Women’s team makes a comeback, finishes second in NCAA Championships
The Oregon women’s track and field team made the comeback of a lifetime Saturday at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. But according to head coach Robert Johnson, it wasn’t performance that propelled the Ducks to their second place finish, it was mentality.
“Nine times out of 10, what makes you a winner or loser is what happens above your shoulders,” Johnson said.
The Ducks took second in the NCAA championships Saturday with 62 points, 10 behind first place Arkansas, a huge jump considering after the second day of the meet, they were in 22nd place with just four points and struggling to qualify runners for the finals.
“We just put up a fight today,” said Ariana Washington, a redshirt freshman and winner of the 100 and 200 meters. “We just went out there and scrapped for as many points as we can, and look at us now.”
The Ducks dominated the sprints Saturday with Washington’s win in the 100 and a 1-2 sweep of the 200 by Washington and Deajah Stevens before taking another victory in the 800 meters.
Before all the single event action, Oregon opened the day with a third place finish in the 4×100 meter relay in 42.91 seconds with the team of Sasha Wallace, Stevens, Danielle Barbian and Washington.
“We put this relay together just yesterday,” Washington said. “So, to come out there and run the time that we did, we’re absolutely happy with it.”
The Ducks were forced to reconfigure after Hannah Cunliffe was injured in the 100 meter prelims Thursday.
Annie Leblanc kept things rolling for Oregon with a fifth place finish in the 1,500 meters, 4:14.80, to add four points to the Oregon total before Wallace took a third place finish in the 100 hurdles.
Then, the Ducks kicked it up a notch.
Washington, Oregon’s sole competitor in the 100 meters, took the win in 10.95, a new personal best and the third fastest run in Oregon outdoor history.
“I was like ‘what the heck? Did I just do that?’,” Washington said with a laugh.
With Raevyn Rogers about to defend her title in the 800 meters, Washington talked to her teammate to add some motivation.
“Our team shirts this year [said] ‘Our Time Now’,” Washington said, “and I just had to let her know you did this last year, and you can do it again.”
Rogers used that motivation to repeat as the 800 meter victor in 2:00.75.
“I feel like just because it’s an Olympic year, everything is way more intense,” Rogers said. “I didn’t realize how hard it is to double, like I get it Ches and Devon. So much credit. It’s so difficult.”
After Rogers held up her end, it was back to the 200 where Rogers and Stevens did their part.
The duo took first and second in the race, with Washington taking her second victory of the day, 22.21, followed closely by Stevens, 22.25. The pair added 18 points to the Oregon total to inch them closer to Arkansas.
To finish out the day, Alli Cash took fifth in 16:04.11 in the 5,000 meters. It was only the third 5k of her career.
But before the race, Cash wasn’t focused on her own performance. She was more invested in that of her team.
“Oh my gosh, I was feeding off their energy so much. I think I was supposed to warm up before the 100 and I was like ‘ah I need to stay and watch this!’ I was getting so excited,” Cash said. “When (Washington) won, I was like ‘alright it’s time to go!’”
The Ducks wrapped the 2016 season not quite where they had planned, but with a bang nonetheless. The second place finish was 21 points ahead of third place Georgia.
“I used to get really nervous and overthink everything,” Washington said. “But today it was kind of just, you believe it, you see it and you let it go and things just work out the way they do.”
Follow Madison Layton on Twitter @MadisonLayton01
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