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Cole Hocker places first for Oregon in the Men’s 5000 meter Invitational, setting a new Meet Record. The Oregon Ducks host the Oregon Relays for track and field at the newly renovated Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., April 23, 2021. (Madi Mather/Emerald)

After months of anticipation, the NCAA Track and Field Championships began on Wednesday in Eugene. The decathletes headlined the early afternoon while the semifinal events in the dashes and relays rolled on into the evening. 

Max Vollmer was the first Duck to participate on day one, placing fourth in the 100-meter decathlon in 10.88 seconds and seventh in the long jump with a personal-record performance of 23 feet and 6 inches. Leading up to the third event of the day, the Ulm, Germany native was in the fifth overall spot in the decathlon with 1740 points. 

But Vollmer was not yet finished setting personal bests. The sophomore threw for 51-5.5 on his first attempt at the shot put, overtaking his previous record, a 50-9.5 throw at the Jim Click Shootout in April by just over half a foot. He took first in the event, climbing the decathlon leaderboard to second overall with 2,572 points. 

He went on to his tie personal best with a 6-2.25 performance in the high jump. The sophomore finished fourth with a time of 48.96 in the 400-meter dash to end the day ranked third overall in the decathlon, with 4,140 total points. 

Vollmer will head into day two trailing Georgia’s Karel Tilga and Michigan’s Ayden Owens, who have 4,384 and 4,260 points, respectively, after the first five events. 

The decathlon will play out its final events on Thursday, June 10. 

Oregon men’s 4x100 meter relay runner Micah Williams, Gaston Bouchereau, Rieker Daniel and Jacoby McNamara finished 17th at 39.53, a time that disqualifies them from Friday’s final.

Williams ran in the first heat of the 100 meter dash for his second event of the day, finishing first with a time of 10.1 and clinching his spot in the next round. But as the freshman took to the starting line, it began to pour. 

“I just needed to focus,” Williams said. “I’m from Oregon so (the rain) was nothing new to me so I just needed to go out there and run my race. It’ll be the same for the final… just run my race and execute and that will take me wherever I need to go.” 

The second heat of the men’s 1500-meter dash featured three Oregon runners as Reed Brown, Cole Hocker and James West all looked to qualify for Friday’s final. Hocker, who entered the day a favorite to win the heat, finished first at three minutes and 38.34 seconds as Brown and West took fifth and seventh, respectively. 

With the performance, Hocker punched his ticket to Friday’s final, but Brown faced disqualification for impeding a fellow runner.

“The prelims are always tricky because that’s the objective—get through with a minimal amount of effort but like a lot of times, you still have to give it your all in the last 200 (meters) to secure your spot,” Hocker said. “I think I did a really good job of balancing that today. I didn’t want to leave anything up to chance when there’s no reason I should. I’m happy with how it went.” 

Jackson Mestler took to the starting line for the Ducks in the first heat of the 3000-meter steeplechase. After hanging in the top five for the majority of the race, the Eugene native struggled in the final two turns, falling into the eighth spot at 8:33.52 and failing to qualify for Friday’s final by a single rank. 

“It’s just bad luck,” Mestler said. “You want to come here and do your best so I did that, at least. It’s just disappointing that it wasn’t enough for that heat.” 

Oregon’s Charlie Hunter, the reigning NCAA Champion, was accompanied by freshman Luis Peralta in the third heat of the 800-meter dash. The two hung together in first and second place for the first 500 meters of the race, but Peralta fell back on the final turn, dropping to sixth in the heat while Hunter took first. 

Hunter felt mentally prepared and confident in his abilities leading up to his finals appearance on Friday. 

“I think I’m already there, mentally,” Hunter said. “I just need to stay happy, stay relaxed and recover well from today. I think I’m ready to do something special.”

Jonathan Harvey represented the Ducks in the 400-meter hurdles, finishing in 50.16, claiming third place in his heat (fifth overall) and securing his ticket to the final round. 

In the javelin — just one of two final contests on day one — Oregon sophomore Dalton Rasmussen finished 21st at a distance of 206-1 to finish out the day. 

Charlie Gearing is a sports writer and associate editor from Chicago, Illinois. He enjoys covering the University’s premier football and basketball programs. Along with his writing, he enjoys reading, hiking, fishing, skiing and all things outdoors.