TrackTown blog from Beijing: Ducks bring home WC medals

Ashton Eaton digs deep in the 1,500 meters en route to a gold medal and world record of 9,045 points in the decathlon at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing last week. (Photo courtesy of USATF)

BEIJING – There were 1,931 athletes from 207 countries competing in the 15th IAAF World Championships.

In that massive assemblage of track and field talent were eight former University of Oregon athletes, as well as one current Duck athlete. Those nine individuals combined to bring home one gold and five silver medals – and one incredible world record.

The gold and world record, of course, belong to Ashton Eaton. Once again, Eaton showed he is head and shoulders above the best multi-event athletes in the world, both in terms of talent and competitiveness. He electrified the Bird’s Nest Stadium on Saturday with his gutsy effort in the 1,500 meters. The native Oregonian broke his own world record by six points, ending with a score of 9,045.

Brianne Theisen-Eaton, competing for her native Canada, captured a silver medal in the heptathlon with 6,554 points. Harry Marra, who coaches both Brianne and Ashton, paid tribute to her competitive spirit, and the way she “fought like heck” to come back in the heptathlon after a disappointing start.

Three Duck sprinters – English Gardner, Jenna Prandini and Jasmine Todd – formed three-quarters of the second-best women’s 4 x 100 relay squad at these championships. With the incomparable Allyson Felix, who Gardner said was “an honorary Duck for the day,” they blazed around the Bird’s Nest oval in 41.68 seconds and brought home silver medals. This may be a young nucleus of the women’s short relay for the U.S. in the 2016 Olympics and beyond.

Former University of Oregon star Jenna Prandini places fifth in the 200 meters at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of USATF)

Former University of Oregon star Jenna Prandini places fifth in the 200 meters at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. She also won a silver medal for Team USA in the 4×100 relay. (Photo courtesy of USATF)

All three were also in individual events, and acquitted themselves well. Gardner and Todd both made the semifinals of the 100 meters, finishing 6th and 8th, respectively. Gardner hit the line in 11.13, while Todd ran 11.21. Todd also competed in the long jump, and placed 10th in Group A qualifying in 21 feet, 4 ¾ inches (6.52m). Prandini made it to the semis of the 200 meters, where she took fifth in 22.87, just missing a spot in the final.

Oregon's Jasmine Todd competed in the long jump, 100 meters and 4x100 relay at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. She won a silver medal in the relay. (Photo courtesy of USATF)

Oregon’s Jasmine Todd competed in the long jump, 100 meters and 4×100 relay at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. She won a silver medal in the relay. (Photo courtesy of USATF)

Phyllis Francis qualified for the final in the 400 meters and took seventh place in 50.51. Francis also ran a solid lead leg for the U.S. in the prelims of the women’s 4 x 400 meter relay, helping the team qualify for the final where they took second to Jamaica in a very tight finish. Francis also brought home a silver medal for her contribution to the relay squad.

Former Oregon standout Phyllis Francis placed seventh in the 400 meters and won a silver medal in the 4x400 relay at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of USATF)

Former Oregon standout Phyllis Francis placed seventh in the 400 meters and won a silver medal in the 4×400 relay at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of USATF)

Galen Rupp finished just out of the medal placing in his events. An Olympic silver medalist, Rupp had very strong races in the 10K and the 5K, finishing fifth in both. His 27:08.91 10K in hot and humid conditions ranks as the fourth-fastest time for an American at that distance, in which he holds the American record. Rupp’s fifth-place in the shorter distance was his best finish ever in a 5,000 world championship race.

Only 25 years of age, Matthew Centrowitz had already made the podium twice at previous World Championships, earning silver and bronze in the 1,500m. He made the final and was in a great position to win a third medal, but dropped back in the final stages of a fast race to place 8th in 3:34.40.

In his first World Championship competition, Sam Crouser was 15th in the javelin in Group A qualifying with a throw of 242-5 (73.88m). Like his Oregon teammates on the U.S. squad, Crouser said he was excited to represent the U.S. at this meet, and is confident the experience will help him to achieve even greater results in the future.

Centrowitz settles for 8th in 1,500 final

BEIJING – Aiming for his third consecutive World Championship 1,500 medal, Matthew Centrowitz put himself in a perfect position with 300 meters left.

However, when the sprinting began, Centrowitz couldn’t respond and finished in eighth place in 3 minutes, 36.13 seconds. Defending champion Asbel Kiprop of Kenya came from behind down the stretch to claim his third consecutive world title in 3:34.40.

The 25-year-old Centrowitz said that he ran a smart race, but physically just didn’t have it on this night.

Matthew Centrowitz placed eighth in the 1,500-meter final at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of USATF)

Matthew Centrowitz placed eighth in the 1,500-meter final at the IAAF World Championships in Beijing. (Photo courtesy of USATF)

“That one hurt,” Centrowitz said. “I put myself in a good position most of the race, and then with 300 to is when (Taoufik) Makhloufi made a good move. At that point I was just running all out and couldn’t respond.

“That was my best effort. It was everything I had. I was ready to go. No excuses. Like I said, that field was a quality, world-class field, probably one of the best fields that I’ve faced since I’ve been at a world championships.”

Centrowitz, a former University of Oregon star who is coached by Alberto Salazar with the Nike Oregon Project in Portland, won a bronze medal in his first world meet in Daegu, South Korea in 2011. He captured silver in the 2013 World Championships in Moscow. Centrowitz said it was a definite disappointment to go home empty-handed from Beijing.

“The expectation coming in was definitely to get another medal,” he said. “But I ran the best race I could possibly run.”

Leonel Manzano, silver medalist in the 2012 Olympics, was 10th and Robby Andrews was 11th in his world meet debut.