Forget about the fact that Oregon is considered a long shot to win a team title this weekend at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships, there will still be plenty of chances for the Ducks to bring some hardware home from Birmingham, Ala.
Between its eighth-ranked women’s team and ninth-ranked men’s team, Oregon has 13 individual entries and both distance medley relay teams in the meet, which takes place Friday and Saturday in the CrossPlex indoor facility.
Among those entries are several ranked in the top 10 nationally, including defending 1,500-meter outdoor champion senior Jessica Hull, who has the second-fastest time in the women’s 3,000, and senior Chaquinn Cook, who has the third-best mark in the women’s triple jump.
“Excited to go see what we get,” Oregon coach Robert Johnson said. “Of course, the message or the mantra never changes. This is the meet that we pin on our calendar because it’s a championship meet and we always want to be at our best and contend for trophies at the championship meets.”
The women, who have won seven indoor titles since 2010, were fifth last season. The men, who won three straight titles between 2014-16, tied for 13th.
The women won the DMR last season and are among the favorites again when the race is contested Friday night.
The team of redshirt junior Susan Ejore, junior Makenzie Dunmore, freshman Taylor Chiotti and Hull have the seventh-fastest time among entries 10 minutes, 57.87 seconds.
Ejore is also entered in the mile, junior Hannah Waller is in the 400 and junior Rhesa Foster is in the long jump.
“We have to show up when the lights go on,” said Foster, who is in her first NCAA Indoor meet.
Foster is ranked eighth in her event with a mark of 20 feet, 10 1/2 inches from the Razorback Invitational in January.
Hitting a qualifying mark so early in the season took the pressure off Foster and allowed her to spend the rest of the season refining her skills instead of chasing a better jump.
Florida State’s Rougui Sow has the top jump at 21-3 1/2.
“I’m just hoping to do my best,” Foster said. “I think that I really have a good shot of winning it or at least making the podium as long as I execute and do what I came there to do.”
Hull was ranked second nationally in the 3,000 and mile this season with school-record PRs of 8:53.91 and 4:31.03, respectively.
She placed third in the 3,000 last season and will be attempting to chase down NCAA leader Alicia Monson of Wisconsin, who ran 8:45.97 for the win at the Millrose Games in February against a field that included steeplechase Olympians Emma Coburn and Aisha Praught-Leer.
The Oregon men had nine individual qualifiers but earlier this week had to medically scratch freshman hurdler Eric Edwards Jr., who didn’t get cleared to compete after surgery to fix a broken collarbone in February.
Of the eight entered, five come from the Ducks’ distance team. Sophomore Charlie Hunter, sophomore Reed Brown and redshirt senior Blake Haney are in the mile, and sophomore Cooper Teare and redshirt senior James West are in the 3,000.
Hunter (3:57.74), Brown (3:58.22) and Haney (3:58.73) were among the six Oregon runners who broke 4 minutes in the mile this season. Teare and West were two others, though they opted for the 3,000-DMR double instead.
“I think we had pretty big expectations and for the most part I think we’ve gotten pretty close to all of our goals,” Teare said of the distance team. “We have five guys just from our group alone qualified for nationals and we had a couple other guys who were close. I think everyone’s been running fast and kind of up to their potential and I think we have more in store.”
Teare has run 7:51.66 this season — eighth fastest among entries — to qualify for his first NCAA Indoor meet. West was sixth in the 3,000 last season.
“There’s a lot of really good guys like (Wisconsin’s) Morgan McDonald and (Stanford’s) Grant Fisher, who are probably the top two contenders right now in the 3K,” Teare said. “But last year I missed (qualifying) by one spot and so I’m just really happy to be there and I’m just going to go out and compete as well as I can. Obviously all-American is the goal right now … A top-three finish would be awesome and I think me and James both have that expectation of going to go for the win and just kind of lay it all out there.”
Oregon’s other qualifiers are junior Braxton Canady in the 60 hurdles, redshirt senior Cravon Gillespie in the 60 and redshirt junior Tristan James in the long jump. The DMR team of Teare, West, Brown and freshman Jacob Miller has the NCAA’s eight-fastest time of 9:28.62.