The Oregon men want to extend a Pac-12 Track & Field Championship meet winning streak that dates back to the days of Galen Rupp.
The Oregon women, meanwhile, want to end Southern California’s reign and start one of their own.
Both teams like their chances this weekend, as the conference championships will play out at Hayward Field Friday-Sunday.
The Ducks have won 14 straight Pac-12 men’s titles, a streak that began in 2007. The women have recorded three-straight second-place finishes to the Trojans, who ended Oregon’s run of nine-straight wins in 2018.
“We have a great challenge ahead of us this week,” Oregon coach Robert Johnson said. “It’ll be a tough matchup between a few teams there on both the men’s and the women’s side. Looking forward to getting that started. Looking forward to moving in that direction. The kids are excited and their state of readiness is where it should be.”
Keeping the streak alive
The Oregon men narrowly edged Arizona State 114-111 in 2007 to ignite their long stretch of success. No one has come as close to beating the Ducks since then.
The 14 victories have come by an average of 33 points. The last eight meets were decided by an average of 45 points.
Oregon scored 185 last season, to 137 for runner-up USC.
“Since I’ve been here we’ve never lost so we’re definitely not trying to do that this year,” said senior Reed Brown, who is entered in the 1,500 meters and 5,000. “Everyone is just going to have to step up and have a great performance in their respective events.”
The Ducks return just one individual champion from the 2021 meet in decathlete Max Vollmer, though they also have NCAA leading Emmanuel Ihemeje in the triple jump and the Pac-12 leader in the 100 (Micah Williams), 1,500 (Brown) and javelin (Ty Hampton), as well as depth through most events for a meet that scores the top-eight finishers.
“We still have to compete,” Johnson said. “They have to run the track meet. I tell our kids not to worry about the score … you just make sure you put green and yellow in front of those other colors. That’s going be to be our mantra moving forward for this weekend and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”
The biggest threat to Oregon’s streak appears to be USC, which has a strong contingent of sprinters lead by defending 100 and 200 champion Davonte Burnett and Johnnie Blockburger, who won the 400 title last year while at Arizona.
The Trojans also have the conference’s fastest 4x100 unit and Earnie Sears III is the NCAA leader in the high jump.
Stanford, with its loaded distance team, should pile up enough points in the 5,000 and 10,000 to make the Cardinals a threat.
“There’s definitely always pressure,” Brown said. “I mean, the target’s on our back. Everyone’s trying to take us down. … So yeah, you’ve always got that pressure to keep the ball rolling, but we’ve got the momentum right now having 14 behind us and going after that 15th. No one here wants to lose so I think everyone is ready to handle that pressure.”
Reclaiming the throne
The last time the Pac-12 championships were in Eugene was 2017. That also was the last year the Oregon women won the conference title as USC turned into an uncontainable sprinting and hurdling powerhouse, though the Ducks still gave them a challenge last season when they came in second 162.5-151.
Oregon, which averaged 147 points the last three seasons, just needed the Trojans to come back to earth a little bit, and it appears they have.
Between the 100, 200, 400, 100 hurdles and 400 hurdles, USC won 14 of 15 titles the last three championship meets and finished 1-2-3 in those events several times.
The Trojans still have some favorites in those races this weekend. Celera Barnes, a transfer from Kentucky is the NCAA leader in the 100 at 10.82. Jasmine Jones is the conference leader in the 100 hurdles and Jan'Taijah Ford is tied for the Pac-12 lead in the 400.
“I think that they’re talented like always,” Johnson said. “I haven’t seen the start lists or the heat sheets for where they’ve placed their people at, but they have tons of talent down there and that’s what makes them such a formidable and good opponent.”
Oregon has the Pac-12 leader in the 200 (Kemba Nelson), 400 hurdles (Shana Grebo), 3,000 steeplechase (Aneta Konieczek), long jump (Alysah Hickey), triple jump (Lexi Ellis) and 4x100 relay.
Konieczek, Hickey and triple jumper Dominque Ruotolo also are conference champions.
“Just the depth that we have on the women’s side is kind of incredible and I’m really grateful to have Pac-12s at home,” Ellis said. “I’m very confident. I’m always going to be confident in my girls, especially this year because like I said, we have so much depth in all of our events. … I definitely think that we can end that streak.”
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How to watch
Women’s hammer final: 4:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Now app, and Pac-12.com
Men’s and women’s javelin and pole vault finals: 5:15 p.m., Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com
Men’s and women’s 10,000 final: 7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com
Men’s hammer final: 1:45 p.m., Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com
Men’s and women’s long jump and shot put finals: 3:45 p.m., Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com
Men’s and women’s 3,000 steeplechase finals: 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com
Field events finals: 11:30 a.m., Pac-12 Now app and Pac-12.com
Track events finals: 1 p.m., Pac-12 Network, Pac-12 Now app Pac-12.com
This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: Can the Oregon Ducks double up the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships?