Pepsi Team Invitational

Washington wins 100 ‘by a lean’

Oregon’s Ariana Washington expected to run three races in Saturday’s Pepsi Invitational, but only two of them were familiar. She was comfortable running the 200-meter dash and 4×100 relay, but hadn’t run a 100-meter dash since her prep career at Long Beach Polytechnic in California. Naturally, Washington felt pre-race jitters.

“Nerves were running high,” Washington said.

USC’s Tynia Gaither jumped out to an early lead in the race, but Washington remained calm. With 30 meters left, she made her move.

“When I hit about 70 [meters], I was like, ‘OK, I can stay patient and lift,’” Washington said. “I knew that the best part of my race was that last 30 meters.”

Gaining ground in the latter half of the race, Washington surmounted just enough to finish in 11.34 seconds, while Gaither finished in 11.37. Both sprinters broke the Pepsi Invitational women’s 100 dash record of 11.41, set by Oregon’s Amber Purvis in 2009.

“[I] didn’t panic,” Washington said. “That’s one thing I learned about my redshirting, is to really stay patient and not let my confidence get the best of me.”

Washington competed against a much more experienced Gaither, an All-American redshirt senior and USC’s longest tenured women’s sprinter. Washington felt Gaither closing in on her after grabbing the lead, and knew leaning would likely make the difference at the finish.

“I had to make sure I lean because if I don’t [Gaither] is going to get me,” Washington said.

Behind Washington’s first place finish, which gave the Oregon women nine points, Deajah Stevens finished third in 11.53 seconds and Danielle Barbian placed fifth in 11.57.

Less than an hour prior to the 100-meter dash, both Washington and Stevens were part of the women’s 4×100 relay team that broke the all-time school record. Along with Jasmine Todd and Hannah Cunliffe, Oregon’s ‘A’ team finished in 42.88 seconds, dethroning the 43.27 mark set in 2010.

Washington ran the anchor leg as a warm up for the 100 meter dash, and was surprised to see they broke the record.

“We kind of trained through this meet, so I was confident that we would run 42, but I didn’t think we would run as fast as we did,” Washington said.

 

Defending Pac-12 long jump champ settles for second

Adoree’ Jackson hovered over the tape measurer, anxiously awaiting his announcement on the distance of his final long jump attempt.

Jackson’s jump was the last of the event, and he needed a mark better than 25 feet, 7¼ inches to unseat USC teammate Eric Sloan and win the event at the Pepsi Invitational at Hayward Field Saturday afternoon.

“Twenty-five feet, two inches,” a meet official announced. Good for second place.

Jackson cringed, shook his head and laughed.

It was not what the defending Pac-12 champion had hoped for on this particular day. But it is the first step of what he hopes will be one of the great seasons in NCAA history.

“I’m not frustrated at all,” Jackson said. “I just know I wanted a better mark because last week I went 25-10 and I was hoping for somewhere closer to that. At the end of the day, you can’t always go out there and do big jump after big jump week after week. I know it’s a process, and we’ve got to be patient.”

Sloan’s winning leap of 25-7 ¼ was his best thus far as a Trojan. The junior transfer spent the last two seasons at San Joaquin Delta College and was a junior college All-American last season.

The combination of Sloan and Jackson — who was named a third-team All-American defensive back for the Trojans — gives USC one of the most dynamic groups of horizontal jumpers in the conference.

“It’s always great to come out to Eugene and show everybody what we’re about,” Jackson said. “We really don’t get shown a lot as track athletes…. This is Tracktown, and a lot of people here want to see a track meet. It was just nice to come out here and compete.”

Jackson spent the 2015 football season as a do-it-all superstar on the football field for the Trojans. Jackson earned first team All-Pac 12 honors as defensive back and also played significant time at wide receiver with 27 catches for 414 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned two punts for touchdowns.

Last spring Jackson won the Pac-12 outdoor long jump title in his first season of collegiate track and field, and this year he has an outside shot at qualifying for the Olympics.

He plans to qualify for Rio.

