EUGENE, Ore. — The Men of Oregon are a team of rivals, and on Friday they also were a team of NCAA individual champions.
UO junior Cooper Teare and freshman Cole Hocker, teammates but also competitors in the middle distances all year, each was able to celebrate a victory Friday in the NCAA Outdoor championship meet at Hayward Field. Teare set a meet record to win the 5,000 meters, Hocker won the 1,500 before doubling back to finish fourth in the 5k, and Emmanuel Ihemeje gave the Ducks their first-ever NCAA title in the triple jump as Oregon took second in the team race with 53 points, trailing only LSU’s 84.
Hocker ran the final lap of the 1,500 in 52.23 seconds to win in a personal-best 3:35.35. He nipped Teare at the line in the 1,500 final at the NCAA Indoor championships, and also in the 5,000 of the Oregon Relays on April 23. But on Friday, Hocker’s kick in the 5k only brought him up to fourth, while Teare bested two other runners to the finish line to win in 13:12.27, the No. 2 time by a collegian in history.
“I couldn’t be happier for Cooper; indoors he was so happy for me,” Hocker said. “Throughout the race they made it fast, just enough to take me out of that front pack with 800 to go. I would have definitely been more upset if it hadn’t been Cooper that won. I’m so happy for him.”
Teare’s training for Friday’s race was fueled by some of those narrow losses to Hocker earlier in the year. He said his workouts have emphasized finishing well over the final 150 meters, something that paid off Friday.
Running with the front pack the entire race, Teare took the lead with a lap to go. With 200 meters left, both Athanas Kioko of Campbell and Luis Grijalva of Northern Arizona passed Teare, but he returned the favor in the final turn and held on to win.
“They came around me and they didn’t really pick it up that much,” Teare said. “Neither of them were really moving that hard, and I saw my opening and didn’t look back. The whole season I’ve been getting caught at the line so it was all about, don’t look back and run through the line.”
Teare’s final time of 13:12.27 not only was a meet record, but it was under the Olympic ‘A’ standard of 13:13.50.
“To be able to do that in a championship race, now I have a lot more confidence going into Trials,” he said.
The Ducks on Friday also got third-place finishes from Micah Williams in the 100 and Charlie Hunter in the 800, a sixth in the triple jump for Isaiah Griffith and seventh from Jonathan Harvey in the 400 hurdles. Hunter ran a personal best of 1:45.75 and Harvey tied the UO record of 49.64, helping the Ducks follow up their NCAA Indoor team title with a second-place finish outdoors.
Ihemeje posted three of the top five marks in the triple jump Friday, but it was his first jump that held up as the winner. He opened the meet by soaring 56 feet, 2.75 inches, and he surpassed 54 feet three more times over the course of the evening.
“I knew there was really tough competition,” said Ihemeje, who also won the NCAA Indoor triple jump title. “My plan was to throw a bomb at the beginning. So we worked a lot to make the first jump be executed in a good way. So I’m glad I did my best on my first jump.”
Ihemeje fed off the Hayward Field crowd throughout his series, playing to the 6,234 fans on hand — the most since the venue re-opened this spring.
“It’s such an amazing vibe and emotion in this new Hayward Field,” said Ihemeje, who was raised in Italy and speaks five languages. “This is my biggest experience, and doing a big competition like the NCAA finals at home is such a big pleasure for me — an honor. And I had to do my best to entertain our fans, our Duck nation. So I did my best, and I hope they enjoyed the show.”
Hocker said the energy from the crowd was “a feeling I’ve never felt,” and provided the adrenaline rush that fueled his finishing kick in the 1,500. With about 350 to go in that race he stumbled a bit in traffic, but he quickly regathered himself and surged into the lead on the backstretch.
For as tough as that effort was, Hocker said he had to dig even deeper in the 5,000. He said Teare and the other top finishers “ran smart” and pushed the pace early to take a 1,500-5,000 double by Hocker off the table. Still, Hocker was able to follow up his PR in the 1,500 with another in the 5,000, of 13:18.95.
“That’s something I’m really proud of today,” he said. “Of course I was still going for the win in the 5,000 today; that was my goal. I never really thought about running those times back to back, but I’m extremely happy with those performances.”
More reaction from Friday’s results:
Robert Johnson, UO head coach
“Finally our newbies and those that hadn’t experienced it yet got a little taste of the ‘Hayward magic’ we all talk about. Lane County Public Health and the University of Oregon administration has done a fantastic job in working together to get as many fans as we had today. To get close to that 50 percent capacity was awesome, and it showed. I’ve said all along, these fans are the most passionate and most knowledgeable in the world. Not only do they cheer for the Ducks — of course, they may cheer a little louder — but they cheer for all good performances.They’re supportive of good track and field.”
Charlie Hunter, 800 meters
“This is one of the things I love about being a Duck: We have the best fans. In a sea of athletes, I feel like I’m special and six feet taller than everyone else. The roar I felt before we started, and then again on the last lap, was what kept me pushing through the line. It’s very special to put on this green and gold and it means a lot to me. … I executed this race exactly like I wanted to. I wouldn’t change a thing because I ran the best race for me today, but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. I have no regrets because I went out and did exactly what I wanted to do today. It’s bittersweet to achieve what I wanted to but fall short on placing.”
Micah Williams, 100 meters
“It was definitely an experience I enjoyed. I didn’t execute like I wanted but it felt good to have the fans behind me even after losing. They were still there for me.”
Jonathan Harvey, 400 hurdles
“I didn’t know (about tying the school record) when I finished, but that’s what Coach (Curtis) Taylor was telling me. It’s special and I feel like I’ve really come a long way, in and out of athletics. To tie the school record really puts a cap on my achievements.”