After a rough and windy start, USC’s track and field team managed to pull it together and leave the two-day Pac-10 Championship at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., with five Pac-10 titles, a men’s second place overall win with 117 points and a women’s fourth place ranking with 108 points.
The team could not, however, muster up enough points to beat the home team, University of Oregon, who took first place in both men’s and women’s competition for the first time in the school’s history.
“This was a very competitive conference,” coach Ron Allice said. “Anytime you score over 100 points in the Pac-10, which is the most balanced conference in the NCAA, normally you would win.
“In a lot of cases we would have won this conference with these point totals, but it’s significantly different on your home turf. In a neutral site [Oregon] would not have been that dominant.”
The first day of competition proved to be a difficult one for the Trojans in terms of getting those much-needed points, but the most unexpected loss was during the javelin competition. USC senior Corey White, who previously held the Pac-10 title, was out-thrown by the Duck’s Cyrus Hostetler’s 250-05 throw by five feet.
“[White and Hostetler] had the two best throws in America, both collegic and non-collegic,” Allice said. “The series that White put together was unmatched compared to his competitor. The difference is that Corey’s height pattern is much more vertical than [Hostetler’s] and when you’re throwing into a headwind like we were this weekend, it becomes a disadvantage. Without that you would see that Corey is the better javelin thrower and that will reflect in the NCAA.”
Junior Ahmad Rashad dominated the short-distance races, where he took the titles for the 100-meter in 10.13 and 200-meter in 20.82, and was second in the sprint relay. Sophomore Oscar Spurlock also nabbed a title in the 110 high hurdles in 13.56, along with senior Eva Orban in the women’s hammer in 67.39, and the men’s 4×100-meter relay in 3:06.30.
Senior triple jump Aven Wright shared the sentiments of Allice about the aftermath of this weekend.
“As a team we competed well. Everyone, I feel, scored as they were supposed to. Getting over 100 points is always a big deal, and everyone gave one hundred percent,” Wright said. “Oregon was able to have a lot of people in every event, especially in the long distance running, and that really gave them an advantage as far as points were concerned.”
Wright felt the team members as a whole needed to work on consistency with its approach in their respective competitions. He and Allice repeated the message that the team, though young, seems to be at its peak; it just need to focus on staying there.
“I would take nothing away from their performance,” said Allice. “They performed above and beyond what we could have asked for. Orban really showed up in her hammer and had a heck of a meet.”
The women’s team proved itself in this championship, Allice said — so much so that even though they finished fourth, Allice believes that without some minute technicalities, they could have easily taken third or a close second.
In reality, the whole team is young. The only athletes not returning next year are seniors White and Wright, so the Trojans have a lot of room to grow by next season.
This season, though, is hardly over.
With the NCAA finals, regionals and the U.S. championships still on the calendar, the team’s solid showing in the Pac-10 championship shows that this youthful team may be ready to meet the challenges ahead of them.
Allice pointed to the dual meet against UCLA as a possible turning point of the season.
“That [dual meet] that brought the gauntlet back to USC really helped us,” Allice said. “It just shows that same correlation with how competing at your own facility and having that support-base certainly gives a team an up. Prospects next year will be greater.
“We’ll be a handful for this [division] next year. I’d say we should definitely reach top 10 in the country, if not top 5, in the next couple weeks.”