Men’s hammer throw: Another day in the office for Skipper

At Hayward Field, the men’s hammer throw often starts and ends with Greg Skipper.

Oregon’s two-time All-American made sure of that on Friday, winning with his top throw of 229-9 (70.03 meters) on his 3rd of 6 attempts.

“I felt really good,” said Skipper. “I think with the consistency that I’ve had over the last two weeks, I’m in a good spot to throw a big one.”

With many of the country’s best athletes competing at the Mt. Sac Relays this weekend, the quality of competition wasn’t nearly as high as it will be at upcoming meets. Skipper was the only Division I competitor in his event. He finished X feet ahead of second-place Darien Moore, who threw 210-4.

“It’s not as great competition-wise, but still Darien threw well today,” said Skipper, who completed five of six throws without fouling. “I try to separate myself as much as I can from whoever is behind me.”

Not only was that goal accomplished from a mental standpoint, but from a physical one as well. All five of his completed throws were better than anyone else’s best throw. His shortest throw went 223-4, 13 feet further than the best throw from second place finisher Darien Moore of Iron Wood TC. Matthew Lloyd, a freshman from Clackamas Community College, finished in 3rd place in the field of eight with a throw of 185-1 (56.43 meters).

This was the second meet that Eugene has hosted this outdoor season, and Skipper had plenty of his own fans watching on from behind the netting, shouting his name before and after rounds.

“It’s awesome. The Hayward magic is definitely here. I’m just excited to throw in front of my family and friends and the home crowd.”

Skipper, who has finished 4th in the hammer throw at the NCAA Championships the past two seasons, was less than two feet away from breaking his PR of 231-6 set at the Pepsi Invitational last year.

— By Preston Hiefield

Men’s 200 meters: Ducks display depth

In case anyone forgot, the Oregon Ducks have a roster of great sprinters, too.

On an evening where the crowd at Hayward Field was waiting to see national champion Mac Fleet and former Oregon All-American AJ Acosta compete in the distance races, the Ducks sprinters wanted to make their presence known, as well.

“I told all the sprinters that, hey, we have to step up,” said UO sophomore Marcus Chambers, who finished second in the men’s 200-meter dash on Friday night. “We have to show everyone that Oregon isn’t just distance. We have sprinters as well.”

The Ducks did just that, claiming three of the top four times in a field that featured competitors from Portland State, Montana and Lane Community College. Given the lack of elite competition, there was more emphasis on the times than the actual order of finish.

“I just go out there and compete,” said Chambers. “It doesn’t matter if I’m racing my teammates, if I’m racing somebody from Lane, if I’m racing somebody from Florida.”

Chambers finished in 21.01, but his 4×100 teammate, senior Arthur Delaney, was just a bit better. The four-time All-American crossed first in 20.79, closing in on his PR of 20.52 set in Fayetteville, Arkansas, last May at NCAA Prelims.

“Arthur did great — he’s going to break his PR this year,” said Chambers. “He’s on a good track right now. Just the way he’s practicing and the way he ran today, he’s getting faster and faster every race.”

After winning the title at this event a year ago, Chambers didn’t appear to be too disappointed after failing to defend his title.

He’ll team up with Delaney and Oregon multi-sport athletes Charles Nelson and Tony Brooks-James on Saturday at 12:35 p.m. in the men’s 400-meter relay. That team failed to finish at the Pepsi Invitational last weekend on a botched exchange of the baton between Nelson and Brooks-James.

–by Preston Hiefield

Men’s 1,500: Evans returns to competition

Team Run Eugene member Aaron Evans didn’t finish in front of the men’s 1,500 meter B run at the Oregon Relays on Friday — but he wasn’t last either.

Evans, the Bermuda national record holder in the 800 meter, has been training for his return to the track after undergoing surgery on a fractured heel back in August. Although he finished 12 seconds behind the leader for 13th place, the race was nothing short of a success.

“I’ve only been training for about three months,” said Evans. “Right now I’m just trying to get some rust busters and running the slow 1,500 was part of that ‘rust breaking’ point. The goal is to go out there and just simulate racing for common races in the future.”

Freshman David Thor from Carroll held off Montana senior Ben Williamson by .5 seconds to win the race, posting a season best time of 3 minutes and 53.33 seconds. Williamson’s time was also a season best, finishing with a time of 3 minutes and 53.83 seconds, about six seconds faster than his time in the Montana State Open two weeks ago.

Now that the ankle is fully recovered, Evans is looking to reach the standard time to qualify for the men’s 800 meter at the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He’s is currently two one-hundreths off the standard and has over a year left to make his mark.

