Track & Field Championships running and field events begin
The 84th annual men’s and 28th-annual women’s Pac-12 Track & Field Championships continue this weekend after the multi-events ended with OREGON’s Dakotah Keys winning his third-consecutive Pac-12 decathlon title and USC freshman Amalie Iuel claiming the heptathlon crown. Now the focus turns to the running and field events which are set to take place at Mooberry Track & Field Complex on the campus of Washington State, Saturday-Sunday, May 17-18. Part two of the Championships preview will center on the running events, with part one (which was released on Thursday) concentrated on the field event.
Pac-12 fans have grown accustomed to being treated to some of the best track and field competition in the country and the world. Four men’s teams and six women’s teams are ranked in the top 25 in the country heading into the weekend. Additionally, four different league athletes have posted the best times/marks in the country. With the stiffest of competitions throughout the meet, 13 men’s and 11 women’s athletes competing have won at least one Pac-12 title in the event they are competing in within the last four years.
In the team competition, OREGON has been tough to beat as of late, having won the men’s crown the last seven years and the women’s crown five years in a row. The squad is coming off a strong indoor campaign where it swept both the men’s and women’s NCAA titles. Coming into the weekend, the Ducks are ranked third in the country on the men’s and women’s side. Strong contenders will come from UCLA and USC, who are both in the top-15 in the country on the men’s side, and STANFORD, USC and ARIZONA are all in the top 15 on the women’s side and will do what they can to try to unseat the Ducks.
Regardless of the outcome, the Pac-12 Men’s & Women’s Track & Field Championships is sure to be one of the most exciting meets in the country and guaranteed to showcase some of the nation’s top talents in the nation and the world.
Below a look at the men’s and women’s running events, the second of a two-part championships preview.
100 meters - Men
USC’s Beejay Lee ran a blistering 10.07 last year in the 100-meter race, a time that ranks in the top five in the Conference all-time, to win the Pac-12 crown. He returns to defend his title, but will be contested by teammate Aaron Brown who Lee edged for the title by just .01 seconds. Brown currently boasts the fastest time in the Pac-12 this season, ranking in the top 10 in the country. He will be looking to reclaim a title that he held in 2012. Also looking to be in the mix is ARIZONA STATE’s Ryan Milus who has run the third-best time this season.
100 meters - Women
As usual, the 100 meters brings excitement to the meet, and that excitement should not waiver this year in the women’s short sprint race. OREGON will have a pair of underclassmen line up at the start line and are the top contenders for this title. Jenna Prandini is the defending champion after claiming the event last year in her first-career Pac-12 meet marking the fourth-consecutive year a UO sprinter had won the event. She has posted the third-fastest time in the country this season and was a two-time Pac-12 Women’s Athlete of the Week. Freshman teammate Jasmine Todd will also push Prandini, ranking 11th in the event, while USC’s Jessica Davis will try to break up the Oregon party. A Pac-12 Women’s Athlete of the Week, as well, she boasts a top-25 time in the event.
200 meters - Men
The Trojans will look to make it another sweep in the 200 meter, as USC claimed 1-2-3 last year. Despite the graduation of defending champion and London Olympian Bryshon Nellum, a three-man USC contingent are the favorites in this race again. Aaron Brown, who was second last year in this race, ranks sixth in the country with the Conference’s top time this season of 20.19, which was tied for the fourth-fastest time in league history. Junior Davonte Stewart was third last year but is looking to improve on his podium spot. Fellow junior Beejay Lee will be looking to make the finals this time around and contend for a podium spot. The expectations are high for this group to continue USC’s winning tradition in the sprint races.
200 meters - Women
The 200-meter race may come down to the wire as two of the top six runners in the country are from the Pac-12 and are only separated by .02 seconds. USC’s Tynia Gaither boasts the league’s top time this season and tied for the third-best in the country. But OREGON’s Phyllis Francis is nipping her heels with the sixth-fastest time. Francis was second at last year’s meet and was also edged at the line by fellow Duck English Francis to make it a 1-2-3 Oregon finish. Fellow Trojan Jessica Davis will try to mix things up, as well, as she already has a title in the event to her credit, winning in 2011, and having posted a top-eight time in the country this season. Also keep an eye on UO’s Jenna Prandini, who was third last year, and ARIZONA’s Shapri Romero. Both are also ranked in the top 25 in the country. The four sprinters are also the only ones from the Pac-12 to break 23 seconds in the event.
400 meters - Men
After finishing second the last two years in the 400-meter, OREGON’s Mike Berry is looking to reclaim the title he had in 2011. Berry looks poised to do just that, having recorded the best time in the league in the event. It also ranks fifth in the country. But on his heels will be STANFORD sophomore Steven Solomon and ARIZONA STATE’s Keith Cleveland, both of whom are in the top 25 in the nation in the event.
