Rupp, Blood win 5ks at West NCAA Regional at Historic Hayward Field In Eugene, Oregon

Rupp, Blood win 5ks at NCAA Regional

By Jack Pfeifer
            EUGENE – Galen Rupp and Nicole Blood won the 5,000 meter runs on a sweltering Friday evening at Hayward Field as the Oregon Ducks began their quest for both NCAA team championships.
            The first five finishers in each event in this West Regional meet qualified automatically for the national meet, to be held in two weeks in Fayetteville, Ark.
            Rupp was also one of three Ducks to advance to Saturday’s 1,500-meter final, joining teammates Matthew Centrowitz and Jordan McNamara. Rupp ran easily to 2nd place in Heat I, while Centrowitz won heat II. McNamara, who has been dogged by injuries in his career at Oregon, finished 3rd in Heat II. The remaining Oregon entrant in the event, James Withers, finished out of the money in III.
            Andrew Wheating, who joined Rupp and Centrowitz in the dramatic 1-2-3 sweep of the Pac-10 1,500, is now focusing solely on his specialty, the 800. He won his heat on Friday in 1:48.40. His teammate Travis Thompson finished 5th in the heat in a lifetime-best 1:49.11, but he was passed in the final 20 meters by Joe Abbott of Washington State, who in the process earned the last qualifying spot in Saturday’s final.
            Oregon’s Melissa Gergel continued the pole-vault drama she showed 2 weeks ago at the Pac-10, where she outdueled Katie Morgan of California, the reigning NCAA champion. Here, trailing Andrea Peterson of Washington, she cleared 14-1 ¾ on her final attempt to win the competition.
            In the men’s 5,000, Rupp won going away in 13:46.41, while teammate Shadrack Biwott was 5th and fellow Kenyan Alfred Kipchumba, of the University of Portland, was 7th. Kipchumba is likely to advance to the NCAA meet as well, on the basis of his time during the regular season.  
            It is not known yet which events Rupp or Biwott might run at the nationals. Both are also qualified in the 10,000, for which there is no qualifying race.
            Two Oregon women’s school records were set on the unusually warm day of qualifying rounds.
            In the 100 hurdles, heptathlete Brianne Theisen set a school record, running 13.56 for 4th place in Heat I and advancing to the final of that event. In the 4x1, the Ducks squad of Mandy White, Amber Purvis, Keshia Baker and Jamesha Youngblood broke their own school mark set earlier this season, running 44.17.
            In various polls, the Oregon men’s and women’s teams are ranked No. 1 nationally, with these Regional meets the latest test on the way to the NCAA finals next month in Arkansas.