“I have until July of 2016 to get it,” said Evans. “I’m hoping to get it this summer. It’s not going to take me too long to get into shape and I have a lot of races coming up in May, June and July, so before the summer’s out, I look to have it. The foot is better and now it’s about getting race fit, sharpening up and getting fast so I can hit the time for Rio.”

— by Bryan Holt





Men’s 5,000: New feeling for Stinson at Hayward

The crowd at Hayward Field cheered as Parker Stinson made his way around the Bowerman Curve, holding a slight lead in the men’s 5,000 meters on Friday night at the Oregon Relays. Stinson has been in this position a number of times before, yet this time was different.

There was no Oregon “O” across his chest as he sprinted through the finish line.

After four seasons with the Ducks, Stinson is attempting to make it as a professional distance runner, but running in front of his beloved home crowd brings an energy that had him doing laps around the track long after the spectators made their way home.

“There’s no feeling quite like running at Hayward — it will always be home to me,” said Stinson. “The crowd was loud today. There were a lot of Oregon guys with me, but I think they were still cheering for me a bit.”

Stinson edged out former teammate Jake Leingang by just under a second in the 5,000, posting a time of 13 minutes, 50 seconds. Fellow Ducks Matthew Melancon and Jeram Elkaim were just three seconds behind Stinson.

“AJ Costa and a few of my teammates really got it going and set a faster pace, which was nice,” said Stinson. “I didn’t feel pressured to kind of hammer it home and start picking it up near the end. I’m just happy that all of my old teammates were able to break 14:00.”

Stinson’s trip to the Oregon Relays may differ from years past, but the feeling of running in front of your home crowd will never change, a feeling that Stinson will be soaking in as the weekend continues.

–by Zac Neel

Women’s long jump: In her spare time, Moore wins again

Ashlee Moore out-jumped the field in the women’s long jump Friday afternoon, collecting her second victory of the day just hours after winning the heptathlon with a personal best of 5,757 points.

Moore’s winning distance was 19 feet, 11 inches, but any of her top four jumps would have been long enough to beat out the field of 12 competitors. Warner Pacific’s Alyssa Neal came in second with 19-2 1/2.

“I was really hoping that I could go 20, so when I jumped 19-11 I was sort of angry,” said Moore. “But I guess after doing seven events and coming back to do long jump, I was happy with it.”

Coming off of a jump of 19-7 and an 800-meter time of 2:38.69 in the heptathlon earlier on Friday, tired legs were a concern.

“In the run-throughs I was a little tired trying to get my legs back underneath me, but overall after my first jump I felt really good,” said Moore. “I enjoy doing multi-events and then going to do individual events after. I like being able to say ‘Yea I’m a heptathlete, but on any given day I can go out there and jump with the best of them.’”

Fellow Oregon Duck Madelayne Varela finished third with 19-0. Two consecutive fouls to begin the event kept Varela near the bottom of the leaderboard for much of the competition, but a big jump in her fifth attempt solidified her spot near the top.

–by Zac Neel

Men’s high jump: Victory for Hightower

Dakarai Hightower won the men’s high jump during the Oregon Track Relays with his first attempt which came at 6 feet, 9 inches. But he didn’t stop there.

Hightower continued to compete against himself and see how high he could go. That turned out to be 7-2 1/2, 4 1/2 inches higher than his first meet of the year.

“I just wanted to get the higher height,” he said.

He beat Portland State’s Rockwell Tufty, who took second place with 6-8 3/4, and Oregon’s Bradley Laubacher, who took third with 6-6 3/4.

Hightower’s eagerness was appreciated by the crowd who cheered him on as he continued to raise the bar. Hightower cleared 7-1/4. The crowd was cheering but Hightower walked off of the mat frowning and giving a thumb down.

Next he attempted 7-2 1/2. He missed his first two attempts and would have to clear the third to continue and set a new personal record. Hightower took a break, something he hadn’t done yet in his jumps.

“I put on some headphones and I started listening to a lot of Katy Perry,” he said. “I just had to get my mind right, really kind of visualize myself getting over the bar and everything.”

With his mind right, Hightower cleared the height. The he moved onto 7-5 1/4 where he missed all three attempts. Despite the disappointment, Hightower stood up and clapped his hands.

While he couldn’t beat his PR of 7-3, Hightower came away with a win as an unattached athlete who was competing just to compete. He came out smiling and telling jokes. “I pray seven times a day, not really. I eat my Wheaties, I eat my vegetables every day. I run a lot. I do a lot of 150s, get a lot of sleep, go to school, get my brain all functioning and all that, and then I…clear some bars.”

“For something I could have done differently… uhh man, maybe just focused a little bit more, hit the weight room – I lift a lot you can tell, I’m kind of scrawny – just the little things really.”