400 meters - Women
The overwhelming in the 400-meter race is OREGON’s Phyllis Francis who has already won the title twice. She is the fastest in the Pac-12 at that distance and ranks third in the country. She is the only runner in the Conference to have broken 51 seconds. Ranked sixth in the country, ARIZONA’s Shapri Romero was third last year and is also having a solid season in the event and was third last year. She is also one of just two sprinters, along with Francis, to break 52 seconds. But the field is deep in the 400 meters, with an additional four sprinters ranked in the top 25. Four of last year’s top eight return, including ARIZONA STATE’s Brianna Tate, who has the third-best time in the league, and USC’s Vanessa Jones.
800 meters - Men
The field is wide open in the 800-meter race, but UCLA sophomore Nick Hartle appears to have the edge after posting the fastest time in the league in the event, over a half-second faster than the next closest time. He is also the only Pac-12 athlete in this event to rank in the top 25, coming in at eighth entering the weekend. But fellow sophomore, WASHINGTON’s Izaic Yorks, junior Husky Derrick Daigre and WASHINGTON STATE’s Jesse Jorgensen look to challenge Hartle in the event. Jorgensen and Hartle are the only two in the field to have advanced to the finals last year and Jorgensen was beaten out by two-time champion Oregon’s Elijah Greer to place second.
800 meters - Women
The top-three middle distance runners in the country are in the Pac-12 and will go head-to-head in the 800 meters if they advance to the finals. Leading the way is two-time league champion in the event OREGON’s Laura Roesler. She is aiming to become only the second athlete to ever win the event three times and the first since 2001. She goes into the race as the favorite after posting the best time in the country so far. But challenging her streak will be No. 2-ranked STANFORD Amy Weissenbach. She, along with Roessler, has the ability to post a sub-2:01.00 time in the 800-meters, a feat she accomplished last year when recorded the fifth-fastest time in Pac-12 history behind only Roessler’s time. UO senior Samantha Murphy will challenge for a top-three spot as the No. 3 runner in the country. But the field is strong with an additional four runners ranking in the top 20, including ARIZONA STATE’s Shelby Houlihan (No. 5), STANFORD’s Claudia Saunders (No. 7), UO’s Annie LeBlanc (No. 9) and UTAH’s Rosalie Waller (No. 20).
1,500 meters - Men
ARIZONA’s Lawi Lalang is the heavy favorite in the 1,500 meters after spending last summer breaking several distance records and also posting the second-fastest time in league history in the event. However, he has limited his races this spring but will be motivated to defend his back-to-back titles. Lalang will be tested by a contingent of talented runners, four of which are ranked in the top 10 in the country, and another two more in the top 25. OREGON’s Mac Fleet has run the third-best time in the country, but STANFORD’s Tyler Stutzman is on his heels with the sixth-best time which was only .21 slower than Fleet’s. UO’s Trevor Dunbar is also looking to have a solid showing as will COLORADO freshman Ben Saarel, who led his cross country Buffs to a NCAA title in the fall.
1,500 meters - Women
2013 Champion ARIZONA STATE’s Shelby Houlihan will be looking to defend her title this year and appears to be ready to do so as the top 1,500-meter runner in the field, ranking fourth in the country. Five others are clustered together, ranking from No. 18-25, including hometown favorite WASHINGTON STATE’s Ruby Roberts who is the only other runner in the field to finish in the top eight last year. Also in the field and ranked 23rd in the country is WASHINGTON’s Katie Flood, who took home the NCAA title in the event in 2012.
5,000 meters - Men
The 5,000-meter title is up for grabs and with eight Pac-12 athletes ranked in the top 25 in the event, this race is shaping up to be one of the best in the country. OREGON’s Trevor Dunbar, STANFORD’s Joe Rosa and Cardinal teammate Erik Olson appear to be the favorites in this one. All three have posted time that rank in the top 10 in the country, with Dunbar’s time coming in fourth, and Rosa and Olson’s times are sixth and eighth, respectively. But there are some other notables that will be running in the race, including ARIZONA’s Lawi Lalang, the 2011 champion as a freshman, and freshman Duck phenom Edward Cheserek, who was the NCAA Champion in cross country last fall and the USTFCCCA National Cross Country Athlete of the Year. Lalang will not be in the 10,000 meter this year, so he will give it his all to claim this title.
5,000 meters - Women
STANFORD’s Aisling Cuffe is having an outstanding season in the 5,000 meters with her success dating back to the individual win at the Pac-12 Cross Country Championships in the fall. She broke the Conference’s all-time record in the event earlier this year, also the top mark in the country so far. But challenging Cuffe will be defending champion WASHINGTON’s Megan Goethals, who has overcome stress fractures over the winter to, once again, challenge in the event on the Conference and national level. The Cardinal’s Jessica Tonn could also figure in the mix as a top-10-ranked runner in the event, along with four others who are in the top 25, including a pair of COLORADO Buffs in Abby Levene and Shalaya Kipp.
