AUSTIN, Texas — Oregon junior Carmela Cardama Baez’s stirring 10,000-meter race in the NCAA Track & Field Championships on Thursday evening brought the crowd in Mike A. Myers Stadium to its feet and, for a few minutes, made it sound like Hayward Field.
Moving from eighth place to second over the last mile, Cardama Baez improbably made up nearly 40 meters on the leader — and heavy favorite — Weini Kelati of New Mexico, much of it on the last lap. She pulled even with Kelati with 50 meters to go, but Kelati had just enough left to move back in front and edge Cardama Baez at the finish by less than a second, 33:10.84 to 33:11.56. Cardama Baez ran her last lap in 68 seconds.
“I just tried to get (runners) one by one,” Cardama Baez said. " I wasn’t really thinking, I’m was just going for it. When I got next to her, I was just looking at the line and trying to get there.
“I’m really happy for what I’ve done. There is no way I could have run that last 400 the way I did without all the support I have at Oregon.”
Cardama Baez mentioned doing training in a “heat box” in preparation for the end of the season meets in Tucson, Ariz., Sacramento and Austin to get ready, while also crediting her coach, Helen Lehman-Winters, for believing in her. Her second-place finish was the best by an Oregon woman in the NCAA 10,000 since Kathy Hayes won the event in 1984.
As Cardama Baez was nearly reeling in Kelati, her Oregon teammates getting ready for their events were on the outside of the track screaming their support.
Rhesa Foster, who was starting the long jump, said, “I saw her on the last 200 and I ran to the edge of the track and started screaming, ‘Go get her.’ That got me real excited because it was right before I started the long jump. It set the mood for me — energy is definitely contagious.”
Foster used that energy to place seventh in a spirited long jump competition, in which five of the top seven finishers recorded personal bests. Her best jump was 21-1¼, a mark she recorded on both her fourth and sixth attempts as she broke 21 feet for the first time.
“It was some pretty stiff competition,” Foster said. “It was fun for me but I would have liked to place a little higher. It was the best series I’ve had since I’ve been (at Oregon) and I PRed I think three times so I’m happy about that.”
The eight points for Cardama Baez's second place and two points for Foster’s seventh put Oregon in a much stronger position going into Saturday finals. They will have Jessica Hull, who qualified with the fastest time in the 1,500 (4:12.02), Susan Ejore in the 800, Hannah Waller in the 400, and the 4x100 relay team, which squeaked into the finals as the second time qualifier in 43.35.
The Ducks’ 4x400 relay team appeared to have qualified on time after a problematic second exchange. However, they were later disqualified for a violation.
Waller was the second and last time qualifier in the 400 meters. Her time of 51.99 was just .01 ahead of teammate Briyahna Desrosiers, who ran 52.00 in a different heat. Oregon senior Venessa D’Arpino, who ran 52.50, also just missed advancing to the 400 finals.
Thursday also saw the conclusion of the men’s decathlon competition. Oregon freshman Max Vollmer, aided by PRs in the 110 meter hurdles and the javelin, moved up from ninth to fifth place, adding four points to the men’s team total. Due to an intense thunderstorm that moved through Austin in the mid-afternoon, the decathlon competition which started at 1 p.m., did not conclude until after 11 p.m.