Women’s track and field team endures bumps on the road to a championship
After winning the cross country and indoor championship titles earlier this year, the women’s track and field team is working towards a historic triple crown. On Thursday, during qualifying rounds on the second day of the NCAA Outdoor Championships, the team took its first step towards this achievement, but it wasn’t pretty.
After Hannah Cunliffe’s season prematurely ended due to a hamstring injury, Oregon’s hopes of sweeping the 100 and 200-meters evaporated. In addition to Cunliffe’s injury, the 4×100-meter relay team was disqualified during West Regionals, so the sprinters potential point value during the championships significantly fell. On Thursday, its potential point value almost fell even further.
The two remaining Oregon sprinters, Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington, almost didn’t make it through the 100-meter qualifying round. After finishing in 11.29 and 11.26 seconds, respectively, both had to make it through to the finals based on time.
“It was terrifying,” Washington said. “It’s never a good feeling to have. We both have never been in that position before.”
Later in the 200-meter, though she wasn’t happy with her results, Stevens finished with the fastest time overall in 22.31 seconds. Washington had to get through based on her time, but after running 22.60 for the third fastest time overall, she too made it through to the finals.
“It wasn’t the way I wanted to open up this weekend,” Stevens said. “I had different thoughts on how I wanted to execute my races, but things are still coming together.”
Meanwhile, teammate Raevyn Rogers, the heavy favorite in the event, finished with the second slowest qualifying time of 2 minutes and 5.63 seconds. Throughout the race, she stayed near the front, setting a slow pace to conserve energy for the 4×400-meter relay she was due to run in later. While the other competitors waited for her to make her move, Rogers only sped up during the final straightaway, finishing more than a second before the next closest competitor.
The Oregon women’s team also barely made it out of the 100-meter hurdles. Although Alaysha Johnson won her heat in 12.87 seconds, Sasha Wallace was less fortunate. She finished with the last qualifying time in 13.10.
However, Wallace may be a little rusty since she hasn’t raced in many meets after tearing her quad at the Mt. Sac Relays. A couple weeks ago, she wasn’t able to defend her Pac-12 title after scratching due to her injury. Because of that, the NCAA qualifying round was the first race she ran run in months.
After the injury, Wallace wasn’t even sure she would be able to compete on Thursday.
“When I got the initial news on what type of injury it was, I didn’t know how to go about it,” Wallace said. “I’ve never really been injured throughout my college career.”
Despite these issues, most of the Oregon women made it through to the finals. Brooke Feldmeier made a statement in the women’s 800-meter by claiming the fastest time overall to qualify for her first NCAA final with a time of 2 minutes, 3.43 seconds.
After the race, Feldmeier threw up the Oregon “O” to the cheering Hayward Field crowd.
“I was just so excited,” Feldmeier said. “This is my third outdoor nationals. I’ve never made a final out here before. This is my home track, and I just wanted to make something happen.”
On Saturday, the women’s team will compete in the finals, hoping for the triple crown. No women’s track and field team has ever accomplished this feat.
“We all know what’s on the line,” said Katie Rainsberger, who qualified in the 1,500-meter. “And we all know it’s going to take something special.”
Follow Hannah Bonnie on Twitter @hbonnie03
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