SportsTrack & Field

Oregon track and field prepares for tough competition at West Regional

Every Oregon track and field athlete — jumpers, sprinters, distance runners and throwers alike — will chase a single magic number at the NCAA West Regional Track and Field Championships, held today through Saturday at Hayward Field.

That number is 12.

Specifically, the number of competitors in each event who will move on to the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, held on June 8-11 in Des Moines, Iowa, from the West Regional competition.

“I think for the collegiate athletes, it’s great to work under pressure,” Oregon hurdler Eric Hersey said. “It gives them a chance where they might not have had a chance before.”

Hersey, a senior from Los Altos, Calif., is one of 43 Ducks (20 men and 23 women) competing for the right to advance to NCAAs. His best mark on the season in the 110-meter high hurdles (13.99, a personal best) is presently 24th in the region; he will look to exceed expectations this [email protected]@[email protected]@@@[email protected]@@@

“I’m very optimistic,” said Hersey, who set his personal best at the Pacific-10 Conference Championships two weeks ago. “The last few weeks, my practices are going really well. I’m incredibly confident going into this weekend.”

To be sure, even the favorites by time are no guarantees. Funny things can happen during competition.

Oregon’s Claire Michel learned that the hard way, after fracturing a bone in her right foot during her 3,000-meter steeplechase race at last year’s West Regional. The Clackamas native knew she was injured “when I hit that first water jump.”@@[email protected]@

“I thought, ‘Well, this is going to be a long 2,800 meters,’ ” Michel [email protected]@[email protected]@

She has since recovered from the injury, and went on to break her own school record in the event (10:04.65) at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational earlier this season. Michel was the Pac-10 runner-up two weeks ago, and she feels good heading into West Regionals.

“Now is the time to qualify,” she said. “That’s the focus, nothing else.”

Warren to exchange spikes for cleats next year

Oregon long jumper Vernell Warren did not enter last year’s West Regional with a top-12 mark but managed to qualify for NCAA outdoors last season. His best jump this year ranks 21st in the region, and he hopes for a return [email protected]@[email protected]@

“It brings everybody head-to-head against each other,” Warren said of the Regional. “I try to keep track of everybody‘s distances to see where I’m at.”

Warren, a senior, is out of track and field eligibility but has considered joining the Ducks baseball team next spring. He would be a redshirt senior next season.

“I’ve talked to some of the baseball coaches,” Warren said. “They told me to practice this summer and come out in the fall, and they’ll see what I’ve got.”

Warren pitched and played shortstop at Grant High School in Portland and was thought to be headed to Oregon State for baseball before Oregon offered him a spot on the track team.

Lananna meets with USATF

The Chicago Tribune reported on Monday that Oregon assistant athletic director Vin Lananna met with executives from USA Track & Field regarding the governing body’s vacant CEO position but did not accept any offer for the job.

“Vin was interviewed, and we thought he might have been it, but he changed his mind,” USATF board member Steve Miller said.

Lananna confirmed to reporters Tuesday that he had interviewed but reaffirmed a commitment to Oregon.

Lananna, in his sixth year as the program director for Oregon cross country and track and field, has long been considered a candidate for the CEO job but had previously been silent on his interest in the position.

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