Next fall, he will return to the football field for USC, and following the 2016 season he will have the opportunity to enter the NFL Draft, where he is already being slated as a top-50 prospect.

So, if Jackson ultimately does qualify for the Olympic Trials and possibly the Olympics, what does that do to his football future?

“Same thing it’s doing right now,” Jackson said, laughing. “I’m just going out there and competing and having fun. If I make it to trials, obviously I’m going to take it. And if I was fortunate enough, God bless me, to make the (USA) team, of course I’m going to go for it.”

 

Oregon men end Pepsi Invite in a ‘freaking tie’

The Oregon men’s track team didn’t lose the Pepsi Team Invitational on Saturday, but that wasn’t enough to make coach Robert Johnson happy.

“I freaking hate ties,” Johnson said, “and I hate losses even more. A tie kind of feels like that.”

A third-place finish for the Ducks in the 4×400 relay – the final event of the meet – combined with a Penn State victory resulted in a 181.5 point tie between the two teams.

“Penn State is the real deal,” Johnson said.

Johnson said there were both good and bad moments for his team during Saturday’s meet.

Redshirt sophomore Devon Allen highlighted the good. Allen, who missed all of last track season after tearing his ACL in the Rose Bowl, returned to the track at Hayward Field, winning the 110 and 400 hurdles.

“Devon’s a stud,” Johnson said.

Allen also competed in the 4×100 – which Oregon won – and the 4×400 relay. Running in four events, separated by an average span of 44 minutes, was tiring for him, especially because he had admitted earlier in the week that he wasn’t 100 percent healthy.

“It was more like a workout, and I came out healthy,” Allen said. “A little bit tired, but that’s good.”

With his family in town, Allen had breakfast at the Wild Duck Café, just across from the University of Oregon campus. Usually a disciplined eater, Allen elected to stray away from a normal pre-meet meal. Instead, he loaded up on what he called a “hearty” meal: corn beef, hash browns, an egg and a pancake.

Allen had doubts about being a part of the 4×400 team – that is, until he puked.

“I was tired,” Allen said. “I was talking to my coach about not running it. Then I went over and threw up and I felt better. I decided to do it to finish out my workout.”

Running in four events, so close in proximity to each other, had its challenges. But Allen pulled through.

“The only other person I know that can do that is Edward Cheserek.”

Cheserek, who has 13 national titles during his time in an Oregon uniform, was a little “dinged up” heading into Saturday’s meet, according to Johnson. The Oregon coaching staff tried to hold Cheserek out of racing, but Johnson said Cheserek had other ideas.

“He wanted to push through and run here for our fans, unbeknownst to us trying to get him not to,” Johnson said. “That’s who he is and the type of commitment he has.”

Cheserek lost to Washington’s Corey Gilbert by just over six seconds.

“Probably next time we’ll exercise veto power no matter what,” Johnson said.

Despite the tie, Johnson recognized that his athletes worked hard. He also said going up against some good competition like Penn State is beneficial.

“For us to compete the way we did today, this weekend, I think it bodes well for us moving forward,” Johnson said.

Oregon’s Marcus Chambers (400) and Greg Skipper (men’s hammer throw) also won individual events on Saturday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Big breakfast powers Allen to four wins

Even a breakfast of corned beef hash and eggs with a pancake and four events wasn’t enough to stop Devon Allen at the Pepsi Invitational Saturday. The sophomore plowed through his event schedule, winning the 110-meter hurdles and 400-meter hurdles, and helping Oregon’s relay teams to a win 4×100 meter and a third-place finish in the 4×400.

Never one to doubt himself, Allen acknowledged the difficulty of the his meet schedule.

“Being able to run four events at 25 or 30 minutes apart, the only other person I know that can do that is Edward Cheserek,” Allen said, referring to his distance-running teammate, a 14-time All-American and a 13-time NCAA champion in track and cross country.

Allen opened the event-heavy day with a big breakfast at the Wild Duck restaurant with his family.

He followed up the breakfast by competing in the 4×100, running the first leg. He quickly gained ground for the men’s team on the opening corner before handing off to Kirk Merritt, who maintained that speed.

