up the four legs of the 4×100 team which posted the fastest time of the day. Stevens, Cunliffe and Washington also recorded the three fastest times in the 200 prelims.
Sasha Wallace and Alaysha Johnson, the two fastest 100 hurdlers in Oregon history, will take part in tomorrow’s final. Johnson posted a prelim time of 13.27 with Wallace close behind at 13.28.
Lilli Burdon and Annie Leblanc won their heats of the women’s 1,500 to move on, as will Ashley Maton who was awarded a spot in the final after being tripped up as part of the lead pack with 200 meters remaining. In addition to the 1,500, Leblanc will join reigning NCAA Champion Raevyn Rogers in the 800.
The men’s middle distance squad will be represented by Sam Prakel, Matthew Maton and Chris Brewer in the 1,500 and Grant Grosvenor in the 800.
Though one team leads, and the other is in a close second, enough points are on the table during the final day that anything can happen, as Johnson has seen during his time as head coach of the Ducks.
“We have a lot of people qualified to go tomorrow, so we’ll just have to see how it all shakes out.”
Action will begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, beginning with the women’s hammer throw and conclude with 4×400 relays at 4:45 p.m.