AUSTIN, Texas – It wasn’t the finish they wanted, but the Oregon women had to feel good about the way they competed Saturday on the final day of the NCAA Track & Field Championships at Mike A. Myers Stadium.
Bolstered by several strong performances, the Ducks were sitting in trophy position in fourth place with 34 points going into the final event. Due to a handoff snafu Thursday in the semifinals, Oregon did not have a team in the 4x400 relay, but three teams behind them in the point standings did. One of those teams, Texas A&M, won the race to pass Oregon for the final trophy spot with 38 points.
For the third straight year, the women’s title came down to the 4x400. At that point, Arkansas and USC were tied for the lead with 56 points, thanks to Arkansas sophomore Taylor Werner’s second place in the 5,000 meters.
USC, one of the favorites in the race, dropped the baton on the third leg after some contact occurred. Arkansas took full advantage, finishing second in the race and taking the national title with 64 point. USC ended up second with 57, and LSU was third with 43.
Oregon’s 4x100 team got things rolling with a season best 42.99 seconds, good for fourth place, four places higher than projected.
“We had a lot of ups and downs this season,” senior Venessa D’Arpino said about the short relay. "Injuries and crazy things . . . but I think it says a lot about the Ducks that we’re still going to fight and put ourselves in a good spot.”
Next up was Jessica Hull’s defense of her 2018 title in the 1,500. Facing Sinclaire Johnson, known for her lethal kick, Hull was content to follow a quick pace and stay in second for three laps, then took off with 300 meters to go. She could not separate from Johnson, though, and the Oklahoma State junior passed Hull on the home straight with about 50 meters to go.
Johnson got the win in a meet record 4 minutes, 5.98 seconds. Hull, a junior, said she was happy with her 2½-second PR of 4:06.27, as well as the third-fastest time ever at the NCAA meet.
“That was incredible,” Hull said. “I was ready for a fast pace. I wanted to test the wheels and see how fast I could go. I think that (fast pace) brings out the best in everyone. . . I wanted to run a race I was proud of.”
Johnson had a similar reaction.
“I knew I could do it,” she said. “But Jess Hull is an awesome competitor. To beat her and run the time I did today, I’m at a loss for words.”
Hull, who is a native of Australia, will run in the Prefontaine Classic at Stanford later this month.
In her last race as a Duck, Susan Ejore also ran a personal best of 2:02.26 in the 800 meters, good for fourth place. Coming off the last curve, Ejore strained to catch the three runners in front of her and fell just short before tumbling to the track.
“My goal was just to give it everything I had and I did,” Ejore said. “I’m just proud of myself.”
Another Oregon senior who also placed fourth, Chaquinn Cook, had more mixed feeling about her performance in the triple jump. Cook went 45 feet, one-quarter inch on her first attempt and was in second place until the fifth round of jumping. The mark was a season best but was short of her PR of 45-7.
“I feel OK," Cook said. "I was hoping to at least PR, (but) fell a couple of inches short of that. I’m going to USAs so hopefully I can get a better mark there. To others (fourth place) might be good but I hold myself to a different standard. I’m just trying to stay positive and not be too hard on myself."
Oregon’s other scoring finish was Hannah Waller’s eighth place in the 400 meters in a time of 52.47. Freshman Lexi Ellis competed in the triple jump and junior Kiana Phelps in the discus but neither made it to the final round.
Oregon doach Robert Johnson said the women who competed Saturday were “fantastic.” While noting there were some things that didn’t go their way at times, “they showed what it’s like to be Oregon, to fight and scrap for every point.”
Johnson also praised the men’s “valiant effort,” and noted Cravon Gillespie’s performance in the sprints as “world class and beyond,” and something that is “fantastic for the program and for the faithful in Eugene.”
With the 2020 Pac-12 meet scheduled for the new Hayward Field next May, Johnson said, “I cannot be happy enough that we will be back at Hayward for some track and field meets soon.”
Johnson says he is eager for his team to experience the Hayward magic again, adding that his freshmen have never had the opportunity to compete there.
“I look forward to some more announcements coming with Hayward Field soon,” Johnson said.