Despite pressure, Oregon Women focused on NCAA win, by Morgan Sudduth

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Morgan Sudduth wrote this piece on the first Day of the NCAA Championships. The University of Oregon women's team moved ten athletes through to the finals. Oregon won the cross country and indoor track & field, and they now are focused on winning the outdoor track & field. Morgan is part of the University of Oregon Track Journalism overseen by Lori Shontz.

University of Oregon student Morgan Sudduth is studying journalism. Next fall term she is taking her studies abroad in London with a PR internship at a fashion magazine.

HaywardFieldFE1a-USOlyTr16.jpgHayward Field, photo by PhotoRun.net

By Morgan Sudduth

EUGENE, Oregon -- Even with the inability to participate in the women 4x100 meter relay due to a disqualification in the NCAA qualifying meet and a difficult first day at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships on Thursday, the Women of Oregon say they are still in the game to make history.

Having won the NCAA titles in cross country and the indoor track and field championships, the Ducks need one more title at this week's NCAA outdoor championships to be the first women's team in NCAA history to win all three in the same season.

After the first day of competition Thursday, Oregon has zero team points. Georgia is in first place with 24.2 points, and Kentucky is in second with 14. Oregon's projected toughest competition, USC, is in 14th place with 6 points.

Although the Ducks do not have any points so far, they were able to get 10 women to individually qualify for Saturday's finals. Four of these events have two in the final: the 200- and 100 meter dashes, and the 100-meter hurdles.

These women now have a chance to get Oregon on the board.

"Every time we get on the line, it's not just for [us] but it's for everyone else with an O on their chest," said sprinter Ariana Washington. "We're sisters right now, and I think we know that we have something to prove to everyone, we have something to prove for ourselves ... we're almost to the finish line."

All of the Oregon women said they felt the pressure, but hurdler Sasha Wallace does not think it will affect their performances Saturday.

"I would be lying to say that I didn't have pressure," said Wallace. "But I think the way that we handle it kinda puts us in a different position as far as performing."

Teammate Brooke Feldmeier agreed with Wallace. Winning the Triple Crown is all that's on her mind.

"It's been my big motivator," said Feldmeier. "It's nice to be here and everything, but I wanna be giving points to make that happen."

Feldmeier was able to advance to the 800-meter final with the top qualifying time of 2 minutes and 4.82 seconds. Raevyn Rogers, the favorite, also advanced, winning her heat in 2:05.63.

"We're just trying to be Oregon," said Rogers. "We're trying to not change anything, not panic. We're in a good spot."

Another of the 10 qualifying women is freshman Katie Rainsberger. Rainsberger advanced in the 1,500 with a qualifying time of 4 minutes, 19.08 seconds. Although she was calm, she knew this was a different race.

The women want to make their goal a reality, but throughout the meet obstacles kept coming their way.

In the 100-meter dash, Oregon had two Olympians as their entries, Deajah Stevens and Ariana Washington. The two qualified just fifth and seventh, respectively, in the 100-meter dash, Washington with a time of 11.26 and Stevens with 11.29.

Stevens was the top qualifier in the 200 with a time of 22.31, and Washington qualified third in 22.60.

"I knew that I didn't get out good," said Stevens. "Which I usually don't, but it felt extra bad today."

Makenzie Dunmore and Ashante Horsley did not qualify for the women 400-meter dash final. Horsley came in last in her prelim heat with a time of 53.98 seconds. Dunmore finished with a time of 52.07 seconds. Elexis Guster, a first-time qualifier, was the only one to advance with a 51.93 second time.

The Ducks finished the night with a qualifying time of 3 minutes, 31.76 in the 4x400 relay.

With the mantra "tougher together," the women are still confident that they can make history happen.

"I feel like overall as a team, I think we're looking good," Washington said. "A lot of us have made some mistakes ... we just go back and fix it and just come back on Saturday ready to perfect everything."

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