June 11, 2016
by Rob Moseley
Photo: Eric Evans
EUGENE, Ore. — A year after winning the NCAA team title with 59 points, the Oregon women racked up 62 in the 2016 NCAA Outdoor championship meet.
That wasn’t enough to win another title, after pre-meet favorite Arkansas totalled 72. But that didn’t stop Saturday from being an unforgettable afternoon at Hayward Field for the UO women, who couldn’t afford any missteps to have a shot at the team title, and rose to the occasion.
Ariana Washington became the first freshman in meet history to double, in the 100 and 200, becoming the latest in a line of Oregon heirs to the throne as queen of NCAA sprints. Sandwiched in between those national titles was another in the 800 by Raevyn Rogers, a sophomore who has now won three straight national championships at that distance outdoors and indoors.
Washington edged teammate Deajah Stevens for the 200-meter title, and the Ducks also got third-place finishes from Sasha Wallace in the 100 hurdles and from the quartet of Wallace, Stevens, Danielle Barbian and Washington in the 4×100. The UO women piled up 58 points on Saturday alone, one fewer than their winning total from 2015.
“We knew those girls were super, super talented,” said UO coach Robert Johnson, whose team won a top-four trophy for the eighth straight year. “But I think all of those events today definitely stood out because of the pressure and the duress — that we asked them to go out today and be perfect.”
Washington was the breakout star, first anchoring the 4×100 relay to third in 42.91 seconds. Running without mainstays Jasmine Todd and Hannah Cunliffe, a quartet that was only finalized Friday brought home six team points for Oregon.
Less than an hour later, Washington became just the second freshman to win the 100, in a wind-aided 10.95. And 45 minutes after that, Washington became the first freshman ever to win the 200, edging Stevens in a winning time of 22.21.
Washington became the fourth UO woman in five years to win the 100, following in the footsteps of English Gardner (2012, 2013) and Jenna Prandini (2015). Prandini was also second in the 200 last spring.
“Watching Jenna do the 100-200, you just don’t think, ‘That’s going to be me next year,’” said Washington, who received a medical hardship waiver for the 2015 season. “You just don’t. That doesn’t ever cross your mind. You just think, man, I have a lot of work to do. To come out today and do that — man, I don’t know. It hasn’t hit me yet.”
Stevens was second in the 200 in 22.25, giving Washington and Stevens the second- and third-fastest times in UO history. In the hurdles, Wallace followed her school-record 12.95 in prelims by running a wind-aided 12.81 on Saturday.
Wallace burst out of the blocks and was first over the first several hurdles. She was passed in the final few meters by second-place finisher Tobi Amusan of Texas-El Paso, but Wallace outleaned Cindy Ofili of Michigan for third.
“That was my focus, just to get out and try to maintain and hold on for as long as I could,” Wallace said. “I could have had a better last three hurdles, but to get third, that’s huge points for my team.”
Rogers labored a bit in her preliminary Thursday, finishing second in 2:03.55. She ran 2:00.75 on Saturday, despite battling windy conditions.
“It was a tough race,” said Rogers, who followed up her 2015 NCAA Outdoor and 2016 NCAA Indoor titles with another. “I feel like because it’s an Olympic year, everything is way more intense. The field was deep and the weather made it tough, but I’m really blessed with the outcome.”
Oregon has now won three straight women’s 800 titles, after Laura Roesler won in 2014 and Rogers won in 2015.
The Ducks also got points from their final entry in the meet, Alli Cash, who was fifth in the 5,000 in 16:06.11. Dominique Scott won that event for Arkansas, securing the team title for the Razorbacks. But that couldn’t dull the shine of Oregon’s day.
Earlier, Annie Leblanc took advantage of her background in the 800 to kick into fifth in the 1,500 in a personal-best 4:14.80.
“As a senior, I’m just happy that I was finally able to contribute to the team that has given me so much over the last couple years,” Leblanc said. “I’m pretty pleased. Obviously a podium top-three would have been even better, but you just have to be patient and have faith and keep working hard, and hopefully points will come.”
The UO women are left to wonder how many more points they might have scored with Todd and Cunliffe available Saturday. But their absence also served to make the 58-point day by those Ducks who were in action that much more impressive.
“Those are things we should have done a better job with as a coaching staff,” Johnson said. “(But we’re) extremely proud of the girls. This is probably one that we’ll remember more than some of the ones we’ve won. Because we talked last night about being perfect, that we had to come out and be perfect today. And we were damn near close.”