SportsTrack & Field

Marra jumps right into ‘whirlwind’ of multi-events



ODE

Harry Marra has wasted no time getting acclimated to the Oregon track and field team.

“I interviewed on a Tuesday,” Marra said, “and I was on the track coaching Wednesday afternoon.”

Assigned to instruct multi-event athletes, pole-vaulters and high jumpers, the former U.S. national team decathlon coach was hired as head track and field coach on Nov. 4. He’s now coaching the Ducks through a successful indoor season.

The Oregon women retained their No. 1 ranking in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, with the Oregon men ranked No. 3.

Marra spent 12 years as the head track and field coach at San Francisco State (1981-93); he replaces Dan Steele, who accepted a head coaching position at Northern Iowa.

“The bus rides have been the hardest transition,” Marra said with a laugh. “Getting to know the athletes and getting their confidence — and them, the same to me, because I’m a new guy to them — has it been a whirlwind? Absolutely. It has not slowed down one day.”

As quickly as Marra entered his new job, the athletes and coaches within the program have welcomed him and adjusted to his style.

“He’s full of life,” fellow assistant coach Robert Johnson said. “Sometimes I wonder where he gets all the enthusiasm and passion from.”

How much enthusiasm and passion translates to the track is difficult to say, but Oregon’s multi-events have been stellar this season.

Seniors Brianne Theisen (pentathlon) and Ashton Eaton (heptathlon) both have automatic qualifying marks for the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 12-13; Eaton’s season-high heptathlon score of 6,256 points is an NCAA indoor record. Theisen set a school record in the 60m hurdles at last Saturday’s Mountain Pacific Sports

Federation Championships, and Eaton set an all-conditions personal best with a 17-foot, 3-inch pole vault clearance last weekend.

Eaton is the defending NCAA heptathlon champion, and Theisen finished third in the pentathlon last season. Both will likely spearhead any success the Ducks have at NCAAs, with the men defending their 2009 title — the first indoor title in school history — and the women looking to improve on a ninth-place finish.

“We’ve got a great group of guys, real strong leadership in the senior class and real talent in the freshman class,” senior Andrew Wheating said. “The women are (better than us) without a doubt. They are definitely performing. They have talent in every single event.”

The caveat, as always, is that outdoor season is the main focus. Anything the Ducks can take from the indoor season is a reward in itself.

“You need to be in great shape in order to run good performances in the spring,” Marra said. “The indoor meets are a great way to break up the boredom from training.”

Ducks receive academic honors

Four Ducks were recently honored by the USTFCCCA for their academic endeavors, spotlighting top performers from this cross country season.

Senior Nicole Blood, junior Alex Kosinski and freshman Jordan Hasay were honored among the women, while sophomore Luke Puskedra was the lone Duck man honored.
At the NCAA Cross Country Championships on Nov. 24, Oregon finished second to Oklahoma State on the men’s side and ninth on the women’s side.

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