UW’s male distance runners combined to win conference titles in the steeplechase, the 1,500m and the 5,000m at Husky Track in the Pac-12 track and field championships this weekend.
True to its reputation as a track powerhouse, the Oregon men’s team scored 135.5 points this weekend at the Pac-12 track and field championships to win its 10th-straight conference title.
The Ducks’ dominance has gone virtually unchallenged over the last decade, but this year, the UW men put up the best fight they’ve ever mustered, finishing in second place with 122 points – the first time in UW track history that the men’s team has hit the 100-point mark in the conference championships.
The bulk of those points came from UW’s distance runners, who combined to win conference titles in the steeplechase, the 1,500m and the 5,000m at Husky Track in the Pac-12 track and field championships this weekend.
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UW senior Izaic Yorks helped the Huskies open the final day of Pac-12 track championships strong when he set a blazing pace in the 1,500m and never trailed, powering to victory with a time of 3:39.14 – a new Husky Track record.
The win gave Yorks his second-straight Pac-12 1,500m title, and the fact that the Lakewood native got to do it in front of friends and family at Husky Track made it even better.
“This is my track, this is where I run all the time. I was determined to go out and just run wire-to-wire and send a message to everyone at NCAAs that I’ve got no problem doing that against anyone,” Yorks said. “They couldn’t hang? That’s OK.”
Yorks, who, earlier this month, set a new school record with a 3:37.74 performance in the 1,500m, has already met the Olympic ‘A’ standard for the 1,500m and will compete in the Olympic Trials in Eugene in July.
Yorks also finished fourth in the men’s 800m, with a new personal best time of 1:48.00.
UW sophomore Colby Gilbert couldn’t keep up with Yorks in the 1,500m, finishing sixth with a time of 3:40.99.
But Gilbert made up for it later, when he provided the home crowd with the most exciting race of the day in the men’s 5,000m
Colorado’s Morgan Pearson got off to a fast pace in the 5,000m, and he led for most of the race until Gilbert caught up with him with 600m remaining, and mounted a gutsy, energetic attack.
Gilbert passed Pearson with about 400m left and held on to win his first career Pac-12 title, setting a new school record and personal best with a time of 13:35.20.
“It was about 200m to go … he was still on me, and I knew I had a little bit left and I was like, ‘I’ve just got to give it, and got to go,’” Gilbert said. “And everybody was just going crazy. It was super cool.”
To sweeten the deal, UW senior Aaron Nelson, who set a new personal best and won the Pac-12 steeplechase title on Saturday, finished third behind Gilbert and Pearson in the 5,000m.
Nelson and Gilbert ran close together for most of the race before Gilbert found his kick at the end. With his third place finish, Nelson won the Huskies valuable points in the team race and clocked a new personal best of 13:42.06
“I was pretty excited to get two personal bests this weekend,” Nelson said. “To kinda slingshot Colby to a win today and take third myself, that was an incredible experience. Just to kinda show the Pac-12 that we’re a distance powerhouse too.”
UW track coach Greg Metcalf was ecstatic about his team’s performances in the conference championship meet.
“It was a fantastic meet for us,” Metcalf said. “It’s the best combined finish we’ve ever had. (Fourth place) ties our best women’s finish ever, and it’s our best men’s finish ever. We broke our meet record, we had school records go down, and to host at home for the first time since 1997, on this crazy purple track, it was fun.”
The UW women scored 82 points and finished fourth overall, behind Oregon (185), USC (111.5), and Stanford (90).
Junior Elizabeth Quick improved on her third place pole vault finish in last year’s Pac-12 championships, clearing 13-05.75 to win her first Pac-12 pole vault title.
Competing in her final Pac-12 championship meet, UW fifth-year senior Baylee Mires put on the best performance of her career with a third place finish in the women’s 800m that broke the school record and set a new personal best with a time of 2:03.91.
“I just wanted to go out there and defend my space and my track. It’s really exciting that this is here,” said Mires, a Spokane native. “Every time I’ve run Pac-12s, I haven’t run that well, and the 800m is kind of a frustrating race for me. I’ve run 2:05.00 for the last four years. Probably 20-something times, I’ve run the exact same times.
“This year has been nice. Last race I ran a 2:04.91 and now a 2:03.91. I’ve finally put together back-to-back good races in my final year.”
Sophomore Anna Maxwell flashed potential with a fourth place finish in the women’s 1,500m and a fifth place finish in the women’s 5,000m race, while redshirt freshman Fred Huxham set a new freshman school record with a 13:44.39 seventh-place performance in the men’s 5,000m.
The Oregon women made history by becoming the first team to ever sweep the top three spots in two events. Federal Way native Hannah Cunliffe won both the 100m and 200m Pac-12 titles, while her teammates Arianna Washington and Deajah Stevens joined her on the platform in both events. Washington finished second in the 100m and third in the 200m while Stevens took second place in the 200m and third in the 100m.