The wind whipped and the sun never really broke through on day three of the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Eugene. Still more than 10-thousand fan flocked to Hayward field Friday to see who would be crowned collegiate champions in fifteen events.
The only thing faster than the runners on the track were the black storm clouds speeding over, high above Hayward field. But the rain held off. Fans filed in, programs were sold, coaches coached from the sidelines, and the crowd cheered, loudest for the Ducks.
At the end of the day, the Oregon women maintained their overall lead with 43 points. Despite a scary stumble in the second lap, Oregon senior Laura Roesler easily won the Duck's third individual championship in the 800m.
Roesler: “I was pretty nervous, kind of sick to my stomach before the race. The past 5, 6 hours. My coaches were telling me, ‘that’s the calm before the storm. It’s your body getting ready for a big performance.” And that’s exactly what happened.”
On the men’s side…
It was the race that fans of the University of Oregon had been waiting for. The men’s 5000m final, with four Ducks in the field. It was a race where Oregon could score big points in the overall tally. And after a few near-misses earlier in the day, a race that could deliver another event championship to the Ducks.
The Oregon threesome of Edward Cheserek, Trevor Dunbar and Eric Jenkins started strong. With two laps to go, it was Kenya-native Cheserek in the front two. Cheserek, who won the 10k championship two days before, moved ahead of Arizona’s Lawi Lalang on the back stretch, but could only hold on to second place.
Cheserek: “It was tough. I was trying to go with like 200m to go. But he came back because he was fresh. After I came back from 10,000 was really tough.”
Losing the title was a letdown for Oregon, but making up for it in a big way were Dunbar and Jenkins, who crossed in 3rd and 4th.
The U of O men held their lead with 53 points, also on the strength of Mike Berry's second place finish in the 400m.
Today will be the final day of competition to determine the national champions.