Nelson Finishes as National Runner-Up in 100
EUGENE, Ore. — A frustrating day of men's finals was followed by an afternoon of encouraging performances from the women Saturday as the Oregon track and field program wrapped up competition in the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Hayward Field.
Kemba Nelson finished second in the 100 meters, after helping the UO women take third in the 4x100 relay. Dominique Ruotolo also earned all-American honors, with a seventh-place finish in the triple jump, and Medford native Jaida Ross made her second event final of the meet in the discus.
Nelson helped provide one of the signature moments of Saturday's meet, finishing second in the 100 to Julien Alfred of Texas by five one-thousandths of a second. After a strong start by Nelson, Alfred seemed to have the edge in the final few meters but Nelson leaned at the tape to close the gap.
"It was a tough field, talented women, and I knew I had to start (fast)," Nelson said. "I kind of did what coach (Curtis) Taylor said: get out and have them come chase me. I think I did that. I felt like I reached for the line a little bit early; maybe that's why I lost the lead. The fight going to the line, it's a good feeling, but just the timing of the lean could have been better."
Alfred was timed in 11.015 seconds and Nelson officially finished in 11.020 seconds. The eight team points Nelson provided with that finish helped Oregon amass 20 in the meet, good for 11th place.
The second-place finish in the 100 capped a day of impressive feats for Nelson. The native of Jamaica, who completed her degree in March, had to miss Saturday morning's graduation ceremony for UO student-athletes due to the NCAA meet. She then ran the second leg as Oregon clocked a season-best 42.59 in the 4x100 before turning the 100 into a photo finish.
"My parents didn't even go to college, and they saw track as a way to get me in there," Nelson said. "So I'm very happy I did that, and did it for them. And I would really want them here for that special day to see me, but you know, I had business to take care of. But I'm pretty happy, pretty grateful. Graduating, runner-up here in the 100 — I don't think I could ask for anything more."
Taking second in the 100 was a welcome improvement for Nelson, who was fourth a year earlier and said a primary goal Saturday was to improve on that finish. She was also pleased with the effort in the 4x100, after being part of the quartet that failed to get the baton around in last year's finals.
Nelson, Jadyn Mays, Jasmin Reed and Jasmine Montgomery ran an efficient 42.64 in Thursday's preliminary round before lowering their time Saturday to 42.59, strengtening the quartet's No. 3 standing in program history.
"Our mindset today was just to go out there with the intentions of being the best; you can't get shy or fear any competitor, because you never know what could happen in track and field," Reed said. "So that was the mindset for today — go out there with the heart of a champion, and I definitely think we came out as such. …
"It was a season best, so we can't be too upset about that. You should never be disappointed with medaling, with a season best."
Like Nelson, Ruotolo came into Saturday looking to build on her performance from the 2021 NCAA Outdoor meet. Ruotolo was injured in that meet and sold out to get a quality mark on her first attempt; she was unable to improve on it, advancing to the final but finishing in ninth place.
This time out, Ruotolo's second attempt was her best, at 43 feet, 6.5 inches, which held up for a seventh-place finish and two team points for the Ducks.
"Last year I was like, I have to do a big jump on the first one or I'm gonna be hurting," Ruotolo said. "This meet what I was thinking was just, patience, thinking about my technique. I wanted to make the podium, and I did. And just, be happy and have fun.
"I just kept reminding myself to have fun and not think about the past — really building myself up."
Teammate Lexi Ellis also was in position to make the final until the jumper who followed her passed her in the third and final round, relegating Ellis to 10th at 43-3.75.
Earlier in Saturday's session, thrower Jaida Ross participated in the first flight of the discus, and walked off the track figuring she wouldn't make the final. But when the second flight concluded, Ross was in ninth place, the last spot in the field for the final round of three throws.
"I'm in the stands watching and I'm thinking, I might go warm up," Ross said afterward with a laugh. "So I came on down, and it ended up working out. Just squeezed in, and then didn't beat anyone after that, but definitely worth the experience."
Ross ended up ninth with a mark of 176-8. That followed her fifth-place finish Thursday in the shot put; Ross was one of six women to reach the NCAA Outdoor Championships in both events, and one of just two to make both event finals, along with Saturday's discus champion, Jorinde Van Klinken of Arizona State.
"One of my main goals was making finals, and that happened," Ross said. "Discus is a journey for me; I didn't think I was a discus thrower, and I'm kind of gaining some confidence in that and it feels good. And now I get to just grow and improve from here, and I'm excited for that."
2. Kemba Nelson – 11.02 [8 points]
3. Jadyn Mays/Kemba Nelson/Jasmin Reed/Jasmine Montgomery – 42.59 (SB) [6 points]
7. Dominique Ruotolo – 13.27m/43-6.5 [2 points]
10. Lexi Ellis – 13.20m/43-3.75
9. Jaida Ross – 53.84m/176-8
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