Oregon picks up national crown
Theisen became only second three-time pentathlon champion
NAMPA, Idaho -- Wins by Jordan Hasay and English Gardner and a solid all-around team performance led Oregon to its third consecutive NCAA Indoor Track & Field championship Saturday at Jacksons Indoor Track at the Idaho Center.
"It was a great 'team' win," said Oregon Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna. "Our team delivered big performances multiple times throughout the night. It is an exciting night for the University of Oregon and TrackTown USA."
Brianne Theisen won the pentathlon for the third consecutive year, Gardner was electric in winning the 60 meters and the Ducks also accumulated points in the mile, 400 meters and 3,000 meters Saturday in tallying 49 points to win. Kansas was second with 30 points, followed by LSU with 27 and Texas with 25.
"We're a true team," said Gardner. "We have a tremendous home field advantage and we bring that Hayward Field magic wherever we are."
The Ducks joined Louisiana State as the only schools to have won three NCAA indoor titles in a row; the Tigers accomplished that in 2002-04 and 1993-97.
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"I think it is special, because when I came here as a freshman, we weren't very good," said Theisen, a fifth-year senior from Humboldt, Sask. "It's been really cool to see the team grow."
Theisen set the tone early with her third national title in the pentathlon. She won with 4,536 points, just 19 off her NCAA and Canadian record. Dorcas Akinniyi of Wisconsin was second with 4,299 points, with Maddie Buttinger of Notre Dame third with 4,269.
"I'm happy I won," said Theisen. "I wasn't that nervous going into the 800 and I thought about the record, but I came here to get these 10 points for the team."
The points gave the Ducks their first lead of the meet; it was a lead they would not relinquish.
Yet the pentathlon wasn't a runaway, as Theisen actually trailed in a robust competition three events into her day.
"I think that did mess with my head a little in the long jump," said Theisen.
She looked extremely smooth in the 60 meters hurdles, the pentathlon's opening event. She won in 8.25 seconds, which was a personal best and broke her own school record for the second time this season. The time was worth 1,073 points.
"I really got that great start and got over the first two hurdles," said Theisen.
She then tied her own NCAA Championships meet record by clearing 1.84m/6-0.5 in the high jump. That clearance was tied for first with Akinniyi and was good for 1,029 points.
In the third event, the shot put, Theisen had a best throw of 12.46m/40-14.75 for 692 points. All three of Theisen's throws were within three inches of each other. But Akinniyi had a three-foot PR in the shot of 45-9.25 to take a four point lead on Theisen, 2,798-2,794, at that point in the competition.
In the long jump, Theisen responded by going 19-6.25/5.95m on her second attempt to finish second in the event. Her 834 points put her back in the lead for good.
She then locked up her sixth NCAA title overall by winning the 800 meters in 2:13.95 for 908 points.
"I'm really happy with how I ran the 800," she said.
Theisen became just the second three-time pentathlon champion in NCAA history, joining Arizona State's Jacquelyn Johnson (2006-08).
Gardner was just as impressive in winning the 60 meters.
Getting off to a perfect start out of the blocks, the freshman from Voorhees, N.J., never trailed and scorched the tape in 7.12 seconds. That was not only a stadium record, but also the fourth-fastest 60 ever run by a collegian. It trailed only 7.09 run by both Lakya Brookings of South Carolina in 2011 and Angela Williams of USC in 2001, and a 7.10 timed by Williams in 2001.
"I fixed my start from yesterday and felt pretty comfortable in the race," said Gardner. "I executed everything I was supposed to do."
Oregon scored 11 points in the mile to extend its lead. Jordan Hasay ran out front nearly the entire second half of the race before getting passed by Lucy Van Dalen of Stony Brook and Aisha Praught of Illinois State in the last 20 meters. Van Dalen won in 4:39.76, Praught was next in 4:39.85 and Hasay timed 4:40.09.
Becca Friday, meanwhile, came from deep in the pack on the last two laps to pass at least four runners down the backstretch. The junior from Bellingham, Wash., took fourth in 4:40.24. Anne Kesselring was 10th in 4:47.66.
"I saw a lot of girls in front of me and I decided I needed to get up there," said Friday. "In the back of my mind I was hoping for top three, but I'm definitely happy with fourth."
Hasay came back to finish fourth in the 3,000 meters in 9:16.42.
"Of course I wanted to win, but I was happy I could come out here and score some points for the team," said the junior from Arroyo Grande, Calif. "I still have a long season ahead of me, so I'm O.K. with how this meet went."
The women also saw a terrific performance in the 400 meters from sophomore Phyllis Francis. Seeded 12th coming into the meet, the Queens, N.Y., native had a breakout championships. She finished fourth overall in an indoor personal best 53.01. That was the second-fastest time in school history.