EUGENE, Ore. – For the second straight season, TrackTown turned into TitleTown.
Before a packed house of 11,168 at historic Hayward Field on Friday, the Oregon men put the finishing touches on a dominant performance to claim back-to-back team titles at the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
The Ducks clinched the seventh men’s national outdoor crown in school history with a thrilling 1-2-4 finish in the 5,000 meters from Edward Cheserek, Eric Jenkins and Will Geoghegan.
Oregon’s winning total of 85 points was the second-best ever under the current scoring system, trailing only last year’s 88 points. Florida placed second with 56 points, followed by Arkansas (53), LSU (45) and USC (40.5).
“This one was special,” said UO coach Robert Johnson, moments after getting doused with water on the awards podium surrounded by his jubilant UO squad. “It’s an amazing feeling to do this in front of the great faithful here … the guys rallied ‘round each other all year long and this is the fruit of our labors.”
On Friday, the Ducks outperformed the form chart in every event they competed in, beginning with true freshman Blake Haney’s third-place finish in the 1,500 meters in 3 minutes, 55.12 seconds..
“I wanted to fly under the radar this year, so being overlooked is an advantage,” Haney said. “It’s a lot less pressure and I got to go out there and run my race.”
So did Oregon senior Johnathan Cabral in the 110-meter hurdles.
With teammate and reigning NCAA champion Devon Allen sidelined by knee surgery this year, Cabral stepped up and closed out his career with a second-place finish in 13.22. Moments later, UO sophomore Marcus Chambers used a strong surge on the homestretch to take second in the 400 meters at 45.59.
At that point, there was very little suspense as to which team would be standing atop the awards podium at the conclusion of the meet.
For the Ducks, all that remained was the 5,000 meters, and they finished it off in style as Cheserek won his eighth individual NCAA title in 13:48.67, a mere stride in front of Jenkins at 13:48.92. Arkansas’s Kemoy Campbell broke up the sweep in third (13:49.23), barely edging Geoghegan at 13:49.35.
“We knew that we needed a big day to put it away,” Geoghegan said. “I was trying to replicate what I did at indoors. I wanted to beat anyone who wasn’t wearing an Oregon uniform.”
The Ducks scored 23 points in the 5,000, and when combined with a 1-2 finish in the 10,000 meters from Cheserek and Jenkins on Wednesday, they piled up 41 points in those two events – good enough to place fourth overall in the team standings.
Oregon started the day with a commanding 40-16 lead thanks to the 1-2 finish in the 10,000, Sam Crouser’s victory in the javelin, and third-place performances from both Greg Skipper in the hammer throw and Dakotah Keys in the decathlon.
All in all, it was a victory that will long be long remembered.
“When you start to compare anything from the past with anything we’re doing now, it’s pretty special as far as history, tradition and legacy go,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of super studs our there right now and them being here is really making this thing we’re doing now even more special.”