DES MOINES, Iowa – Lanie Thompson set the school record in the women’s 3,000 meter steeplechase and Luke Puskedra was fourth in the 10,000 meters to highlight a nearly perfect first day of the NCAA Track & Field Championships in front of 4,052 fans Wednesday at Drake Stadium.
Oregon’s women also advanced English Gardner in the 100 meters, Phyllis Francis in the 400, Anne Kesselring and Laura Roesler in the 800, Kimber Mattox in the steeplechase and the 4x100 meter relay team on to finals. For the men, Mike Berry moved on in the 400 meters, while Elijah Greer advanced in the 800.
"It was a good day. It’s always good not to be surprised on the first day," said Associate Athletic Director Vin Lananna. "We still have a long way to go."
Thompson was in sixth place a few paces behind the lead pack in the first heat when she made her move with two laps remaining. She caught the leaders with a lap to go and then pushed the pace before finishing second to Colorado’s Shalaya Kipp. Kipp won in 9:59.18, with Thompson next in 9:59.90.
"I wanted to treat today as a final and just qualify," said Thompson. "I wasn’t really trying to set a record or anything, but I knew I had this race in me."
The sophomore from High Bridge, N.J., broke Claire Michel’s year-old school record of 10:02.55.
Senior Kimber Mattox was seventh heat one in 10:08.39 and advanced to Friday’s final based on time. Junior Taylor Wallace was 10th in 10:35.76.
In the men’s 10,000 meters, Puskedra was part of a swift lead pack of four runners that broke away from the field midway through the race. The four of Stephen Sambu of Arizona, Chris Derrick of Stanford, Cameron Levins of Southern Utah continued to distance themselves from the field by churning through impressive 67 and 68 second laps. The three pulled away from Puskedra with two laps remaining. Levins won in 28:07.14.
"It feels pretty good to be in that company," said Puskedra. "It was fun out there."
Puskedra, a senior from Ogden, Utah, was fourth in 28:24.24, marking his best NCAA showing in his final race as a Duck.
Earlier in the day, Gardner ran the fastest qualifying time in the women’s 100 meters to advance to Friday’s final. She got out of the blocks quickly and held on to win her heat in 11.10.
"It wasn’t the best race," said Gardner. "I still have a lot of technical things to work on."
Gardner was also part of Oregon’s impressive 4x100 relay team that ran the second-fastest time in school history, 43.32, finishing second to Texas A&M in its semifinal heat to automatically advance to Saturday’s final.
Phyllis Francis led off, and gave the baton to Gardner, who powered Oregon to the lead on the back stretch. Gardner handed off to Lauryn Newson, followed by Amber Purvis, who came in just behind Texas A&M’s 42.90. Oregon’s time was the third fastest overall on Wednesday.
"I’m very proud about the relay," said an excited Gardner.
Oregon was also strong in the 800 meters where two women and one man advanced.
Laura Roesler set a big personal-best to finish second in the final heat in 2:02.09, the fifth fastest time in school history. She let Chanelle Price of Tennessee take the race out on a swift pace, before closing with a big kick over the last 150 meters to easily advance to Friday’s final. Price won in 2:01.66.
"It felt really good because I knew my training was there," said the Fargo, N.D., native. "I just watched Chanelle and didn’t want to get too excited and go too early.
"It feels really good," said Roesler, who finally bettered her high school PR in the 800. "It’s definitely a weight off my shoulders."
In the second heat of the 800, Kesselring got boxed in midway through the race, but fought her way out to finish second in 2:02.66 and move on to the final. Freshman Claudia Francis was eighth in her heat in 2:12.74.
On the men’s side, junior Elijah Greer ended up third in a tight battle in heat three, but advanced to Friday’s final on time. Erik Sowinski of Iowa won in 1:46.09, Edward Kemboi of Iowa State was second in 1:46.20 and Greer was next in 1:46.22. Sophomore Boru Guyota was seventh in his heat in 1:48.01.
"That was a little bit of a scare there," said Greer. "I think I could have closed that race a little better."
In the men’s 400 meters, Mike Berry flipped a switch around the last turn and won his heat in 45.05 to qualify for Friday’s final. The sophomore from Seattle, Wash., held off charges from Akheem Gauntlett of Arkansas (45.13) and Deon Lendore of Texas A&M (45.19).
"I’m excited for the finals because a lot of people ran fast in the prelims," said. Berry. "I felt pretty smooth today."
The women saw Phyllis Francis win her 400 meter heat in a personal-best 51.22, which was the second-best time in school history, as the sophomore from Queens, N.Y., advanced to Friday’s final. Sophomore Chizoba Okodogbe was sixth in her heat in 53.38 and did not advance.
Also Wednesday, Dakotah Keys set personal bests in both decathlon running events to stand 16th after day one with 3,789 points. The freshman from Sweet Home, Ore., opened the day by running 11.14 in the 100 meters and closed it by timing 50.15, both PRs.
In between, Keys went 22-2.5/6.77m in the long jump, 6-6.25/1.99m in the high jump and 38-10.25/11.84m in the shot put.
"It wasn’t a great day for me, but I’m still in it," said Keys. "Some things didn’t go as well as I wanted, but you can’t let yourself get out of the game.
"I just wanted to forget everything else and PR in the 400."
The men’s 4x100 team of Dior Mathis, Arthur Delaney, Joeal Hotchkins, Dior Mathis and Berry was sixth in their heat in 40.03.