No. 2 Ducks Collect Regional Accolades


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EUGENE, Ore. – In advance of next week’s NCAA Championships at Hayward Field, the Men of Oregon collected a trio of USTFCCCA regional accolades Friday. Robert Johnson and Ben Thomas were voted the West Region Coach and Assistant Coach of the Year, respectively, while Cole Hocker is the region’s Track Athlete of the Year.
The Men of Oregon, ranked No. 2 in this week’s USTFCCCA poll, are tied for the national lead with 15 entries in the NCAA Championships. Overall, the UO men will be represented by 13 individuals across nine events and the team’s 4×100-meter relay. Behind a meet-record 185 points, the Ducks won the 2021 Pac-12 Championships to extend their conference streak to 14 in a row.
Johnson was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for a fifth time after leading Oregon to the men’s title. On the men’s side, he will have two qualifiers at the national meet in Isaiah Griffith and Emmanuel Ihemeje in the triple jump. Ihemeje set a new school record of 16.98m/55-5 at the NCAA West Preliminary while Griffith recorded a season’s best of 16.20m/53-1.75 at the regional meet to secure his spot at NCAAs.
With Friday’s release, Johnson is now a six-time (2013-15, ’17-18, 2021) West Region Men’s Coach of the Year; eight overall including recognition as the top women’s coach in 2012 and 2016.
Hocker is a double qualifier for the upcoming NCAA Championships, having earned spots in the 1,500 and 5,000 meters. He accounted for 16 points at the Pac-12 Championships with a title run in the 5,000 meters and a third-place effort over 800 meters. The Indianapolis, Ind., native owns the nation’s top time at 5,000 meter (13:19.89) along with additional NCAA top-10 marks of 1:46.39 and 3:36.47, in the 800 and 1,500 meters, respectively.
Dating back to the 2007 season, Hocker is the fifth UO man to be named West Region Track Athlete of the Year. He joins the list that also includes Galen Rupp (2007, ’09), Andrew Wheating (2008, ’10), Kyree King (2017) and Cravon Gillespie (2019).
Thomas has seen his distance crew collect eight NCAA entries with at least two entries in three events including three in the 1,500 meters—Hocker, Reed Brown, James West. Thomas’ group accounted for 72 of the Ducks’ 185 points at the Pac-12 Championships, aided by conference titles from Hocker at 5,000 meters, Cooper Teare over 1,500 meters and Jackson Mestler in the steeplechase.
This marks the third such accolade for Thomas who was previously recognized as the top men’s assistant for the Southeast Region in 2017 and 2018 (Virginia Tech). Thomas is the two-time defending National Indoor Assistant Coach of the Year.
Oregon will host the 2021 NCAA Championships (June 9-12) at Hayward Field. The Ducks have 24 qualifiers—15 men, nine women—stemming from their collective efforts at the NCAA West Preliminary. In this week’s national rankings, the Men of Oregon hold steady at No. 2 for a third-consecutive week while the Women of Oregon are up to No. 8, tying a season-high position.
For more news and information about Oregon Track and Field, follow @OregonTF on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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