Jessica Hull will be back on the track Friday night, ready to “rip the Band-Aid off” and get her season started.
The Oregon senior all-American middle distance runner will make her debut during the Razorback Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark., running a leg on the Ducks’ distance medley relay team. She is also entered in the mile Saturday.
“It’s a shock to the system but that’s the fun part,” Hull said of the first race of every new season. “I’m expecting it to be really, really hard but I’m ready to embrace that and get the most out of myself and see where I’m at. Hopefully it starts to feel a bit better each time.”
The Ducks will have a full team at the Randal Tyson Track Center this weekend as Oregon heads into its second meet of the season with a women’s team ranked 10th and men’s team ranked 17th in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association rating index.
Two weeks ago the Ducks opened up at the UW Preview in Seattle with what coach Robert Johnson described as a “mixed bag” of results.
Only two Ducks are currently sitting in qualifying position for the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships with sprinter Oraine Palmer ninth nationally in the men’s 60 meters and Eric Edwards Jr. 14th in men’s 60 hurdles.
“Some kids performed above expectations and others not quite there,” Johnson said. “We were able to watch some film and have some teachable moments and have some learning things that we’ll work on.”
Hull, like most of the program’s distance runners and several other veteran performers, sat out the first meet. She'll be one of 14 Ducks making their season debut this weekend.
“It’s hard to watch your teammates go and compete without you,” Hull said. “So I’m excited be there this weekend and just getting in the process again and back to the basics of race day and fine tune a few things and get some momentum hopefully going.”
Hull is coming off the best track season of her career, one that ended with an NCAA title in the 1,500 last June at Hayward Field, making her the final Oregon athlete to win a national title in the Ducks’ former historic home.
But before that memorable end to her outdoor season, Hull won the first national championship of her career as a member of the 2018 DMR team at the NCAA Indoor meet.
Hull, who ran the 1,200-meter leg, and Susan Ejore (800) are the two remaining members of that team, as senior Venessa D’Arpino (400) is out of indoor eligibility and Lilli Burdon (1,600) transferred to Washington.
Hull said she’ll be leading off again Friday, followed by freshman Taylor Chiotti (400), Ejore (800) and Amanda Gehrich (1,600).
“Last year we were a different team and we ran to our strengths and this year we’re a different team again and we have a lot of strengths,” Hull said. “We just have to find out a way to put them together.”
There’s really no rush to make that happen. Last year’s championship team was put together the night before the race and it went on to the fourth-fastest time in NCAA history and second-fastest by an Oregon team.
Hull said her goals this season are to return the DMR team to the NCAA Indoor meet in March, and also get herself qualified in the 3,000. She finished third in that race last season.
Also last season, Hull set the Oregon record in the mile at 4 minutes, 31.76 seconds, and moved into second all-time in the 3,000 at 8:58.50.
Hull wrapped up her Oregon cross country career this past fall with a third-place finish at the NCAA championship meet. She has two years of eligibility remaining outdoors.
She could have redshirted this winter to give herself a full indoor/outdoor season in 2020, but Hull said sitting out this winter was something she never considered, nor does she plan to sit out indoors next year.
“I like to race and there’s a world indoor meet (in 2020) and it’s the same weekend as NCAA indoors so it opens up the opportunity to maybe try and qualify for that,” said Hull, who is from Australia. “That would keep my season aligned exactly as I’ve had it the last four years.”
As for the 2020 NCAA outdoor season, with the Tokyo Olympics looming and the rebuilt Hayward Field reopening, Hull said with a smile, “I’ll be here.”