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Oregon Athletics | June 12, 2015

Oregon leads following unexpected boost

  Waverly Neer's performance in the 10K event gave Oregon a boost to its competition lead.

At some point in the near future, there's going to be a heck of a celebration at a certain off-campus Eugene apartment.

Roommates Jenna Prandini and Molly Grabill provided huge lifts to the UO women's team title hopes Thursday in the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field. Prandini finished second in the long jump and advanced to three of Saturday's finals, while Grabill led a largely unexpected 4-5 finish with Waverly Neer in the 10,000 meters.

They helped the Ducks to 31 team points, nine more than Arkansas. The UO women's first-day lead matches that of the Men of Oregon entering their final day of competition Friday. The UO men got a boost Thursday from Dakotah Keys' third-place finish in the decathlon.

Grabill and Prandini aren't sharing a room this week in the UO team hotel. But they'll enjoy a triumphant homecoming together after the meet.

"It's awesome, because we have the same mentality: we're really focused and we're really driven," Grabill said. "At home we help each other make good choices, eat right, do all the little things. It's nice to have someone extra in your corner that you're really close with, cheering you on."

Prandini's school-record 22 feet, 3 3/4 inches in the long jump -- and qualifying efforts in the 100, 200 and 4x100 relay -- were expected from the Ducks' star. Deemed less likely by some pre-meet form charts were the nine team points from Grabill and Neer.

A dozen runners formed a lead pack about halfway through the 10K, with Neer running around fifth and Grabill in ninth. Boise State's Emma Bates made a strong push with a mile left, then faded. Eventual winner Notre Dame's Molly Seidel passed her, at which point Neer and Grabill were second and third.

In the end, Grabill nipped her teammate for fourth in a personal-best 33 minutes, 26.61 seconds. Neer was fifth in 33:26.98. Those times rank eighth and ninth all-time at Oregon.

More importantly were those nine team points -- nine more than some projections expected.

"At the end of the day, form charts don't really mean a lot," Neer said. "In your heart you know what you can do, and I think Molly and I believed in each other. I don't think we're surprised by the results; obviously we're super excited, but we're not surprised."

The 10K capped an up-and-down day for the Ducks. Hammer thrower Jillian Weir (fourth, 218-11) and shot putter Brittany Mann (fifth, 56-6) each finished a place or two better than anticipated, and Prandini's anchor leg pushed the 4x100 into the final and guaranteed them a point. On the other hand, hurdler Sasha Wallace, 800 runner Annie Leblanc and Pac-12 100-meter champion Jasmine Todd did not make finals in their events.

The lapses were slight; Todd was two-hundredths of a second away from advancing on time, Leblanc less than one-tenth of a second short of doing so. But they were also meaningful -- UO coach Robert Johnson said the Oregon women were three points behind their internal projections late in the day Thursday, until finishing ahead of their expected pace thanks to the 10K.

Todd had to rebound quickly from her disappointing 100. The long jump began at the same time, and she came through with a personal-best 21-10 for fourth place.

"Once I change my shoes it's time to refocus and realize I'm in a new event," Todd said. "Just let it go. You can't go back in time and change anything."

Prandini had the same tight window for the 100 and long jump, and the 200 prelims on top of that. She led the long jump after three preliminary attempts, and passed her first two jumps in the final due to the transition from the 200. By then she'd fallen to second in the long jump, and she scratched on her lone attempt in the final round.

It'll be another busy day for Prandini on Saturday, with finals in the 100, 200 and 4x100.

"I'll be fine," she said. "Tomorrow is all about recovery -- getting in touch with the trainers, icing, doing all the right things, hydrating. I'll be ready when Saturday comes around."

Oregon's other finalists Saturday will be Raevyn Rogers in the 800 and Nikki Hiltz in the 1,500. Hiltz got into the final when her time held up as a qualifier through two heats. She reached finals at the NCAA Indoor championships and Pac-12 outdoor meet in similar fashion. "I guess that's how I roll," she said with a smile.

Weir opened the scoring for the Ducks with her fourth-place effort in the hammer. She was in fifth before posting her best mark on her fifth throw, grabbing another point in the team scoring.

"Two years ago I was 17th; last year I was sixth," Weir said. "So to come out there and get fourth, I'm pretty excited. I'm not really sure where I was projected, but I think I finished ahead of where I was, so I'm happy to do that."

Mann also progressed from 2014, when she finished seventh. Those two points toward last year's team score were a pleasant surprise, but that wasn't the case this time around.

"Last year was kind of like, let's see what this is about," Mann said. "This year I was like, 'OK, I've been here, I know how to do it.' I have expectations of myself and I want to help my team. So I'm going to do everything I can to help them."

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