10,000 meters - Men
ARIZONA’s Lawi Lalang will not be running in the 10,000-meter race this season and will not be defending his 2013 title. WASHINGTON sophomore Aaron Nelson, who has posted the top time in the Pac-12, which also ranks in the top 10 in the country, will also not compete at the Pac-12 Championships in the event. Therefore, this race is up for grabs. Some front runners include OREGON’s Parker Stinson. He placed second last year and is ranked 17th at this distance. COLORADO’s Morgan Pearson and CALIFORNIA’s James Slater will also look to be in the mix and compete for a podium spot.
10,000 meters - Women
The Pac-12 has long been regarded for its distance running and the 10,000 meters showcases that well with seven of the top 25 runners in the country vying to the title. WASHINGTON’s Megan Goethals will attempt the double in the 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters this year. But ARIZONA’s Elvin Kibet will look to keep the title in the hands of a Wildcat after former teammate Jennifer Bergman won it last year. Kibet currently has the fastest time in the Conference and ranks fourth in the country. She is the only Pac-12 distance runner to break 33 minutes this season. But Goethal’s time is also in the top-10 and will look to be a good challenge. Husky teammate Lindsay Flanagan and COLORADO’s Abby Levene are also close and could challenge for a podium spot.
110-meter Hurdles - Men
Four top-25 hurdlers will be in this race competing for a Pac-12 crown. Seniors Aleec Harris of USC and Milan Ristic of California have posted impressive times this season that rank in the top 10 in the country. But look for freshmen Devon Allen of OREGON and Jaron Thomas of COLORADO to challenge as both have been solid in their first-collegiate seasons.
100-meter hurdles - Women
USC’s Lauren Blackburn had made big improvements this season and is going into the weekend as the top contender for the 100-meter hurdles title. She is the only Pac-12 hurdler to break 13 seconds and is ninth in the country. OREGON again puts up a talented young challenger in freshman Sasha Wallace who is knocking on the door of that 13-second mark, boasting a top-15 time in the country and the second-best in the league. UCLA’s Brea Buchanan, however, will be looking to mend old wounds when she was edged out by a hair (.01) at the finish line by eventual champion former Stanford Cardinal Kori Carter to place second overall. She will look to break through for the top spot this season.
400-meter hurdles - Men
This is a young field with the top-four contenders being underclassmen, including three freshmen. CALIFORNIA’s Randy Bremea is the frontrunner in this event and will look to bring home the Golden Bears’ first title in the 400-meter hurdles since 1983. He was fourth at least year’s race and is the top-returning finisher in the event. Leading the freshman charge is WASHINGTON STATE’s CJ Allen, but is closely followed by COLORADO’s Jaron Thomas and USC’s Chase Peterson.
400-meter hurdles - Women
With the top-four finishers from last year having graduated and only two of the top eight returning, the 400-meter hurdles race looks to be wide open. WASHINGTON’s Kayla Steuckle and Gianna Woodruff both placed in the top eight last year and look to be contenders for podium spots this season having posted the third- and second-best marks in the league this season, respectively. The duo also rank in the top 20 in the event. But ARIZONA’s freshman Nnenya Hailey has been impressive in her inaugural season, posting the best mark in the Pac-12 which also ties for sixth in the country.
3,000-meter steeplechase - Men
COLORADO is known for its steeplechase tradition and, in its short stint as a member of the Pac-12, has already taken three league titles in the event (one men’s and two women’s). One of the lead contenders this season is the Buffs’ Blake Theroux. But the fastest time this season in the event goes to OREGON’s Tanguy Pepiot, who is the only Conference athlete ranked in the top 25 in the nation in the event. A pair of Sun Devils, ARIZONA STATE’s Steven Schneiders and Daniel Wong should also challenge in the event.
3,000-meter steeplechase - Women
The run-away favorite in the 3,000-meter steeplechase is COLORADO’s Shalaya Kipp, who won the 2012 title, the same year she qualified for the U.S. Olympic squad in the event and went on to compete in London. Looking to continue the Buffs’ tradition of excellence in the steeplechase, she owns the best time in the country in the steeplechase by nearly 4.5 seconds and is the only runner in the Conference to break the 10-minute mark. The last two winners of the event were Buffs and Olympians (Emma Coburn in 2013). But OREGON senior Megan Patrignelli also looks to make a case for herself having posted the second-best time in the Conference and eighth in the country. While also looking to vie for a spot on the podium are WASHINGTON’s Liberty Miller and ARIZONA’s Chea Formaz.