Ducks look to defend titles
EUGENE — Oregon's NCAA outdoor championship sweep for both the men's and women's track teams last year was unprecedented.
So it follows that the Ducks would like to add to their history with a dual repeat. But it's not going to be easy.
"We need our stars to be stars and we need our stars-in-waiting to show up," Oregon coach Robert Johnson said.
Despite the home-track advantage at Oregon's Hayward Field, the Ducks aren't atop the rankings heading into the championship meet, which opened Wednesday and runs through Saturday.
Oregon's men — two-time defending champions — are ranked No. 4 behind top-ranked Texas A&M, LSU and Florida. The Ducks have 17 entries in 12 events. Favorite LSU's 10 entries on the men's side are loaded in the 100, 200, 400, 110-meter hurdles and the relays.
The Ducks have never won three straight men's outdoor titles.
Oregon's women are ranked sixth, behind Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas, LSU and Texas A&M.
"This is what everybody shoots for," Razorbacks coach Lance Harter said. "It's even-steven. No matter what anybody's done throughout the course of the season, now it's a matter of who can do it on a given day."
FORMAT: It's the second straight season that the championships have been divided by days. Most of the men's events take place on Wednesday and Friday, while the women compete on today and Saturday. Events for the decathlon are part of the first two days, while the heptathlon events are set for Friday and Saturday.
It's the fourth straight year the championship has been set at Hayward Field, which will also host the Olympic Trials in July.
BACK TO THE TRACK: Devon Allen, receiver on Oregon's football team and rising star in the hurdles, made a splash at the NCAA championships as a freshman. His time of 13.16 seconds set a meet record, besting Olympic gold medalist Aries Merritt's mark of 13.21 set in 2006 for Tennessee. Allen was the first freshman to win the national title in the event since San Jose State's Dedy Cooper in 1976.
Last year he was sidelined — from both the track and football teams — because of a knee injury.
"It's exactly the reason I came here. We're the best in the nation in both sports; We played in the national championship (in football) the same year we won the national championship in track," Allen said. "This is the best I could have done — college sports-wise. I'm really happy to be here and everything seems to be working out."
OLYMPIC DREAMS: The season isn't over for many of the athletes, who will try to make the U.S. Olympic team for Rio next month at the Olympic Trials — which are also being held at Hayward Field. Oregon's Allen is among those hopefuls, as is Texas sprinter Courtney Okolo, a three-time NCAA champion in the 400 meters.
Earlier this year, Okolo became the first college sprinter to go under 50 seconds in the race with a 49.71, the second-fastest time in the world this year.
"I look at everything as a stepping stone to the Olympic Trials," Okolo said Tuesday.
ONE TO WATCH: Keep an eye on Arkansas' Jarrion Lawson, who is taking part in the 100 and 200 meters as well as the long jump and the 4x100 relay. If Lawson does well in all his events, Arkansas could be in position for an 11th overall outdoor title.
Lawson a three-time national champion, while also holding the school record in the 100. He finished third in the event at the outdoors last year. He's also coming off a title in the long jump at the NCAA indoor championships.
Arkansas won eight straight NCAA men's outdoor titles from 1992-1999.
AND YOU THOUGHT IT WAS JUST A FOOTBALL THING: The Ducks unveiled their new Nike-designed track uniforms, giving a nod to their 1960s heyday with a tie-dye pattern and the silhouettes of the program greats Steve Prefontaine and Bill Bowerman.
Bowerman, the co-founder of Nike, coached the "Men of Oregon" to NCAA titles in 1962, 1964 and 1965. Pre won seven individual NCAA titles for the Ducks before representing the United States in the 1972 Munich Olympics. He was killed in a car accident in 1975 at the age of 24.