EUGENE — Oregon State steeplechasers Kaylee Mitchell and Grace Fetherstonhaugh knocked on the door of history Thursday in the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Hayward Field.
The OSU steeplers advanced out of the preliminaries, Mitchell winning the second semifinal heat in a school-record time of 9 minutes, 41.51 seconds.
If at least one of them finishes at least eighth in Saturday’s final, the Beavers will score in an NCAA meet for the first time since 1986, when Connie Peterka finished sixth in the javelin.
The top eight places in each event score on 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. So, it’s more than just possible.
Mitchell and Fetherstonhaugh stole some thunder from the host Oregon Ducks, a perennial track and field power, on a sultry evening before 8,451.
The Ducks had some success Thursday too. The UO 4×100-meter relay of Jadyn Mays, Kemba Nelson, Jasmin Reed and Jasmine Montgomery won the third preliminary heat in 42.64.
Nelson claimed first in her heat of the 100 in 10.97 to advance to Saturday’s final. Shot putter Jaida Ross finished fifth in the final, mustering a personal record of 58 feet, 6 inches.
Ross, the 4×100 and Nelson were expected to score. Mitchell and Fetherstonhaugh weren’t mentioned on the Track & Field News pre-meet form chart, which went 10 deep.
But that didn’t mean the moment was too big.
Mitchell looked unflappable, taking command of her heat on the back straight of the last lap and holding it to the finish.
Asked if she was surprised when she assumed the lead with less than 400 to go, Michell said: “I wouldn’t say surprised. I was glad.”
The race plan was simple, which she demonstrated by gesturing to the word “trust” scrawled on the back of her hand.
“I just trust my instinct,” Mitchell said. “I just know I have to trust myself. When I feel it, just trust. Don’t think twice about it.”
When instinct told her to make a decisive move, she made it. In the process she took down Fetherstonhaugh’s school record of 9:44.76 set in April.
For her part, Fetherstonhaugh fought to hang onto fifth place coming down home straight of the last lap in a race in which the top finishers qualified automatically for the final.
She admitted to sneaking a look at the video board on the south end of the stadium as she strained for the finish line.
Maybe that peek was the difference. She crossed fifth in 9:45.17, just in front of New Mexico’s Adva Cohen. Cohen crossed in 9:45.18, and advanced to the final as a time qualifier.
The woes continued for the UO men’s team when decathlete Max Vollmer failed to clear a height in the pole vault, the eighth event in the 10-event competition. He had been sixth in the decathlon standings after seven events.
Vollmer, who has a personal record of 16-4¾ in the vault, entered the competition Thursday at 15-1½. He didn’t appear to be close to a clearance with any of his three attempts.
He elected to throw the javelin, the ninth decathlon event, then retired from the competition.
Arkansas’ Ayden Owens-Delerme finished on top of the decathlon standings. He scored 8,457 points to tie the meet record set by Oregon’s Ashton Eaton in 2010.
The UO men, meanwhile, have one team point heading into Friday, the final day of the men’s meet.
They have two legitimate chances to win events on Friday. Olympian Micah Williams posted the fastest semifinal time in the 100. Italian Olympian Emmanuel Ihemeje is the meet’s defending champion in the triple jump.
But Oregon’s only other entry is Aaron Bienenfeld in the 5,000. Bienenfeld scored the UO men’s single team point so far with an eighth-place finish in Wednesday’s 10,000.
Ross’ big throw in the shot came on her third attempt and bettered her previous best by nearly a foot.
Maybe she was inspired. Event winner Adelaide Aquilla of Ohio State broke the collegiate record with her first attempt, a monster of 64-5¼. That broke the record of 63-10¼ that Maggie Ewen of Arizona State had owned since 2018.
Canadian Olympian Camryn Rogers of Cal won the NCAA hammer title for a third time while breaking her own collegiate record with a throw of 254 feet, 10 inches. The previous record mark of 250-10, had stood only since the regional qualifying meet two weeks ago.
Thursday’s big throw came on the fifth attempt of a series in which every attempt was between 245-0 and the 254-10.
Rogers’ philosophy is to stay consistent and in rhythm until “you have one that goes,” she said.
The setting didn’t hurt either.
“Hayward is a special place,” Rogers said. “It carries an energy with it that really gets you going.”
— Ken Goe for The Oregonian/OregonLive
KenGoe1020@gmail.com | Twitter: @KenGoe
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