Oregon: The new speed city

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Lady of the Hour: Oregon’s Jasmine Todd (right) was dominant at the 2015 Pac-12 Track and Field Championships. Todd led Oregon’s women to the team title with 35 points, and was selected as the Pac-12 Women’s Athlete of the Meet. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

LOS ANGELES-It must be something in the water. The  University of Oregon is now the new “Speed City.” Welcome to the city limits which really has none when it comes to flying down the track.  San Jose State is the defacto “Speed City” team with legendary Olympians John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Lee Evans giving credence to the Spartans’ adopted moniker back in the 1960s.

Oregon is holding it down now with its storied past of producing  elite runners on the track. That would include Mary Decker Slaney, Alberto Salazar and Steve Prefontaine. At the 2015 Pac-12 Track and Field Championships hosted at UCLA’s Elvin Drake Stadium, the Ducks kept the tradition of dominance going.

Seven years. Seven straight Pac-12 titles for the women’s track team. You can make it nine in a row for Oregon’s men’s squad. That would spell dominance. Oregon has officially corned the market on speed. Just take a look at the Duck’s football team. Out on the track, that speed resonated with fervent urgency at the Pac-12 championships, at least in the women’s division. The women’s title came down to the last event of the day to determine the Pac-12 champion.

Oregon sprinter Marcus Chambers let out a yell of joy after winning the 400 meters at the Pac-12 Track and Field Championships. Chambers won the race in 45.21 seconds. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

Even with Oregon basking in the Jasmine Todd Show over the course of the two-day meet, the Ducks didn’t secure the championship until its 4×400 relay team-made up of Raevyn Rogers, Annie LeBlanc, Christian Brennan and Ashante Horsley-brought the baton home in second place to earn a seventh consecutive title. It was a close call at the end for the Ducks, which outlasted the USC Trojans in overall points, 185-182, to lay claim to another title.

At the end of the day it was another championship for Oregon.

“We were just trying to execute and put it all on the floor,” Rogers said after the Ducks’ 3: 36: 89 second-place time. “We trained hard, and it really paid off. Our coach broke it to us to get third or better. We were trying to get better than third.”

There was a lot of pressure on Rogers and her teammates in that last race to close the deal for the Ducks. LeBlanc was happy with the way quartet performed under fire.

“I’m really proud of my team,” LeBlanc said. “I couldn’t ask for anything better. Everyone ran their hardest. We just gave it all, and I’m really, really happy were able to put it together in the 4×400 and finish strong. I’m really, really proud of my team.”

Winning the Pac-12 title yet again has not gotten old, Horsley said.

“It means a lot,” Horsley said. We come here prideful every single year trying to get this Pac-12 title. I think that we really came together in this meet, and everybody fed off of each other’s energy and there were PRs (personal record) all over the place. There was a lot of fighting going on. I think this win is very special to us because not only was it a dogfight, but we did what we needed to do and excelled in all expectations and went out there and did our thing.”

Oregon’s 4×400 relay team of (left to right) Ashante Horsley, Annie LeBlanc, Christian Brennan and Raevyn Rogers sealed the Ducks’ 2015 Pac-12 title. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

Oregon’s women’s team don’t win the title if Todd didn’t go out there and did her thing. Selected as the Pac-12 Women’s Athlete of the Meet, Todd gave the Ducks 35 of their 185 points with her performance. Todd took the 100 in a time of 11. 18 seconds. She jumped outside of herself in winning the triple jump.

The favorite in the 200, Todd’s fourth-place finish gave the team 5 points. She earned another 8 points in the long jump, and had a hand in the Duck’s second-place run in the 4×100 relay.

Now that is quite a performance. One might say that Todd brought her A-game to the track.  After winning the 100, Todd said it felt “amazing” to be Pac-12 champion. That’s quite a contrast from a year ago. Last year at this time, Todd had her season come to an abrupt halt because of a foot injury, effectively knocking out any hopes she had of winning an outdoor Pac-12 and NCAA title.

Things turned out differently this year. Looking every bit determined and focused, Todd went out and dominated. Now its on to bigger and better things, namely the NCAA Track and Field Championships (June 10-13) and beyond.

“Huge stepping stone, got a lot of confidence going in, felling really good, so I’m really excited to go out there and see what everyone runs and see what I run.”

In winning the 100, which was just a shave slower than her Pac-12 all-time Top 10 clocking of 11.12, Todd said she simply had to step on the gas pedal at the finish line.

“The key for me in this race was to accelerate and to do what I can, do what I have been practicing,” Todd said. “I’m definitely a finisher.”

Oregon's Russell Hornsby takes the handoff from Arthur Delaney in the men's 4x400 relay on the final day of the 2015 Pac-12 Track and Field Championships. Oregon would win the race in a time of 3: 05. 84. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
Oregon’s Russell Hornsby takes the handoff from Arthur Delaney in the men’s 4×400 relay on the final day of the 2015 Pac-12 Track and Field Championships. Oregon would win the race in a time of 3: 05. 84. Photo Credit: Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

On the men’s side, Arthur Delaney, Ben Thiel and Marcus Chambers were the top point-getters for the Ducks. All three men accumulated 14. 5 points each to push Oregon to score 152 total team points and assist the Ducks in outdistancing USC, which put up 121 points to end the meet in second place. Chambers stunned  the crowd with his blistering 45.21 clocking in the 400-meter race. Chambers said breaking the 46-seconds barrier was a big relief.

“I love this race. Me and coach (Robert) Johnson have been working hard. Every race I’m just getting better and working on my game plan,” Chambers said. “I just wanted to get out hard, cruise and let everyone die out, and whenever they die (out), I just start kicking and finish.  My goal is to hit 45 (seconds). I’ve been at 46 (seconds) way too long. It’s finally good to get over that hump and know that I can do it now.”

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