The men won the relay in 40.06 seconds, edging out Penn State by less than a half second.

Allen readied for his next event just 25 minutes later. Next up was his specialty, the 110 hurdles.

Allen shot out of the blocks strong and maintained until about the halfway mark, at which point he said he “just fell apart.”

For Allen, falling apart means losing form, yet he still won the event and secured a meet record in 13.40.

Allen maintained the momentum, running the 400 hurdles just over an hour later.

In this race, the dual-sport athlete gunned the first 100 meters, making up the stagger. With 300 to go, Allen had the clear advantage.

He finished the race in 52.25, a second off his personal best, winning his third event of the day.

With just one event to go, Allen started to feel sick. That big breakfast began catching up to him, and he questioned if he wanted to compete in the last event of day: the 4×400 meter relay.

“I talked to my coaches about not running,” Allen said. “But then I went and threw up and felt better.”

Allen took on the second leg of the relay for the Ducks, who took third in the event in 3:15.50 behind Penn State and Washington.

Though he confirmed he will be competing for the Ducks next weekend in the Oregon Relays, joking that he may even compete in the decathlon, for today, Allen is going to take things easy.

“I’m going to go hang out with my family tonight, enjoy the day.”

Injured Cheserek loses in 5,000 meters

The 5,426 Oregon track and field fans in attendance for the Pepsi Invitational on Saturday had likely penciled in a win for Edward Cheserek in the men’s 5,000-meter race.

They did not know that before the race, the Oregon coaching staff tried to keep Cheserek from competing, but the 13-time NCAA champion powered through. He did not have enough to win, finishing in 13 minutes 50.82 seconds for second place. It was only his second loss in eight races at Hayward Field.

Washington’s Colby Gilbert took the top spot with a 13:44.96-second performance.

“We had a little hiccup today with Cheserek, but kind of had an idea of that coming in,” Oregon coach Robert Johnson said. “He wanted to push through and run here for the fans.”

Gilbert stretched his lead in the final individual race of the meet with 200 meters to go. Cheserek shut it down and did not respond to Gilbert’s final 60-second lap.

“For the last lap, I knew he’s got a really explosive kick,” Gilbert said. “I was waiting for him to go … but he wasn’t there. By the time I hit the 100, I saw I had a huge gap, so I let up a little bit.”

Gilbert said before the final lap, he “tried to pound it and take as much out of him as I could.”

Cheserek’s Oregon teammate Jake Leingang finished third in 14:07.95. The Oregon men’s team tied with Penn State with 181.5 points.

Cheserek pushed past the coaches’ recommendations to sit out the race.

“Probably next time we’ll exercise veto power there no matter what. He’s been dinged up for the last …” Johnson paused. “We don’t talk about injuries. He’s pushing through.”

Oregon declined to make Cheserek available for a media interview.

Glbert’s surprising race was not enough to power the Huskies past the Ducks in the team rankings, however. Washington finished third with 168 points and USC placed fourth with 94 points.

Gilbert has raced Cheserek a few times, so he knows how dangerous his kick can be. But Gilbert didn’t minimize the impact of a win over reigning 5000-meter NCAA Indoor Champion.

“It shows that he has to be ready to run if he wants to race me,” Gilbert said.

 

 

Penn State sprinters go 1-2 in 200

In their first trip to Hayward Field, Penn State’s Xavier Smith and Malik Moffett finished one-two in the men’s 200-meter dash in the Pepsi Invitational at Hayward Field Saturday afternoon.

They didn’t know it immediately after their race, but their efforts contributed to what ended up being an exhilarating comeback effort by Nittany Lions that ended in a first-place tie with host Oregon.

Smith finished in 20.96 seconds for a half-second personal best, and Moffet completed his best time of the season at 21.27 seconds. In total the effort netted their team 16 crucial points.

The duo took a victory lap down the backstretch of Hayward after their race and soaked in the cheers from a Hayward Field crowd that was unlike any audience either have them had ever experienced

“The atmosphere is great, the fans are crazy,” Smith said. “It’s the beginning of April and it feels like we’re at Nationals already.”

