In order for the Oregon Ducks to compete on their home turf during the NCAA Track and Field Championships next month, they had to first advance from the NCAA West Regionals in Austin, Texas.
The Ducks booked their first four tickets out of Austin to the championship on Thursday afternoon at the Mike A. Myers Stadium on the first of three days of regionals, the first being Cody Danielson, the Pac-12 runner-up in the javelin. His throw of 219 feet, 8 inches ranked him 11th and earned him a spot in the NCAAs for the third time in his career.
While Danielson may have prior NCAA experience, the other three are new faces to the scene. Hammer thrower Cullen Prena hurled a PR of more than 6 feet to nail a mark of 214-11 to finish ninth and will go for the double as he contends for a spot in the discus on Saturday. Long jumper Rhesa Foster found another spring in her step as she flew to sixth place with another PR leap. Foster has been on a roll since she set a PR to win the Pac-12 Championships two weeks ago.
With Edward Cheserek no longer a factor for the Ducks because of a lower back strain, freshman Tanner Anderson stepped up to the plate and placed third in a sprint to book his ticket home. Anderson will be the lone Duck in the 10,000 meters.
The sprint trio of Hannah Cunliffe, Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington advanced comfortably, all three of winning their respective heats. Washington was the only one in the field to run sub-11, albeit aided by a strong tailwind of 5.8 m/s.
The wind did not let up for the men’s sprints either, but that was no issue for them as Kyree King and Damarcus Simpson won their heats to advance to the semifinal. Marcus Chambers finished second in his heat to advance in the 400 meters.
This year, the Oregon women have a much larger representation in the quarter mile with the additions of Elexis Guster and Makenzie Dunmore. Guster and Dunmore ranked third and fourth overall to automatically qualify along with Ashante Horsley.
Defending NCAA 800-meter champion Raevyn Rogers got one step closer to Hayward Field as she won her heat and posted the fastest qualifying time of the day. Brooke Feldmeier also advanced automatically.
Besides having top-tier sprinters, Oregon also boasts an incredible depth in the middle distance events. All five Oregon men advanced to the 1,500-meter semifinal, with Blake Haney, Sam Prakel, Mick Stanovsek and Tim Gorman finishing among the top five in their heats to automatically qualify. Austin Tamagno advanced on time.
Three out of the four Oregon women made it through to the semifinal all via automatic qualifiers. Katie Rainsberger led the charge to clock the fastest qualifying time of the day, followed by Emma Abrahamson and Jessica Hull. Lilli Burdon, who raced at Hayward Field last year in the 1,500 meters, will have one more chance to find her way home in the 5,000 meters on Saturday after striking out in the quarter-final.
Eugene star Maggie Schmaedick ended her NCAA run after finishing 17th in the 10,000 meters, five places away from racing on Hayward Field. This season, the senior had set PRs in the outdoor 1,500 meters, the indoor 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters.
Oregon will continue competing at the NCAA West Regionals through Saturday.
Follow Romaine Soh on Twitter @mainetainpls