Oregon athletes to watch as Ducks prepare for indoor track season
The Oregon indoor track program sprung onto the scene in 2009 when Vin Lananna, then head coach, guided the men’s team to its first indoor NCAA title. From then on, Oregon has never been too far from the podium – the women’s team won six titles in the past seven years while the men have captured four since its first title.
As the defending double champions kick off their indoor season at the UW Indoor Preview this Saturday at Seattle, Washington, here are some Ducks to watch for.
Ariana Washington (Redshirt Sophomore) – 60m, 200m
Washington earned her first All-American award at her first championship race, the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships, when she placed sixth in the 200 meters. She then had a breakout season last year by winning two titles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships and was then selected as an alternate on the U.S. 4×100 meter Olympic team. All eyes are on her now as she comes off an excellent outdoor season.
Hannah Cunliffe (Junior) – 60m, 200m
Cunliffe had a stellar indoor campaign last year. She earned a silver and a bronze from NCAA Indoors in the 60m and the 200m respectively, was named the Pac-12 Women’s Track & Field Athlete of the Year and is part of the 4x100m relay team that currently holds the school record. Her season was cut short after she sustained a hamstring injury while competing at the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Cunliffe tops the Oregon record books in the indoor 60m and is ranked second in the indoor 200m.
Deajah Stevens (Junior) – 200m
Though Stevens played second fiddle to Washington in the NCAA Outdoors, she qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in the 200m by besting Washington, as well as 2012 Olympic champion Allyson Felix. At her first appearance in an Oregon singlet at NCAA indoors, Stevens fell just one position short of an individual medal, though she did return with a bronze from the 4x400m relay. With her newfound international experience, she can continue to build her individual resume.
Sasha Wallace (Senior) – 60m hurdles
Wallace holds school records for both the indoor 60m hurdles and the outdoor 100m hurdles. For the past two years, she has been a reliable point contributor. Last year, she earned her highest accolade, a silver at the NCAA Indoors in the 60m hurdles. Though Wallace is primarily a hurdler, she has been tabbed to contribute in the triple jump when necessary, an event the Ducks are not typically strong in.
Raevyn Rogers (Junior) – 800m
Rogers has never lost any NCAA championship race she has taken part in. To date, she owns two outdoor titles and one indoor title. At the U.S. Olympic trials, she was two places away from making the Rio-bound team. Rogers’ speed grants her versatility in the 400m as well. Last year, she anchored the 4x400m relay team to a bronze in a nail-biting dash to the finish at the NCAA Indoors. A red bullseye target will be on her back all season as her rivals attempt to snap her dominant streak.
Katie Rainsberger (Freshman) – Mile
Rainsberger may have just begun her collegiate career last term, but she is already off to a roaring start. During her cross country season, she picked up the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award and was almost always the fastest woman on the team at competitions. On top of possessing the endurance to last 6,000 meters of uneven terrain, she also has the speed to bring her through the mile in 4 minutes, 36.61 seconds. Her personal record, set during her senior year of high school, would have put her in medal range at last year’s NCAAs. Her strong mile performance indicates that she could be drafted to contribute to Oregon’s distance medley.
Marcus Chambers (Senior) – 400m
Chambers has two medals to his name — both from the distance medley — but an individual medal has eluded him thus far. Historically, he has seen more success in his outdoor campaign – he competed in the U.S. Olympic trials and has earned two individual All-American titles over the past two years. Chambers ranks fifth in the indoor 200m and 400m on the Oregon all-time list and is the fastest active Duck sprinter in those two events. This is his last chance to make his mark during the indoor season.
Blake Haney (Junior) – Mile
Haney had a solid track season last year – he went sub-4 in the mile twice, and his PR of 3:56.36 broke the school record in the event. He proceeded to place second at NCAA Indoors a month later and was part of the champion distance medley relay team. If Haney continues to improve, he may come within reach of an individual title.
Sam Prakel (Redshirt Junior) – Mile
Prakel is one of many strong milers in Oregon’s stable this season. Though Prakel missed the podium at NCAA Indoors by just one place, he topped the competition by having the highest GPA of 3.97 among all competitors at NCAA Indoors. He then proceeded to spearhead a strong outdoor showing by placing fifth in the 1,500m at NCAA Outdoors, set a new PR at the distance and competing at the U.S. Olympic trials. Prakel also dabbles in the 800m, which almost guarantees his spot on the distance medley relay team.
Edward Cheserek (Senior) – Anything from the mile onwards
Throughout his years as a collegiate athlete, Cheserek has demonstrated his versatility in anything above the mile. In his indoor history, he has won titles in the mile, the 3,000m and the 5,000m. Last year, he swept the 3,000m, 5,000m and the distance medley, becoming only the second person to achieve such a feat, joining former Duck Galen Rupp. Though his coach Andy Powell said that he doubts Cheserek will have to undertake the triple again, he is certainly a reliable backup should the distance medley need support.
Matthew Maton (Sophomore) – Mile, 5,000m
Though Maton joined the Ducks as one of the highest ranked recruits in his class, he struggled in his first season with the Ducks. That all changed during the fall cross country season when he rocketed to 29th at the NCAAs and was the second Duck behind Cheserek, earning his second All-American title. After proving himself in the longer distances, Maton can shift his focus to the shorter events where his strength lies. Last year, he competed in the 1,500m at the U.S. Olympic trials and was part of the champion distance medley team at NCAA Indoors.
Mitch Modin (Senior) – Heptathlon
Modin has been on an upward trajectory throughout his collegiate career, reaching his peak last year at the U.S. Olympic trials when he made a stunning improvement of over 200 points from his previous PR to place seventh. During his last indoor season, he finished 11th with 5,509 points, 200 points shy of his indoor PR. Judging from the massive improvement demonstrated last year, Modin could potentially threaten for a national title as he begins his swansong.
Follow Romaine Soh on Twitter @mainetainpls