Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cheering 2nd

Cheering champions is the way of Eugene's historic Hayward Field.

But never were the place points more important than this weekend at the NCAA Championships.

In a span of 50 minutes on Friday afternoon, two seconds and a third wrapped up Oregon’s men’s national title, long before its vaunted distance corps took to the track.

4:45 - Blake Haney – 3rd – 1500m
5:15 - Johnathan Cabral – 2nd – 110m hurdles
5:35 - Marcus Chambers – 2nd – 400m

Their 22 points would have placed them 9th in the team score; add Will Geoghegan’s 5-point 4th place finish in the 5k and the team vaults into a tie for 6th with Texas A+M.

1.    85 - Oregon 
2.    56 - Florida
3.    53 - Arkansas
4.    45 - LSU
5.    40.5 - USC
6.    27 - Texas A+M
7.    26 - Texas
8.    20 - Mississippi State
9.    18 - Texas Tech
10.  17 - Illinois
       17 - Penn State

As for place points that made all the difference? They played an even more significant role in Oregon women’s first team title in 30 years.

As thoughtful fan Seth L. observed after the meet, Oregon won the team championships with 4th and 5th places Thursday evening when Molly Grabill and Waverly Neer finished 4-5 in the 10,000m to pick up nine crucial points in the team race – the Ducks’ eventual margin of victory.

Perhaps we can get really radical and credit Oregon’s throwers with the win. On Thursday, Jillian Weir took fourth in the hammer while Brittany Mann was fifth in the shot put.

Count ‘em: nine crucial points.

And certainly credit Jenna Prandini’s 8 points in the 200m; these clinched the team title for Oregon late Saturday afternoon.

You don’t always have to finish first to win. Celebrate the champions, yes. But celebrate, too, all the non-winning performances that gave Oregon their two team titles.

Home field not always an advantage
It may seem that Oregon’s repeat hosting of the NCAA Outdoor Championships would always create a home field advantage.

Not so.

Today’s 4x100m relay DQ almost cost them the team title.

How so? It was not only the lost potential team points, it was the chilling effect on the start of the women’s 100m, when champion Jenna Prandini almost left the team title in the blocks.

So sure was she not to false start that she was last out. It almost cost her the race, which she won by a scant one-hundredth of a second. Had she false-started, Oregon would have lost the team title by one point – a ten point swing on a nine point winning margin.

The pressure of being the home team is enormous, and granted, is a problem every other team in these championships would love to have. But passing out of the zone is a different beast when it’s in front of over 11,000 fans with lofty expectations. Much better to do it someplace 3000 miles away, when time and distance can buffer the disappointment of the lost opportunity.

Highlight: Women's Pole Vault
A compelling women’s pole vault competition on Thursday saw Demi Payne (Stephen F. Austin, 15”5”) take the win over Sandi Morris (Arkansas, 15’ 3”).

Each has genetic roots in the sport. Payne’s father, Billy, was a leading pole vaulter in the 1990s and a member of the 1995 US World Championship team.

Both of Morris’ parents were collegiate multi-eventers, and in reference to her father she said, “Now I’ve officially jumped higher than he ever did!”

Morris added, “I had a blast yesterday and everyone who watched did, too… It’s hard when you have competition like this but it’s so much more fun.”

The Last Word
Track Town guru Vin Lananna, on the second-day all-women’s events ESPN ratings,
 which were higher than last year’s combined men’s and women’s finals broadcast:

"All the people who thought the women would not get the attention?

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