By Jacob Most
June 14, 2014 -
EUGENE, Ore. – The UK women’s track and field team earned the best NCAA Outdoor Championships finish in school history, seventh overall with 26 points, on Saturday at Oregon’s Hayward Field.
The Wildcat men finished 15th overall with 14 points. The result was the team’s fourth-highest placement and fifth-best total ever.
“Some people surprised us and really performed well,” head coach Edrick Floréal said. “They were a little bit above what we expected in some ways. We had some near-misses and things that didn’t come out our way, but this is the nature of the sport and the nature of dealing with young people. If you mishandle your emotions you fall back. When you handle your emotions well, you can be spectacular.
“For us, from where we have come from and where we are going I think we keep stepping in the right direction. We keep getting better, we keep competing and we just have to get consistent across the board. We have to get all of our big guns and all of our medium guns to all perform evenly at all times.”
Two women, Kendra Harrison and Allison Peare, scored four points each on Saturday. Raymond Dykstra was the NCAA Silver Medalist in the javelin throw to give the men’s team an additional eight points.
Dykstra, the Southeastern Conference Javelin Champion, improved on each of his first four throws, eventually tossing his personal best and school-record bettering 251-8/76.72 on his fourth attempt.
Throwing in the second of two preliminary flights, he took the lead from Oregon’s Sam Crouser on his second attempt with a toss of 244-1/74.40m.
Dykstra continued to grow his lead through the next three rounds, and going into the final round the UK junior was in first place.
As the penultimate thrower at his home-field, Crouser fed off a surge in crowd-energy to take the lead on his final attempt with a throw of 252-7/76.98m.
As the top-seed entering the final, Dykstra threw last, but he could not surpass Crouser. He finished second overall, the best national finish of his career.
“Fantastic job by Ray,” Floréal said. “You’re in hostile territory. The guy below you that’s trying to beat you has his whole family, his uncle and everyone wearing Oregon colors yelling for him. It was basically one man against the whole crowd, and I thought he performed extremely well.
“The last throw is just a big emotional boost. Ray just has to come back and respond even though he did a fantastic job and PR’d.”
Allison Peare ran the first track event of the afternoon for the Wildcats, the 1,500 meters. She surged from ninth to fifth before the finish as she kicked just behind the 2014 NCAA Indoor Mile Champion – Emily Lipari – with 250 meters remaining.
Peare passed four runners in the last 200m to place fifth with a time of 4:19.68. She scored (four points) at the NCAA Championships for the first time in her career.
“Ally managed her emotions well,” Floréal said. “It made a huge difference in the way she performed. She’s been consistent all year. At the SEC Championships she got second in the 800 and 1,500m, which was fantastic.
“We saw signs all year that she was a phenomenal competitor that was getting used to being in the limelight. At the highest level she delivered the goods. I couldn’t be prouder of Ally doing it (when it was) her last chance of doing it. That’s pretty special.”
Kendra Harrison, who was the NCAA 400m Hurdles Silver Medalist on Friday, came back with her second-fastest all-conditions time, 12.79, in the 100m hurdles. She finished fifth and added four points to the Wildcats’ cause.
Harrison scored a combined 12 points for the Championships.
“Whenever you can be disappointed and score 12 points, that’s a pretty good thing for a program,” Floréal said. “I couldn’t be prouder of Keni. I think coming off the 400m hurdles (Harrison was favored, and finished second) she could have tanked. Coming back and fighting pretty hard to get fifth place was key.
“She didn’t run bad, 12.79 is her second fastest all-conditions time ever. Doing that when it counts at the NCAA Championships is pretty unique.”
The UK women’s program’s previous best NCAA Outdoor Championships finish was ninth overall with 18 points in 1989.
The women’s team did not score at last season’s NCAA Championships, while the men’s team was 18th overall with 15 points.
“It’s bittersweet,” Floreal said of the teams’ finishes. “We’re happy that we are no longer at the back of the pack, but our ultimate goal to be competitive, means picking up a trophy. We want to be a trophy-team (top-4 finisher).”