As the rain began to come down with force on the final day of the men’s meet at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships, Oregon middle distance runners redshirt senior Sam Prakel and redshirt sophomore Mick Stanovsek were Oregon’s best chances of glory as the two ran in the 1,500 meters.
Stanovsek ran into trouble early on as the physical race took its toll on the walk-on. Prakel was still in it, though. He was forced inside and his battle to get to the outside and into the front fell short, finishing sixth in 3 minutes, 45.73 seconds to earn the Ducks’ first points of the championships.
“Definitely lost some momentum on the last lap, had to slow down a bit,” Prakel said. “At some point I slowed down a little bit ot get to the outside but that’s something that you never want to do.”
Oregon men’s track and field ended the day with just eight points total from Prakel and sprinter Cravon Gillespie, as the team came 35th overall in the team event. The Ducks’ struggle to perform on the big stage for the final time at Historic Hayward Field left a sour taste in the mouth of head coach Robert Johnson.
“Not what we’re accustomed to,” Johnson said. “One of those things where we have to go sit and evaluate how we can do better. This is the crown jewel of our season and for us not to perform is disheartening.”
Prakel said he was too focused on favorite Josh Kerr, who finished third, and ignored the top two finishers: Wisconsin’s Oliver Hoare and Virginia Tech’s Vincent Ciattei.
“Something I can learn from and a race like this keeps me hungry and I’ll be back for sure,” said Prakel, who now moves onto the U.S. championships in two weeks.
For Stanovsek, focus shifts to next season.
“It’s kind of hard not to lose your patience with these championship races but that’s the name of the game,” Stanovsek said. “So come back next year and have this experience under my belt to use as an advantage I guess.”
Junior Ben Milligan failed to get beyond the second height in the high jump, but the scoring continued for Oregon with Gillespie flying into a fourth place finish in the 100-meter dash in 10.27 seconds.
“Disappointed with my finish,” Gillespie said. “I didn’t have the start I had on Wednesday. Still missed a few things throughout the race. This doesn’t define who I am.”
Gillespie had dreamt of competing in an NCAA championships meet, saying he’d watched it on television. Having the opportunity to run at home at Hayward Field made it much easier on the redshirt junior. But Gillespie was not satisfied with his fourth place finish — he wanted to be on top.
“[I was] feeling good in warm ups, had great starts,” he said. “Went out there and kind of got out of character a bit.”
Freshman Cooper Teare, the Pac-12 cross country freshman of the year, was Oregon’s final men’s athlete of the meet in the penultimate race of the day in the 5,000.
Teare, who finished sixth in the Pac-12 championships and 12th in the NCAA West Regionals, crossed the line in 17th in 14:08.18.
“It’s a surreal experience,” Teare said. “It was an amazing race, amazing atmosphere. Just the support here is crazy.”
On Saturday, Oregon’s women will make up 11 entries in nine events in search of a repeat NCAA team title.
Follow Shawn Medow on Twitter @ShawnMedow