“I’ve never been to a meet where they had this many people; it was a little nerve-wracking at first for me,” Moffett said. “It’s really exciting.”

Smith also finished first in the 100-meter dash with a time of 10.61, while Moffett finished fifth in the long jump with a leap of 23 feet, 7 inches.

The two sprinters said it was the first time Penn State has traveled to Hayward as a team since 2008. It was worth the trip for the No. 19 Nittany Lions, who drew even with the No.1 Ducks on the final event of the afternoon and finished tied with Oregon at 181.5 points.

“I freaking hate ties,” Oregon head coach Robert Johnson said. “And I hate losses even more; a tie kind of feels like that.”

The Nittany Lions trailed Oregon by three points going into the 4×400-meter relay, and they were able to draw even after winning the relay in 3:08.26. Washington finished second in the relay, and Oregon finished third.

The victory was significant for Penn State, which is third-highest ranked team in the Big Ten.  Illinois (No. 9) and Ohio State (No. 13) sit ahead of them.

Johnson wins hurdles in Hayward Field debut

In order for someone to make a comeback, that person first must fall.

Oregon redshirt freshman Alaysha Johnson’s yearlong resurgence back to the track reached a high point on Saturday afternoon.

After missing her entire freshman season with an injury, Johnson – the 2013 Texas Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year – made her first appearance at Hayward Field, beating teammate Sasha Wallace to win the 100-meter hurdles at the Pepsi Team Invitational.

Johnson posted a time of 13.06 seconds – a personal best. Crossing the finish line as fast as she did came at a surprise – especially when her only expectation was to simply finish the race. She competed in four events, a bigger workload than she’s used to.

“I was nervous to see if I could actually finish every event I stepped on the track for,” Johnson said. “But I believed in my training, and [coach Robert Johnson] kept telling me I could do it.”

Johnson also competed in both relays and the 400 hurdles, where she came in third. USC senior All-American Jaide Stepter won the race with a time of 55.91 – a meet record.

It wasn’t easy for Johnson to spend her freshman season in college watching her teammates perform rather than compete alongside them. But seeing her team win the first women’s national championship for Oregon in 30 years motivated her.

“It put me in the right mood to grind and get ready for this year,” she said.

On Saturday, Johnson finally got her chance to step on the Hayward track in an Oregon singlet. Nerves hit her before the race, but the anticipation of finally hearing her name echo across the field’s speakers kept her excited.

Once Johnson crossed the finish line, public address announcer Paul Swangard did one more than simply announce her name.

“Welcome to Hayward Field, Alaysha Johnson,” Swangard said.

“It felt great,” Johnson said, flashing a smile. “It’s nice to feel welcomed.”

Earlier in the week, at TrackTown Tuesday – a public event designed to promote the Eugene track scene – Oregon coach Robert Johnson was asked about athletes on his team that fans could expect to make a name for themselves this outdoor season. The big names, like Devon Allen and Edward Cheserek, obviously stood out. The Oregon coach also pinpointed Alaysha Johnson as someone primed for success. She lived up to his words Saturday.

“That was a huge PR for her,” Robert Johnson said. “I’m thrilled at her continued resurgence from her high school days.”

 

 

 

 

Rogers cruises to 800-meter victory

Oregon sophomore Raevyn Rogers won the women’s 800 meters at the Pepsi Team Invitational this Saturday in 2 minutes 3.77 seconds—a good race, of course, but one that Rogers thinks she can do better.

Coach Robert Johnson did not give Rogers a specific time he wanted her to hit. He only told her to show off her full speed at certain points on the track, so for most of the race, Rogers seemed to be simply jogging ahead of the group.

“I really saw this meet as an opportunity to see where we were as far as with training and as far as where we are in the season, and so, I’m glad I can go off this and grow off this moment,” said Rogers.

