The Oregon Duck women won their third team championships in one year on Saturday, at Hayward Field. It came down to the final event, the 4×400 meters, and to the final leg.
Emma Childs wrote this piece on the Duck victory on June 10, 2017.
Emma Childs, an honors journalism student at the University of Oregon, is a producer for Duck TV Sports, the vice president of the Oregon AWSM chapter and a group fitness instructor at the Student Recreation center.
By Emma Childs
EUGENE, Oregon — It was tough for the No. 1 ranked Oregon Ducks after having zero points heading into the final day of competition at the NCAA outdoor track and field championships, but the Oregon women proved that they are “tougher together” after they made NCAA history Saturday.
The Ducks became the first women’s team to capture the triple crown with team titles in cross country, indoor track and field and now outdoor track and field. They won with 64 points, just 1.8 ahead of Georgia.
“All around the country you hear about Bowerman and ‘the men of Oregon,'” said Raevyn Rogers, who won the 800 meters and anchored the winning 4×400 relay. “But now it’s like. … I wouldn’t say it’s ‘Johnson and the women of Oregon,’ now it’s like the women of Oregon themselves. … It’s all building up to what it is now.”
The win did not come about easily for the Ducks. Sprinter Deajah Stevens fell 15 meters from the finish line while leading the 200-meter dash, costing her the NCAA title and the Ducks basically eight team points because Stevens and Ariana Washington were predicted to finish 1-2. Hayward Field was silent.
Stevens brushed off her scrapes and frustration to race in the team’s 4×400 meter relay later on. Rogers outkicked USC’s fourth runner to win the Ducks a collegiate record, 3:23.13, and the national title.
“We all depend on each other in the 4×4,” Stevens said. “We all have to do our part, and having Raevyn on the anchor leg we were very confident. We knew she was going to fight.”
Oregon had to fight for that triple crown. Georgia, which scored all of its points in field events, took the team lead right before the last event, so the Ducks needed to win the 4×400 relay in order to win the entire meet.
Stevens was disqualified after her fall, making her eligible to race again. Georgia claimed Stevens shouldn’t have been eligible to race in the relay and protested the win.
The Oregon women stood nervously on the infield waiting for the official results, and when their win was confirmed, they embraced and Hayward Field erupted.
Rogers said the team’s grit won all three titles for them throughout the year. “This meet was not given to us, this whole season was not given to us,” she said. “The season wasn’t given to cross country, it wasn’t given to the indoor women’s team, it wasn’t given to the outdoor women’s team.”
Ten women qualified for Saturday’s competition. Eight of them scored points.
Freshman Katie Rainsberger battled her way through a physical race to score the first points of the day for Oregon, finishing fourth in the 1,500 in a time of 4:14.20. “It’s been a great freshman year,” she said, “and I know there’s more to come.”
Next, Oregon’s school record holder in the 100 hurdles, Alaysha Johnson, came in fourth with a time of 12.72 seconds. Sasha Wallace finished in sixth place in a time of 12.81 seconds. These two moved Oregon into sixth place in the team race.
Then in the 100, Stevens finished second in a time of 11.04 and Ariana Washington finished fourth in 11.09, moving the Ducks from sixth place to second place.
Immediately after, senior Elexis Guster finished right where she was predicted to in the 400 meters, placing sixth in a time of 52.25 seconds. The Ducks then had a score of 29 points, still in second behind Kentucky at 32 points.
Rogers then won the 800 for the third year in a row with a time of 2:00.02, becoming the first three-time NCAA outdoor 800 champion. And senior Brooke Feldmeier outkicked a tight pack coming off of the Bowerman curve and finished third with a personal record of 2:01.54.
She said she really wanted the triple crown for her team and she just finished as hard as she could.
Feldmeier credited Rogers with motivating her. “She told me before, ‘You go out there and you kick everyone down,’ so that was really great,” Feldmeier said.
This 1-3 finish was monumental for Oregon, adding 16 points and edging the Ducks past Kentucky into first place.
The 200 race came next, and Stevens fell on the back straightaway.
Washington said it was hard to see her teammate and training partner go down. Washington came in second in 22.39 behind Kyra Jefferson of Florida, who had a collegiate record of 22.02. She brought in eight points for the Ducks, moving them to 53 points, 8.8 points ahead of Kentucky.
Senior 5,000-meter runner Samantha Nadel earned a point for Oregon, finishing in eighth place in a time of 15:48.93 in the last individual event.
Rogers said she was hesitant to race the last leg of the 4×400 meter relay, but head coach Robert Johnson said he was nothing less than confident in her abilities to bring it “home” for Oregon. She did just that.