NCAA track championships open Wednesday

Tuesday, June 4, 2013 | 10:04 p.m. CDT; updated 9:04 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 6, 2013
Three Missouri track and field athletes will be competing in the NCAA tournament this week in Eugene, Ore. Missouri freshman Markesh Woodson will compete Wednesday. Laura Roxberg will compete in the 1,500-meter race Thursday. Missouri sophomore Kearsten Peoples will compete in the shot put Saturday.

EUGENE, Ore. — A simple yet significant sign appeared in the women's locker room at Oregon's Hayward Field this year.

"Triple Crown. Every practice counts," it read.

Missouri athletes at the NCAA championships

Katrine Haarklau (pole vault): A sophomore who also throws the javelin, she finished 15th at last year's pole vault championships.

Malcolm Pennix (long jump): The 2010 NJCAA national champ is making his first showing at the championships as a senior.

Kearsten Peoples (shot put): The sophomore finished sixth in the shot and discus at last year's championships and was fourth at the Olympic Trials, just missing a trip to the London Olympics.  

Dan Quigley (5,000 meters): The senior is making his second appearance at the championships and has the seventh best seed time entering competition.   

Laura Roxberg (1,500 meters): The senior is making her second appearance at the championships and has the third best seed time entering competition.

Markesh Woodson (100 meters): Placed third at the SEC outdoor meet in 10.18 seconds. One of just two freshmen qualifiers in the 100 meters, he has the 14th best seed time entering competition.

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Oregon's women have won both the NCAA cross country and the indoor championships. Only one other team, Texas in 1986, has ever added the outdoor title in the same school year for the so-called "Triple Crown."

The Ducks hope to be the second at this year's championship, which starts Wednesday in Eugene.

Oregon hasn't won an outdoor title since 1985 but they've been close the past four years, finishing as runners-up.

This year, there's a feeling that Oregon is well-poised for the triple crown, given their achievements so far and the home-track advantage. The women won the cross country title for the first time since 1987, then won a fourth straight indoor championship.

Coach Robert Johnson would like to just focus on the team doing its best, but the triple-crown buzz has gotten louder as the season has progressed. And there's that sign in the locker room, too.

"I can't not think about it," he said as the outdoor season got underway. "Everywhere I go people are talking about it."

The Oregon women are ranked No. 5 going into the championships and have 15 athletes taking part in the event. Top-ranked Kansas has 13 entrants, while No. 2 Texas A&M has 15.

"Coach Johnson always says 'Just be Oregon every day,'" senior Jordan Hasay said. "We just need to do our best and train hard and the combination of all those things will make us ready."

Hasay, the most decorated track athlete in Oregon's history, will run the 5,000 meters in search of her first NCAA outdoor title. But she'll be challenged by Dartmouth junior Abbey D'Agostino, who became the first woman ever to win both the 3,000 and 5,000 meters at the indoor championships.

Oregon's women are expected to do well in the 100- and 200-meter dashes because of junior sprinter English Gardner, who will be carrying a heavy load for the team by also running in the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays.

One of the most intriguing women in the field is Liz Brenner, who will compete for the Ducks in the javelin. The sophomore has taken part in four Division I sports during her time at Oregon: volleyball, basketball, softball (last season) and now track and field.

On the men's side, top-ranked Texas A&M and second-ranked Arkansas are sending 20 entrants apiece. The Razorbacks, who are the defending champions outdoors, also won the indoor title this year.

Arkansas coach Chris Bucknam was direct about his team's intentions this week.

"Contend for a title," he said. "I think we've got a good group going to Eugene. It's going to be a matter of executing and getting the job done. There's one intention, and that's to compete for a title."

The Aggies have excelled this season in the sprints, and send indoor 200-meter champ Ameer Webb to Eugene. Arkansas pole vaulter Andrew Irvin is seeking his fist outdoor title after repeating as the indoor champ.

In the men's 1,500, defending champ Andy Bayer of Indiana will likely be challenged by Oklahoma's Patrick Casey. Arizona's Lawi Lalang is the favorite in the 10,000 meters and will also run the 5,000.

Southern California senior Bryshon Nellum won both the 200 and 400 at the Pac-12 championships and hopes to add at least one NCAA title to his list of achievements.

Nellum redshirted his 2009 season for the Trojans after he was shot in the legs at a party by gang members who thought he was someone else. Told he might not ever reach an elite level on the track again, Nellum beat the odds and finished third at the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene last year — earning a spot on the team for the London Games.

Nellum was part of the 4 x 400 relay team that won the silver medal and was selected by his U.S. teammates to carry the flag in the closing ceremonies. But an NCAA championship has eluded him.

Oregon's Elijah Greer is the favorite in the men's 800. The third-ranked Duck men, winners of the Pac-12 championships, haven't won the outdoor title since 1984.

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