While winter makes its trek through the Pacific, teams hang up their cleats, start training for spring season, or in many cases take their activities indoors. The last scenario is the next step for the University of Oregon Track and Field team who is suited up and prepared for another indoor season. The women’s side has garnered consecutive national championships in the last three years and has a viable opportunity to pick up a fourth. And though the men’s side hasn’t come away with a title since 2009, a few fresh faces and a relatively successful cross country season could boost them to a competitive position.
Working to the women’s advantage is the return of many of their standouts who helped to win the indoor championship last season. Expected to help earn generous points for the squad are Jordan Hasay and English Gardner. Hasay finished 3rd in the mile last year and 4th in the 1,500. The senior is also coming fresh off her greatest cross country season yet after helping to boost the women to their first cross country championship in school history.
Bringing speed to the equation will be junior Gardner. Last spring, The Oregonian’s Ken Goe called her a “caged lion” and she certainly lived up to the name, winning the 60 meter in last year’s indoor championship – the fourth best collegiate time ever. This winter indoor season will be her first time back in the blocks for the Ducks this year, and surely a preview of what’s to come when the team starts their outdoor season this spring.
Senior Becca Friday is also expected to contribute to Oregon’s points in distance events. In last year’s 400 meter sophomore Phyllis Francis surprised many in her performance to garner fourth after being seeded 12th.
One thing missing from the women’s lineup, however, will be the presence of last year’s heptathlon star Brianne Theisen who won the event three consecutive seasons. Projected to fill Theisen’s shoes is redshirt freshman Alyssa Monteverde.
While the women’s strength at combined events is still uncertain, the indoor heptathlon will likely be an advantage for the men. This season, sophomore Dakotah Keys will return as an experienced veteran after winning last year’s outdoor decathlon at the Pac-12 Championships. Keys is also the team’s best returning long jumper.
This Saturday will be the first collegiate event of the school year for many of UO’s track and field standouts. For the distance runners who finished up cross country season, it is leg number two in route to the optimal goal of winning the outdoor NCAA championships this spring. The women’s season could mark the first time in school history that the school has garnered championships four years in a row. For the squad’s seniors that means four seasons of dominating indoor competition. While both the men and women will be looking down the road to winning a trophy in the spring, the indoor season will be a test run of what’s to come, and a chance for the women to dominate with perhaps their best team yet.