DES MOINES, Iowa – Brianne Theisen had a dazzling, record-setting first day in the heptathlon and Jordan Hasay and Becca Friday survived a grueling 1,500 meter semifinal Thursday at the NCAA Track & Field Championships at Drake Stadium.
Oregon capped off another successful day at the NCAA Championships when Allie Woodward surged to a surprising fifth-place finish in the women’s 10,000 meters, giving the women their first four points of the 2012 Championships.
"I think our women are competing with the appropriate level of excitement and confidence," said Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna. "But there is still a long way to go."
Theisen used three personal bests to lead the competition with a first-day high score of 3,803 points. Barbara Nwaba of UC Santa Barbara was second with 3,596 points.
"I felt pretty good today," said Theisen. "I was really just trying to have fun and enjoy my last NCAA meet as a Duck.
"I’m not worried about my score. I just want to get 10 points and help my team. So my approach was to just to have fun and add things up at the end."
Theisen opened the heptathlon by smashing her own school record in the 100 meter hurdles. She ran 13.30 to finish second in her heat. That time beat her previous legal best of 13.39 she ran in 2010 and was good for 1,080 points.
She then bettered her heptathlon best in the high jump by clearing 6-0.5/1.84m. Theisen had first attempt clearances on her first four bars, before going over on a clutch third attempt make at 6-0.5 for 1,029 points.
The Humboldt, Sask., native made it three personal bests in a row with a shot put of 42-4.75/12.92m to net 722 points. Theisen had an excellent series where she led off with her best effort, followed by throws of 42-3.5 and 42-2.75.
She closed out day one by running 24.09 in the 200 meters, resulting in 972 points.
Theisen is attempting to become just the third woman to win three NCAA heptathlon titles. Jacquelyn Johnson won four for Arizona State (2004, 2006-08) and Jolanda Jones won three for Houston (1986-87, 1989).
On the track, Woodward was a pleasant surprise with an inspired fifth-place finish in 32:56.94. She hung tough with the leaders as the top 11 distanced themselves midway through the race. Woodward stayed strong as the lead pack dropped to nine with six laps remaining.
The Green Bay, Wis., native then made a smart move not to go with the top four when the broke away with 1,000 meters remaining. That allowed her to hold her position in fifth place for the crucial four team points.
"I was really excited to get here," said Woodward. "I thought I would let the race develop and I’m learning patience is key.
"Early on, I thought of being back at Hayward Field and bringing some of that magic here."
Woodward’s time was the second-fastest in school history, trailing only Kathy Hayes’ 1984 school record of 32:43.81.
Jordan Hasay and Becca Friday were particularly impressive in the semifinals of the women’s 1,500 meters.
In a star-studded field, Hasay and Friday fought their way to the front of the pack nearing the bell, but could not shake a large pack of eight runners. Throughout the final lap, Hasay charged to the front, as did Natalija Piliusina of Oklahoma State and Katie Flood of Washington.
Piliusina got to the line first in 4:12.55, followed by Flood in 4:12.65 and Hasay, a junior from Arroyo Grande, Calif., in a seasonal-best 4:12.68.
Friday charged late to claim the fourth spot in a personal-best 4:13.06. That gave the junior from Bellingham, Wash., the sixth-fastest time in school history. Both Hasay and Friday qualified for Saturday’s final.
The women’s 4x400 meter relay team had strong legs from Chizoba Okodogbe and Phyllis Francis to come from behind and clip Illinois and Arkansas at the line and advance to Saturday’s final.
In a race strikingly similar to the NCAA West Preliminary quarterfinal, Devin Gosberry had the Ducks sixth after the first leg. Chizoba Okodogbe then ran a strong turn to move Oregon up to third. Laura Roesler then powered around the first turn to overtake Illinois with a 51.8 leg, and handed the baton to Phyllis Francis in second place.
Francis then held her position until the final 60 meters, before running down Arkansas and holding off Illinois as the Ducks won in 3:29.46. Francis ran a 50.3 anchor leg. Arkansas was second in 3:29.54 with Illinois third in 3:30.07.
Meanwhile, the men saw NCAA Championships debuts from four freshmen.
In the decathlon, after opening day two by running 15.30 in the 110 hurdles, Dakotah Keys recorded decathlon personal bests in the discus and pole vault. He threw 122-2/37.24m in the discus and then cleared 15-9/4.80m in the pole vault.
Followng that, he was third in the javelin with a throw of 201-4/61.37m. Keys wrapped up the day by running a :07 personal best in the 1,500 meters, 4:30.70.
The Sweet Home, Ore., native finished 12th with 7,559 points in his first NCAA decathlon.
"It was an eventful day," said Keys. "It’s the decathlon. Some things are going to go well and some don’t.
"It was a great experience. As a freshman, I think this experience is really going to help me."
Also for the Duck freshmen, Johnathan Cabral finished third in his 110 hurdle heat in 13.64, but did not advance.
"That was a little rough," said the Calabasas, Calif., native. "I just couldn’t get into it and get going like I usually do."
Sam Crouser had a best throw of 229-11/70.09m in the men’s javelin and finished 14th.
Arthur Delaney was eighth in his heat of the 200 meters in 21.03.
"It’s all a process for the freshmen," said Lananna. "Hopefully this will help them and next year in Eugene, they can step up for us."