Rogers took an early lead, outrunning the majority of the other competitors. University of Washington’s Baylee Mires held her ground for the first lap and a half as she and Rogers isolated themselves from the remainder of the field, until Rogers kicked up speed on the backstretch. Mires finished with a time of 2:05.95, two seconds behind Rogers. USC’s Mikaela Smith (2:07.95) finished in third. The other University of Oregon athlete in the race, freshman Lilli Burdon, finished in eighth in 2:16.88.

The race was Burdon’s debut as an Oregon athlete. She did not compete in this year’s indoor season. From her high school career at St. Hilda’s High School in Australia, she owns a personal record of 2:08.74.

However, Rogers’ day was not over. She anchored the women’s 4×400 relay team to earn first place in 3:32.07. This propelled the women’s team to an overall team victory.

Last year at the NCAA Championships, Rogers won the 800-meter race, breaking two minutes, with a time of 1:59.71. She earned the fourth fastest time by an Oregon Duck and the title of fastest freshman in NCAA history.

When asked about pressure from her recent success, Rogers said, “I try to run my own race regardless of the meet or any situation. I try to just run my own race, and be comfortable.”

Even though Rogers won, she still isn’t satisfied. “I’m glad I posted that time,” she said, “but I know I’ve got to do better.”

 

 

 

Oregon women clinch Pepsi Invitational win with comeback in 4×400 relay

Going into the last race of the Pepsi Invitational, the Oregon women’s 4×400 meter relay team was running on little energy.

The four teammates – Alaysha Johnson, Deajah Stevens, Brooke Feldmeier and Raevyn Rogers had all competed in at least one event earlier on Saturday. Johnson, set to run the first leg for the Oregon ‘A’ team, had already won the 100-meter hurdles while also competing in the 400 hurdles and 4×100 relay.

“We’re all tired,” Rogers said. “We all ran something else today. We came together, prayed and were like, ‘Let’s just do this.’”

Rodgers anchored for the Ducks, and took the baton from Feldmeier trailing USC’s Jaide Stepter by two tenths of a second. Rogers was behind through 300 meters, but coming down the last turn, she ran down Stepter. Rogers finished her split in 51.5 seconds, giving the team a final time of 3:32.07, just ahead of USC at 3:32.16.

The 4×400 victory moved the Oregon women into the lead with 173 points, totaling seven more points than second place Penn State. The USC women figured to be Oregon’s biggest foe coming into the Pepsi Invitational ranked No. 4 to Oregon’s No. 2 ranking, but finished the meet with only 136 points in 19 events.

Despite their comeback win in the 4×400, Oregon still had not run their best relay of the meet.

The 4×100 team, comprised of Jasmine Todd, Deajah Stevens, Hannah Cunliffe and Ariana Washington, won their event in 42.88 seconds – the best mark in Oregon women’s history. USC finished second in 43.59 seconds.

“For them to do that this early in the year is definitely phenomenal,” head coach Robert Johnson said.

Cunliffe flew around the Bowerman curve in the third leg, passing both USC teams and setting up Washington for a comfortable finish.

“I was really excited,” said Cunliffe when she saw the time come across the Hayward Field screen. “When I run I don’t really think about the time – I just want to execute everything that we’ve been doing in practice. We executed and got the result we wanted.”

Elsewhere, Rogers placed first in the women’s 800 meter, finishing in 2:03.77, ahead of Washington’s Baylee Mires (2:05.95) and USC’s Mikaela Smith (2:07.50). With only an hour turnaround before the 4×400 relay, Robert Johnson contemplated giving the anchor spot to Stevens, but ultimately stuck with Rogers.

“When we talked about it, [Raevyn] said, ‘I’m going to run the same way no matter what,’ so I just left her in her traditional spot,” Johnson said.

Other Oregon women taking first included Ashante Horsley in the 400-meter dash and Washington, who broke Amber Purvis’s 2009 meet record in the 100 meter with a 11.34-second finish.

While the men’s side finished in a tie with Penn State, Johnson was encouraged by the overall team performance this early in the outdoor season.

“For us to compete the way we did today bodes well for us as we move forward,” he said.

 

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