EUGENE, Ore. -- Robert Johnson showed a little change in character as he approached the media after the Oregon women’s team won the NCAA track and field outdoor championship. The normally soft-spoken and mellow-mannered head coach couldn’t contain his excitement.
“Woo,” he yelled, so loudly at that at least one reporter jumped. “We don’t even have to say anything else. Great day for the Ducks.”Saturday’s win marked the first time in 30 years that the Oregon women won the national title.
“We’ve been second in this one for a long time, so for us to finally get one on the 30th anniversary of the ’85 team is pretty special,” Johnson said.
Redshirt junior Jenna Prandini and freshman Raevyn Rogers had standout performances for the Ducks on Saturday. Oregon clinched the title after Prandini’s second-place finish in the 200-meter race.
Prandini also won the national title in the 100-meter dash in 10.96 and finished second in the long jump on Thursday.
“She’s phenomenal,” Johnson said. “To be able to take on the task that we ask her to do coming into this championship is monumental. And then for her to win the 100, get nipped in the long jump and be runner-up in the 200, I wish we had 10 more like her.”
Rogers, who took the title in the 800 meters in 1:59.71, spoke about how Prandini has been a leader and role model for their team.
“Jenna [Prandini] is a really good leader and a role model. And I just try to focus on having the same ethics that she has,” Rogers said. “Our team -- we have each others’ back, and I wanted to just give the happiness back to those girls. Those are my teammates, those are my sisters, and I want to work hard for them just as they tried to work hard this whole year.”
Rogers’ title was a big win for Oregon in the team standings and provided a glimpse of what the future could hold for the true freshman, as Johnson said himself, “Look out world for Raevyn Rogers.”
After Clemson’s Natoya Goule looked to have a steady lead throughout the majority of the race, Rogers had a final kick with about 200 meters to go to take the win.
“I still can’t believe that happened,” Rogers said. “I just wanted to win, and I was going to accept whatever. I wasn’t aiming for 1:59, but I was just happy that it came with me trying to focus on my race.”
The Ducks started slowly, getting disqualified in the first race of the day, the 4x100 meter relay. Johnson said it was important after that race to rally with the coaches and emphasize not to get down. He said that often they preach the “ebbs and flows” of competition and needed to make sure they stuck to that mentality.
“There are ups and downs, and that was definitely a down point in the meet,” Prandini said. “But we kind of had to forget about it and refocus. ...Things happen in track. Especially in the 4x100, you never know what is going to happen.”
Prandini said she and her teammates have emphasized winning an outdoor title since she arrived on campus four years ago. After the Men of Oregon took the title yesterday, the women’s team knew what its goal was.
“We saw them go out there and win,” Prandini said. “We didn’t want the men to outshine us, so we got on the track and did our thing.”