Oregon sprinters dominate Pac-12 Championships
Oregon, once known as a school for long distance runners, has transformed itself into a sprint destination.
The women’s track and field team won the Pac-12 Championships on Sunday at Hayward Field with 189 points, almost half of which came from sprinting events.
The women sprinters amassed 83 points with wins in the 4×100, 100 and 200 meters, coupled with strong showings in the longer sprints, the 400-meter and 4×400 relay counterpart.
In the 400-meter, Elexis Guster finished as the runner-up in 51.32 seconds, while Makenzie Dunmore and Hannah Waller took fourth and fifth, respectively. Waller also participated in the relay, alongside Ashante Horsley, Brooke Feldmeier and Raveyn Rogers, who had claimed the 800-meter title for the third year in a row earlier in the day. The team finished as the runner-up with a time of 3 minutes, 32.20 seconds.
“We have a lot of fast sprinters,” said Deajah Stevens. “I think Oregon is just a running school.”
Stevens took home both the 100 and 200 titles, marking the second year in a row that an Oregon sprinter took home both the titles. Last year, it was Hannah Cunliffe.
When asked if she knew it was her moment to shine after watching Cunliffe accomplish what she did the year prior, Stevens replied, “I did. I always want it to be my moment.”
The women sprinters demonstrated their depth in the 4×100 relay, where the quartet of Stevens, Makenzie Dunmore, Ariana Washington and Alaysha Johnson began the day. After taking the top time on Saturday, despite some unclean hand-offs, the Ducks took the title on Sunday, effortlessly winning the event in 42.81 seconds.
“I feel like it’s not crazy because we’re Oregon, and our motto is ‘Tougher Together,’” said Dunmore.
Oregon is so dominant in the sprints that Cunliffe, one of the Ducks’ best 100-meter runners, didn’t even participate in the relay. Previously in the outdoor season, she, along with Dunmore, Stevens and Washington, claimed the NCAA record in the event, but after sitting out with the flu since the Penn Relays, Cunliffe was replaced by Johnson.
Eventually Cunliffe will draw back into the relay, and she has high hopes for their potential time.
“I think, for sure, we’ll go 41 [seconds],” Cunliffe said. “I wanted to run today, but I think it would be best if I stayed out for a bit.”
Cunliffe ran her first 100-meter of the outdoor season on Saturday during the first day of competition. Even without racing for a while, Cunliffe won her heat with the third-best time overall, behind teammates Stevens and Washington.
“Running in practice and running in a meet is a little different,” said Cunliffe. “I think I’m ready for Regionals.”
Oregon got its Ducks in a row during the final of the 100, as the three repeated their finishing order for the sweep. Stevens won in 11.05 seconds, while Washington and Cunliffe filed in behind her in 11.10 and 11.11, respectively.
“When you work hard, and you see people working hard, and they come out and show what they’ve been doing, it’s inspiring,” Stevens said.
A couple hours later, Stevens took home the 200-meter crown after crossing the line in a world-leading time of 22.09 seconds. The time was both a personal record and a meet record, replacing the previous one of 22.49 seconds previously set by Cunliffe when she won in 2016.
“When I looked up at the time, I was really excited because it didn’t feel that fast,” said Stevens. “It gives me really high hopes for trying out for Worlds.”
After running such a speedy time, Stevens has been thinking about the long-standing collegiate record of 22.04 seconds, originally set back in 1989. Only .05 seconds away, the record is certainly possible for any of Oregon’s sprinters.
Cunliffe had finished in third with a time of 22.60 seconds after also not racing the 200 all season. Perhaps if Washington hadn’t scratched, the Ducks would have swept both the 100 and 200, just as they did the year prior.
Follow Hannah Bonnie on Twitter @hbonnie03
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