For the first time in six years, NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Champions will be crowned somewhere other than Hayward Field.
With the stadium in Eugene under construction, the four-day national championship meet has been moved to Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas, where there is no pollen but plenty of heat, humidity and a looming lightening storm that has already altered the competition schedule.
The men’s meet is Wednesday and Friday, and the women will compete Thursday and Saturday. A portion of each day will air live on ESPN2, with the exception of Friday when the meet is on ESPN.
All of Wednesday’s events have been moved up two hours (with the exception of the men’s 10,000 meters) and will now start at noon with the hammer and at 2 p.m. on the track with the 4x100 semifinals.
For the Ducks, who have been on the road all season, it’s just another week away from home.
“It will be interesting,” Oregon coach Robert Johnson said. “I know Texas will do a good job of putting the meet on there, and hopefully the city of Austin is excited about it like it would be if it was here in Eugene.”
The Ducks have 30 qualifiers total — 15 men and 15 women — and both squads are viewed as contenders to bring home a trophy.
Projections by Track & Field News have the women finishing fourth with 33 points and the men fifth with 31 points. USC is favored to repeat as women’s champions with 65 points, and Texas Tech is the men’s favorite with 62 points.
But as Johnson said, “When you get there, anything can happen. … I think they’ve been chomping at the bit all year. I think they’re excited about getting to Austin and see what happens.”
Oregon has several individual event contenders, including men’s sprinter Cravon Gillespie, who won Pac-12 titles in the 100 and 200 and set the school record in both events as well, becoming the first Duck run under 10 seconds in the 100 in school history at 9.97.
The redshirt senior was fourth in the 100 at the NCAA meet last season.
“He’ll just have to execute on the big stage,” Johnson said. “He’s definitely shown he has the talent and the wherewithal to be a contender in those races.”
The Oregon men also have point potential in the 5,000 with sophomore Cooper Teare, the 110 hurdles with freshman Eric Edwards Jr., the decathlon with freshman Max Vollmer and the 4x100 team. All were Pac-12 champions.
The Oregon women also have an elite talent in junior Jessica Hull, the defending 1,500 champion who is favored to repeat.
The Ducks also have one of the top 4x400 teams, scoring potential in both horizontal jumps with junior Rhesa Foster in the long jump and senior Chaquinn Cook in the triple jump. Junior Susan Ejore has the fifth-fastest 800 time in the NCAA this season at 2:02.66, Oregon has three entries in the 400 in Hannah Waller, Briyahna DesRosiers and Venessa D’Arpino, and Carmela Cardama Baez in the 10,000.
For sure it’s going to be hot in Austin, with a predicted high of 86 Wednesday, 94 on Thursday, 93 Friday and 98 Saturday, not that the Ducks were sweating it before leaving for the meet Monday.
“I think we’ll be ready for whatever is thrown at us in Texas,” D’Arpino said.