By Romaine Soh / Tracktown USA
EUGENE, Ore. – It was all or nothing for the Oregon women as they toed the line for the 4×400-meter relay, the final event of the 2017 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
With just one event to go before the championship concluded on Saturday at Hayward Field, the Georgia women were leading with 62.2 points. Oregon had 54.
With Georgia having scored all the possible points they could, the Ducks had to win the 4×400-meter relay to gain the 10 points needed to propel them past the Bulldogs, lest they miss the title by 0.2 of a point. Their task was not made any easier as they had to face arch-rival USC, who had defeated them at the NCAA indoor meet by a hair’s length just a few months ago.
Oregon anchor Raevyn Rogers received the baton just ahead of USC anchor Kendall Ellis, who had earlier placed third in the 400m. Ellis wasted no time in passing Rogers on the inside of the first turn, but Rogers was unperturbed. Rogers then utilized her signature kick on the final turn to pass Ellis, riding the roar of the 12,992-strong Hayward crowd as she battled Ellis all the way to the finish line.
“I was hoping she wouldn’t catch me, because my legs were going all over the place,” Rogers said. “I was just trying to get the finish line.”
And get to the finish line she did. Rogers ran the fastest split on her team (49.77) as the Ducks set a collegiate record of 3:23.13 and exact revenge on the Trojans.
Further drama ensued when two protests were filed against Oregon, one protesting Deajah Stevens’ eligibility to run on the relay after she tripped in the 200 meters and another claiming that Oregon had impeded USC. Both protests were thrown out and Oregon began the celebration.
“Despite everything that happened today, I knew that this was a race we could make history in,” said Stevens, who ran the second leg of the relay. “I’m so glad that we were able to go out there and show you guys.”