Injuries hurt Ducks’ title hopes, but still many stars to watch
In all sports, sometimes the best team doesn’t win. Often it comes down to who is healthiest.
The Oregon Ducks will be short of full strength for the upcoming NCAA Track and Field Championships. Just prior to the start of the NCAA Regionals, distance star Edward Cheserek went down for the season, ending his career with a lower back strain. During regionals, sprinter Hannah Cunliffe scratched out of the 100- and 200-meter races.
Cheserek was going for his fourth national title in both the 10,000 and 5,000-meter races, and he was the favorite. That’s 20 potential points gone for the men’s team.
The sprints are still strong for Oregon without Cunliffe. Ariana Washington and Deajah Stevens should still hold down the 100- and 200-meter dashes, and even without Cunliffe, the 4×100 team would’ve been strong. It doesn’t matter, however, because they dropped the baton in qualifying.
It’s less certain that the men’s team will finish in the top three with Cheserek out. The women looked like the strong favorites to take the NCAA title, but the gap is now close without Cunliffe and the 4×100 relay team.
All in all, Oregon will be sending 32 total athletes to the NCAA Championships. Seventeen women and 14 men will be fighting for themselves and the team to win the national title.
“It was a pretty good weekend for the Ducks,” said head coach Robert Johnson. “This is what the whole season builds up to, the NCAA Championships at Hayward Field, and now we need to go get it done.”
There are always strong performances, and the Ducks still have individuals who could be national champions.
Here are some individuals to watch:
Chaquinn Cook — Triple Jump
Cook followed up her Pac-12 Championships by finishing first in regionals with a personal best jump of 44 feet, four inches. The mark earned her the top spot in the West region and the third-best mark entering the NCAA Championships. Only Georgia’s Keturah Orji and Florida’s Yanis David qualified with better marks. A quality performance from Cook will go a long way towards the Ducks’ title chances.
Kyree King — 100 and 200 meters
The Oregon men’s sprint star qualified with a blazing 9.98 second 100-meter dash time. The personal best and Oregon record put him tied for third in qualifying marks. Additionally, King helped the Oregon 4×100 team qualify with a time of 38.94 seconds, while teammates Marcus Chambers, Julius Shellmire and Demarcus Simpson ran the other legs. King also qualified in the 200-meters with a time of 20.22 seconds, another personal best.
Deajah Stevens — 100m, 200m, 4×400
As always, the Oregon women will need Stevens to win races. She came first in the 100-meter (10.89 seconds) and the 200-meter (22.16 seconds) at regionals, and she will be looking to grab her first NCAA title in the event. She qualified with the fastest times in both of the events, so if that is an indicator of the results, then the Ducks will have 20 points locked up.
Follow Jack Butler on Twitter @Butler917
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