–by Katie Rosenblad

Men’s steeplechase: Clifford holds off Baker

After trading the lead with two competitors on a sunny Friday afternoon at Hayward Field, Ocean Athletics’ Deon Clifford managed to hold off Clackamas Community College’s Jackson Baker to win the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase.

A 2011 IAAF youth world competitor in the 2,000-meter version of this event, Clifford took the lead for the first time going into the fourth of twelve and a half laps. Baker moved up from third to take the lead before Clifford reclaimed it again prior to the last lap.

Clifford won in 9 minutes 25.4 seconds.

Baker, a freshman, ran his first steeplechase race less than a month ago at the Sacramento State Hornet Invitational, just to see if he liked it. Friday at the Oregon Relays, Baker improved his personal best by 10 seconds to finish second in 9:28.03. He had been aiming for a sub-9:30 mark.

“With all the barriers in the 3K, it definitely seemed like an endurance event and that’s kind of my specialty,” said Baker, whose main events are usually the 5,000 and 10,000 meters. “So I was thinking that would work out for me.”

His third-place finish in Sacramento was a chance for Baker to test out the waters of the steeplechase. “I liked it so I felt like giving it another shot, maybe make it one of my main events,” said Baker.

Dustyn Salomon of the Humboldt Track Club led early in the race and finished third in 9:29.71.

–by Lindsay Rossmiller

Women’s 5,000: Mattox runs PR to win

In a race where three competitors ran personal bests, Kimber Mattox outran them all. Mattox lowered her personal best by 13 seconds and finished the women’s 5,000 meters in 16 minutes 12.05 seconds on Friday night at Hayward Field.

Julie Acosta of Team Run Eugene finished second in 16:15.32.

Paced by Alexi Pappas who had just finished third in the 1,500 meters, Mattox took over the race and pulled away from the pack through the final lap. Mattox was happy to take the opportunity to run a personal best, but says of herself and her teammate, Acosta, “We weren’t too worried about the time. We wanted to get out there and get a good, hard effort.”

These days Mattox has made a business of good, hard efforts. As the reigning 2014 XTERRA trail run and Warrior Dash champion, it may surprise some that Mattox still continues to find success on the track. “It’s fun to have a mix of things. It gives me a little strength work in the other seasons and then I get to come work on some speed during the spring,” Mattox said.

Mattox is a former UO All-American in the steeplechase and distance races and current volunteer coach in addition to her own running career. Team Run Eugene, of which she is part, just returned from a training trip to Flagstaff, AZ. “It’s always fun racing here at Hayward. We were just so excited to be back in Eugene and get to come run a home meet,” said Mattox, “The fans, the team, the atmosphere just always makes it a fun race.” As she takes her victory lap, Mattox is greeted by cheers from the remaining fans and hands which reach out to give her high fives as she stops to chat with familiar faces.

–by Lindsay Rossmiller

Women’s 200: Brennan wins first of season

The 200 meters is not a distance at which University of Oregon sprinter Christian Brennan regularly competes.

But in the second day of competition at the Oregon Relays at Hayward Field, Brennan crossed the line first in her first 200-meter race of the season with a time of 23.92.

“I didn’t really even know how to feel about it because it was my first 200 this season so far,” said Brennan. “Just going out there and running a 23, I was really proud of myself.”

Fellow Ducks Ashante Horsley (24.04) and Raevyn Rogers (24.56) finished second and third, respectively.

Brennan said that though she could not have predicted the 1-2-3 finish for Oregon, she is aware with her teammates abilities and was not surprised that they finished as a pack.

“We train together, so we know how fast each other goes,” said Brennan. “When we came off the curve together, I kind of just knew where we would be.”

A member of the 4X400 third-place team at the 2014 NCAA Outdoor Championships, Brennan is familiar and confident with the 400 meters and will compete in both the 400 meters and 4×400 meter relay during Saturday’s competition.

But that does not mean that she would not be open to competing in the 200 meters again in the future.

“A 200 is so much better,” said Brennan with a smile. “Much shorter.”

–by Sarah Scrivens



Women’s 1,500: Esposito outkicks the field

Leah Esposito of Carroll took the lead ahead of Oregon’s Ally Aschbacher in the last 150 meters and never looked back to win the women’s 1500 meters Friday afternoon in the Oregon Relays at Hayward Field.

This is the second consecutive year Esposito and Aschbacher finished 1-2.

Esposito, who finished with a time of 4 minutes, 30.91 seconds, stayed steady in the middle of the pack until the last 300 meters, where she and Aschbacher narrowed themselves to the front. By the end, Esposito had a 40-meter lead as she crossed the finish line ahead of Aschbacher.

Aschbacher finished nearly two seconds ahead of her personal record with a time of 4:33.81.

Oregon freshman Kelly O’Neil started out ahead through the first 400 meters, but finished sixth with a time of 4:40.61.

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