Williams Makes Loud Opening Statement
EUGENE, Ore. — Micah Williams let his legs do the talking Wednesday, and based on what they had to say he'll be making a whole lot more noise Friday.
Williams, the Portland native and reigning Pac-12 Track Athlete of the Year, was the top qualifier Wednesday in the semifinals of the men's 100 meters during the opening day of competition in the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field. The 2021 NCAA Indoor champ will race for his second national title Friday, when the men's portion of the meet concludes.
Afterward Williams declined to comment on his performance, letting his blistering time of 10.03 seconds speak for itself. Running in the first of three heats Wednesday, Williams rocketed out of the blocks and into the lead of the strongest heat in the competition, then coasted through the finish line.
Williams is looking to become the first men's 100-meter champ from Oregon at the NCAA Outdoor Championships since Harry Jerome in 1964. He joined Jerome, Dave Blunt and Cravon Gillespie on the list of UO men to make multiple 100-meter finals at the meet.
Earlier in the day, Williams and the rest of Oregon's 4x100-meter relay team came painfully close to advancing to Friday's final, finishing in 39.00 seconds as the second-fastest team not to advance. Despite not advancing, the quartet of Williams, Ryan Mulholland, Rieker Daniel and Xavier Nairne become the fifth-fastest squad in program history with Wednesday's effort.
But the Men of Oregon got their first point of the meet from Aaron Bienenfeld in the 10,000 meters, and they'll look for more Thursday when Max Vollmer wraps up the decathlon after a strong start Wednesday.
Bienenfeld, a senior transfer from Cincinnati, improved on a 17th-place finish last year by crossing in eighth Wednesday to score a point for the Ducks and earn all-American honors. He had hoped a faster race would develop, and to take advantage of that speed to finish higher in the field, but ultimately finished in 28 minutes, 19.05 seconds.
"I really wanted to score here; that was the minimum goal," Bienenfeld said. "Came up short of the podium, but I don't think that was in the cards today. But regardless, I'm happy with the 10k and will try to have a good comeback in the 5k (on Friday). And I'll take this for now — it's been a long season."
Oregon's other chance to score Wednesday was in the javelin, where sophomore Ty Hampton from North Bend finished 10th with a mark of 236 feet, 7 inches. That throw was Hampton's opening attempt and had him seventh in the field through the first round of his flight, but he was unable to improve.
Along with the 4x100 relay, the Ducks also did not advance Luis Peralta in the 800 or Elliott Cook in the 1,500 on Wednesday. Peralta was in third with 200 to go in his heat before fading, and said injuries this season affected his fitness for Wednesday's race. Cook, who faded to ninth in his heat during the last lap of a 3:44.47 effort in the 1,500, said his first experience at a championship meet taught him that "mental preparation is everything."
"From where I was last year to this year, I couldn't even have dreamed of getting this far in a year," Cook said. "I wish I could have shown out for my team a little bit more, obviously; it's disappointing I finished my season. But to be able to run in a Ducks jersey at home for nationals was something else, and hopefully next year I can be scoring points for the Ducks in the national meet."
Vollmer enters Thursday's final day of the decathlon in fifth place with 4,215 points. He posted a personal best of 6-6 in the high jump and a season best of 50-6.25 in the shot put and is ahead of his first-day total of 4,140 points from this meet last year.
"I've definitely got lots in the tank, and it is pretty close," Vollmer said. "Everyone in the top six is pretty close, so I'll just go for it and see what everyone else does."
Vollmer said he wore new spikes for the 100 meters and tied them too tight, causing numbness in his feet for that race. He was unhappy with his first effort in the long jump and scratched his second attempt, before getting his mind right to hit a solid third jump of 23-5.5.
"Decathlon is all mental," Vollmer said. "… When you have good events, not to be too excited. And any bad events, let go to a neutral stage — whatever happens, I'm just normal. And it's really tough. National championships, you're super excited, you want to perform. … Now I've just got to stay neutral, forget about today, move on to tomorrow and treat it like any other meet."
100 Meters – semifinal
1. Micah Williams – 10.03q
800 Meters – semifinal
22. Luis Peralta – 1:50.02
1500 Meters – semifinal
21. Elliott Cook – 3:44.47
10,000 Meters – final
8. Aaron Bienenfeld – 28:19.05 [1 point]
4x100m Relay – semifinal
11. Mulholland/Williams/Daniel/Nairne – 39.00 [No. 5 UO]
10. Ty Hampton – 72.12m/236-7
Decathlon – Day 1
5. Max Vollmer – 4,215 points
9. 100 Meters – 10.90 (-0.3) [883 points]
11. Long Jump – 7.15M/23-5.5 
2. Shot Put – 15.40m/50-6.25 (SB) 
9. High Jump – 1.98m/6-6 (PB) 
8. 400 Meters – 48.55 
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