AUSTIN, Texas — If Wednesday’s semifinals were any indication, Friday’s sprint finals at the NCAA Track & Field Championships could be something special.
The heat and humidity of Austin did not faze Cravon Gillespie, as the UO sprinter easily cruised into Friday’s finals at the NCAA Track & Field Championships. Gillespie won his 100 heat with a wind-aided 10.01, the third-fastest time of the semifinals, but had to qualify on time in the 200.
Gillespie, who ran a legal 9.97at the Pac-12 meet last month, will have his hands full with Divine Oduduru of Texas Tech, Mario Burke of Houston, and Florida’s Hakim Sani Brown, all of whom ran sub-10 in their heats. With a helpful tailwind, no fewer than 12 runners posted times faster than 10.10.
Oduduru and Burke also clocked the fastest 200 times at 19.97 and 20.08, respectively, while Gillespie’s 20.19 was the sixth-fastest.
Gillespie was not concerned about anyone else, however. He said he is focused on fixing a few flaws in his technique and improving on last year’s fourth-place 100 finish.
“If you get to the final, it’s anybody’s ball game,” Gillespie said. “I’ve got to go out there Friday, and do what I have to do to take home the title. It doesn’t matter what time you run in the prelims, you have to do it in the finals.”
While Gillespie, Eric Edwards (110 hurdles) and the 4x100 relay team were the only Oregon athletes to advance, the Duck men still remain alive in their quest to bring home a trophy from the NCAA meet with a top-four team finish. It won’t be easy, though.
Oregon’s freshman Max Vollmer was projected to finish fourth by Track & News in the decathlon, but is in ninth place after the first day with 3,964 points, well behind his pace at the Pac-12 meet.
“To be honest I’m actually sad about this (first) day,” Vollmer said. “I did so well at Pac-12s and in practice I’ve been hitting PRs. We actually had high expectations. I don’t know, it’s not an easy competition. It’s kind of tough to find that flow right now. I’ll try to hit five PRs tomorrow.”
Several other Ducks could empathize with Vollmer. Sophomore Reed Brown looked to have an outside chance to score in the 1,500, but he finished last in his heat with a 3:53.53. Orwin Emilien and Oraine Palmer failed to advance in the 400, and 100 and 200, respectively. Joseph Anderson and Jonathan Harvey failed to advance in the 110 hurdles and 400 hurdles, respectively.
Senior John Nizich just missed making the javelin finals, finishing 10th with a best throw of 227-9 and junior Jackson Van Vuren was 18th at 216-6. Junior Max Lydum was 23rd in the hammer at 201-0.
There was plenty of exciting action in the field Wednesday. LSU’s freshman sensation Mondo Duplantis, at age 19 already the second-best outdoor vaulter ever, was upset in the pole vault by defending champion Chris Nilsen of South Dakota. Nilsen cleared 19-6¼ on his first attempt to best Duplantis by six inches and break his own meet record.
Another record-breaker was Anderson Peters of Mississippi State who smashed his own record by sailing the javelin 284-2 to lead a 1-2-3 finish for the Bulldogs.
BYU almost matched that result by placing 1-3-4 in the 10,000 meters, led by Clayton Young’s winning time of 29:16.60.
Former Oregon star Devon Allen’s meet record of 13.16 in the 110 hurdles also was broken, as Kentucky junior Daniel Roberts ran a wind-legal 13.06, which is the fastest time in the world this year. Roberts and Florida star Grant Holloway will face off in a much-anticipated hurdle final Friday.