A whole lot of quacking going on at noisy Hayward Field for the Pac-10 Final Day

 By Jack Pfeifer / Comments, photos by Kim Spir

            EUGENE – The Oregon track team keeps making more and more noise this year. This weekend, it was at home at sun-dappled Hayward Field, where the Ducks won both the men’s and women’s Pac-10 Conference championships.
            It was the first such sweep in school history, the first victory by the women’s team in 17 years, the first win of this meet on its home track by the men’s team in 42 years.
            But, you could see it coming. The men after all won the NCAA cross country championship last fall, and two months ago won the first NCAA indoor team championship in school history.
            The women were merely 2nd in those cross country championships, losing narrowly to the rivals to the north, the Washington Huskies, and outdoors they added to their traditional distance core a newfound crop of sprinters and leapers.
            “Before the meet,” said Jamesha Youngblood, the sophomore jumper from California, “we told one another we’re just gonna go out there, we’re gonna shock everybody.
            “We wanted to make a statement, especially with the sprints and jumps.”
            Youngblood put an exclamation point on Saturday’s school-record victory in the long jump by doing the same things – 1st place, school record – on Sunday in the triple jump. “The school record was my goal, that was what I wanted.
            “I’ve always had it in me.”
            The women’s team was considered a modest favorite here, while the men were expected to win in a landslide. That seemed to give the female Ducks more motivation to prove something. The Stanford women put up a good fight, but eventually lost to an Oregon machine that scored in virtually every event, 165 ½-138. Another Oregon connection: Lauren Centrowitz won the 5K (over Nicole Blood, right) to cap a family Pac-10 double; Matthew winning the 1,500 for Oregon; Matt Centrowitz, their father, was a terrific runner for Oregon and an Olympian in 1976 and 1980 but never won a Pac title.
            The men were dominant, winning the 800 in a photofinish, the 1,500 in a sweep, the 10,000, the steeple – those distance points alone were enough to win the meet – along with place points all over the park. Ashton Eaton, for example, the nation’s leading college decathlete, had won his specialty a week earlier. He came back this weekend for more, and it was hard to find a moment during the two days when he was NOT competing in something: a lifetime best in the long jump for 2nd place, lifetime best in the 400 for 3rd, an hour or more high jumping. And didn’t he run a leg on the 4x1 relay? How about the 4x4? Sure, might as well run leadoff.
            USC was the only school other than the Ducks to score more than 100 points, scoring 117 to Oregon’s 158.
            And is this, despite its an enormity, a warm-up to bigger things? The NCAA outdoor championships, four weeks away already been anointed as the favorite by the Track & Field News men’s guru, John Auka. Going into this weekend, Texas A&M and Florida State were considered co-favorites for the women’s title, but that was before Keshia Baker ran 51.74 in the 400, Melissa Gergel pole-vaulted 14-2 and Youngblood jumped 21/43 in the horizontal jumps. All are Ducks, and all of those performances are national-level. in Arkansas, remain. On paper, the Oregon men’s team has This puts the Oregon women in contention as well.
            The vaunted Oregon men’s team actually has not won the NCAA outdoor team championship in 25 years, and the women have gone 24.

The third Oregon track and field reunion took place after the first day of the Pac-10 meet behind Hayward Field on Saturday night. Galen Rupp spoke about what coming to Oregon meant to him; Jim Grelle talked about indoor track in the early years at Oregon. The University of Oregon is trying to locate all women competitors from 1960-1978 to award retroactive athletic letters. If you know a former Oregon woman athlete (Debbie Roth, where are you!?!) contact Kim Spir at kas165@columbia.edu. Pictured above left: Jennifer (Bates), Dala (Ramsey), Phil Knight, Mike Grover.  Pictured above right, (l-r) Alberto Salazar, Don Clary, Gary Severs, Dave Taylor, Art (Cleotus) Boileau, Joaquim Chapa.