The Oregon men have a 12-year winning streak at the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships and will take 14 points with them to the two-day meet in Tuscon, Ariz., this weekend.
The Ducks women’s team, a year removed from having their streak of nine straight titles snapped by Southern California, also has a point on the board already, as well as a chip on its shoulder.
Both teams expect to contend for a conference title when the meet begins at 11 a.m. Saturday with the men’s hammer competition. The women’s hammer will take place at 11 a.m. Sunday, but the rest of the meet won’t start until late afternoon both days to keep competitors out of the desert heat.
Live television coverage on the Pac-12 Network begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday.
“It’s important to win. That’s why we’re here,” said Oregon senior Spenser Schmidt, who is entered in the men’s 100 meters and long jump, and will also run the opening leg on the top-ranked 4x100 team. “I think we’re really going to go out there and try and accomplish the same thing, be very positive, work together.”
There isn’t a program in the conference with more team titles than the 19 won by the Oregon men, who have dominated the Pac-12 for the last decade, winning every year since 2007 and 14 times in the last 16 years.
They scored 174 points last year after scoring 175 in 2017. Those totals are the most and second-most points at a conference meet since UCLA scored 176 in 1987.
The Ducks already have the lead this year thanks to 14 points scored in the decathlon last weekend, led by Max Vollmer’s convincing win and a fifth-place finish from Dalen Hargett.
“The men are off to a roaring start,” said Oregon coach Robert Johnson, who later added, “We have our work cut out for us. It definitely helps our cause when we can go in with some points on the board. There’s still a lot of events to be contested and so we have to go there and still be stellar in our performances and execute.”
The Ducks return one individual champion from last season in senior sprinter Cravon Gillespie, who won the 100 and finished second in the 200. He enters with the fastest times in the Pac-12 this season in both races at 10.04 and 20.23, respectively. Braxton Canady, who won the 110 hurdles title last season, has not competed this outdoor season and isn't entered.
Still, Oregon has the top seed in the 110 hurdles in Eric Edwards (13.63) as well as in the 400 with Orwin Emilien (45.95). Oraine Palmer (100, 200), Jonathan Harvey (400 hurdles), Tristan James (triple jump) and Cooper Teare (5,000) are all seeded second.
“I think there’s a little bit of pressure to keep the string going but I’m 100% confident in my team and myself,” Schmidt said. “We’re going into the weekend knowing that we can accomplish that, so there’s no doubt there.”
The Oregon women will be faced with the same challenge as last season when their winning streak was ended by a juggernaut Day 2 performance by the Trojans, who scored 126 of their 170 points in the 100, 200, 400, 100 hurdles, 400 hurdles and two relays.
The Ducks scored 154 themselves — an amount that would’ve won a title in 11 of the meet’s 32 years — and return the individual champion in the 1,500 in Jessica Hull and in the 200 in Makenzie Dunmore. Chaquinn Cook (triple jump) and Rhesa Foster (long jump) also won Pac-12 titles in 2017.
“I think if we all show up and do what we’ve been doing all season and compete at that meet … then I think we can definitely win it,” sophomore thrower Maddie Rabing said. “We’re all in a good spot. We’ve had a lot of good PRs later in the season, so we’re definitely on the right track.”
The Trojans, who also won the NCAA outdoor title last season, are again loaded in the sprints and hurdles, with plenty of scoring potential in the 800 and jumps.
Oregon will counter with its across-the-board depth.
Hull is entered in the 800, 1,500 and 5,00. She has the top times in the 1,500 (4:12.08) and 5,000 (15:34.93). Susan Ejore is No. 1 in the 800 (2:02.66), Briyahna DesRosiers is No. 1 in the 400 (52.02), Carmela Cardama Baez is No. 2 in the 5,000 and 10,000, Cook and Foster are No. 2 in their events, and the Ducks have the top-seeded 4x400 team and second-seeded 4x100 team.
Oregon should also get some points in the throws with Kiana Phelps ranked third in the discus and sixth in the shot put and Rabing ranked fifth in the hammer.
“I don’t know if they’re more hungry but they understand where they are and the legacy and the things from a historical perspective that we’ve been able to create here,” Johnson said. “I think it’s just par for the course for them to what to go out and do well.”