A bittersweet ending
Now that the dust has settled on the 2009 track and field season, people can look back on one of the best teams in University and national history. The historic season was capped by an exciting four days in Fayetteville, Ark. at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, where the Ducks placed second on both sides, and produced five individual champions.
“It’s bittersweet,” 800-meters champion Andrew Wheating said. “I’m happy that I got my individual title and put my 10 points into the team, but it’s kind of frustrating to see that we were that close to winning the triple crown. But we competed to the best of our abilities and that’s all you can ask for.”
The men, who had been in first place for the first three days of the meet, which took place June 10-14, saw Texas A&M come from behind with 18 points in the triple jump and a second-place finish in the 4×400-meter relay to finish in first with 48 points — just two ahead of Oregon, Florida and Florida State. It was Oregon’s best finish at the NCAA
Championships since 1984.
Galen Rupp, who won the 10,000 and 5,000 meters, finished his collegiate career with six individual titles and 14 All-American honors. He easily became the most decorated track athlete in UO history, and he says that even though the team ultimately fell short of its goal, what it accomplished is still special.
“We wanted to win,” Rupp said. “I’m not going to lie and say we were happy with second and that it doesn’t sting, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. You can’t win them all. It’s going to be a great lesson for the guys coming back.”
“It was tough to watch. You never want to be in a situation where you aren’t in control. Texas A&M stepped up big, scoring a lot of points on the last day in a pressure-cooked environment. They ran phenomenal and they deserve to win.”
Besides Rupp and Wheating winning a combined three titles, decathlete Ashton Eaton added to his impressive resume with his second title in that event. He scored a
personal-best 8,241 points in the 10 events.
“The back-to-back was awesome,” Eaton said. “It’s great to come back home and be a champion again, but I’d like to think the season isn’t over. We still have the USA
Nationals this week.”
On the women’s side, the Ducks scored 43 points, seven behind NCAA champion Texas A&M, which scored 50. It was the women’s best finish since winning the title in 1985.
“At the beginning of the year if someone would have said that we were going to place second in the nation I probably wouldn’t have believed you,” heptathlon champion Brianne Theisen said. “All we were going for was Pac-10s. I’m still kind of in shock a little bit. Second is just awesome.”
The women’s other individual title winner, javelin thrower Rachel Yurkovich, also had a career day as she successfully defended her NCAA title with a school and Pac-10 record throw of 195-7. It was the first time that any Oregon woman has won back-to-back titles in any event. She was also first in conference history to win four-straight conference titles.
Director of Track and Field Vin Lananna said it was a great showing for the University, and that this school year has firmly implanted the Ducks in the talk for track and field supremacy.
“It’s been fantastic,” Lananna said. “We’re in a position now that every time we talk about track and field in this country, the University of Oregon has its spot as one of the teams that will be mentioned in the same breath as NCAA champions.”
And even though neither team won, Lananna said the bigger picture is the real goal.
“Yes, in the end you’re disappointed,” he said. “But if you take the year as a whole, we had six opportunities to win trophies on the men’s and women’s sides in cross-country, indoor and outdoor track. We won five. I like those odds.”
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