The University of Arizona track & field teams were anxious to find out how they would stack up against a national top-five school. By the end of the day yesterday, they had their answer. But it wasn’t what they had hoped for.
“I really feel that, as a team, today was a sobering moment for us,” said UofA head coach Fred Harvey after his men’s and women’s teams were soundly beaten by the Oregon Ducks, whose men’s team is ranked No. 4 nationally and their women’s team No. 2.
Both teams fell behind early as Oregon began piling up points, wrapping up the dual meet with final scores of 114-47 on the men’s side and 101-52 in the women’s competition.
The Wildcat women received a No. 9 pre-season ranking, but will likely fall from the top 10 in the next USTFCCCA rankings. The men went into Seattle ranked 16th and could now be in danger of dropping from the top 25.
This was a wake-up call of sorts after the Cats showed well at the Willie Williams Classic to open the outdoor season just two weeks ago, winning the women’s 4×100 and 4×400 relays and the women’s shot put. Last weekend the women won six events at the Arizona State Invitational to score 115 points and finish runner-up behind host ASU, while the men came in fifth.
At the ASU Invite, Shapri Romero, a local athlete from St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix, won the 100-meter dash and set the No. 10 mark in the country this year and the No. 6 all-time at UofA with a time of 11.60. And then the 5’2″ senior added a win in the 200 meters by clocking a personal-best 23.29, the No. 2 time in the country in that event and the No. 3 time in school history.
And Julie Labonte‘s toss of 186’6″ to win the discus was the No. 3 throw in the country and the No. 4 best in program history.
But Oregon took the challenge of the new season to another level – just a week after Harvey had expressed his satisfaction with his team’s performance at the ASU Invitational, saying, “Overall, I’m very excited about where we are as a team right now.”
That excitement turned to some quick re-evaluation after the trip to Seattle. The Ducks dominated in several areas, including sweeps of the top two places in the women’s 100 meters and the men’s 400 meters and a sweep of the women’s hammer throw.
“I really hope we grow from here and we get better,” said Harvey, referring to what he called a poor performance level, despite some good individual efforts. “We’re going to, it’s just who we are and what we do. But it was a serious wake-up call for a lot of people.”
There were some impressive showings against Oregon that had to make Harvey hopeful. Senior Nick Ross won both the high jump (7’1.5″) and the triple jump (48’4.5″), while freshman Avery Mickens finished first in the long jump (24’11.25″) and third in the high jump.
The men won the 4×100 relay (Mickens, Mohammad Alhasan, Bryce Houston, Branden Helms) in a time of 42.85 and redshirt junior Elvin Kibet took first in the women’s 5K with a time of 16:25.50.
In the much-anticipated match-up of two of the country’s best distance runners, Arizona’s Lawi Lalang was edged out at the wire in the 1,500 meters by Oregon’s Mac Fleet after leading most of the way. Fleet passed Lalang on the final straightaway to post a 3:44.04, with Lalang clocking in at 3:44.79.
Romero picked up second-place finishes in the 200 and 400 races, while Labonte took second in the discus and third in the shot.
Next up is the Jim Click Shoot-out, a three-day event the Cats will host beginning Thursday at the Roy P. Drachman Stadium on their Tucson campus.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)