While the men held steady on day one of the NCAA Track and Field Championships, the Oregon women and a narrow decathlon finish took center stage on day two at Hayward Field.
Oregon sophomore Max Vollmer started off the day for the Ducks by finishing up the last half of the decathlon events. Heading into day two, Vollmer’s 4,140-point performance trailed Georgia’s Karel Tilga (4,384) and Michigan’s Ayden Owens (4,260).
Vollmer, who set multiple personal bests on the first day, had a rough start after placing No. 14 in the 110-meter hurdles, but it only dropped him one place to fourth. The two-time Pac-12 champion took another tumble in the standings after finishing No. 19 in the discus throw (116-5), which dropped him down to seventh overall in the decathlon.
A season-best in the javelin for Vollmer at 194-3 bumped him back up into the top-5, while Tilga and Owens held steady at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.
It all came down to the 1500-meter race, where Vollmer needed to score high enough to put himself in contention for a podium spot.
Unfortunately, a slow start from Vollmer would be his downfall, as he finished in last place at 4:59.72 and No. 8 overall in the decathlon. Owens led the pack with a 4:26.21 time and a second-place NCAA finish, while Tilga was crowned champion.
Day two was also the opening day of the women’s meet, which consisted of numerous semifinals and a handful of final events. It also included four scoring opportunities in three events.
The 4x100 meter relay team of Kemba Nelson, Jadyn Mays, Jasmin Reed and Danyel White kicked off a number of qualifying times for the Ducks. Their season-best time of 42.86 seconds earned them a No. 1 spot in their heat and a No. 2 overall spot heading into the final on Saturday. USC’s relay team recorded the fastest time of the day at 42.63 and earned the No. 1 spot.
Nelson completed her competition day by securing another top spot in her heat for the 100-meter race. The redshirt junior recorded a final-qualifying time of 11.13 seconds, slightly behind USC’s Twanisha Terry’s 11.03-second pace.
Nelson and Terry are no strangers to competing head-to-head.
In the NCAA Indoor Championships in March 2021, Nelson improved her 60-meter time to 7.13 seconds while Terry increased her personal best to 7.09 seconds in the same semifinal meet. Nelson defeated Terry once again in the finals for the NCAA title with a time of 7.05 seconds, the second-fastest time in the world.
The two will meet once again in the 100-meter final on Saturday to declare another champion.
Reed, who also competed in the 100-meter race, didn’t qualify for the final with a time of 11.60 seconds.
Another highly-anticipated event was the women’s 3000-meter steeplechase, featuring two of the NCAA’s best in Oregon’s Aneta Koniczek and BYU’s Courtney Wayment.
This wasn’t Wayment’s first time competing in the newly refurbished Hayward Field. The junior recorded an NCAA-leading time of 9:31.37 during the West Coast Classic on April 30. Wayment is the 2021 indoor champion in the 3000-meter, the fifth-fastest performer in collegiate history and currently holds the nation’s fastest time.
Konieczek, on the other hand, demolished the previous Oregon record during this year’s Pac-12 championships with a run of 9:36.74 in May. The Poland native is currently the second-fastest woman in the nation behind Wayment and a strong contender for the steeplechase title.
The semifinal didn’t disappoint.
Wayment and Konieczek finished first and second, respectively.
Konieczek knocked two seconds off her own school record of 9:34.37 for a second-place finish, while Wayment ran a 9:32.52 time for first. Both were the two-fastest times in the NCAA this year.
“That was the goal — top five,” Konieczek said. “I was running third and fourth, and I felt great through the entire race so it was like ‘I guess we’re going to go’ with a few laps to go and push the pace. I felt great and made the final.”
The 10000-meter race was the final event for the Ducks, and the day didn’t end without a little bit of flair. Neck-in-neck with Alabama’s Mercy Chelangat and with the Hayward crowd standing on its feet, Oregon’s Carmela Cardama Baez crossed the finish line with a lifetime best of 32:16.13 and became an NCAA champion.
After the last person finished, she walked over to Chelangat and shook her hand. The two walked off the track together, chatting as Baez waved to the cheering crowd.
Baez is the first event title holder for the Ducks since 1984.
The Oregon women are currently in second place behind Georgia after Thursday’s events. Friday’s competition schedule will start the women’s heptathlon and finish the final races for the men.
Follow Carly on Twitter @carlyebisuya.