EUGENE—Izaic Yorks’ (left/photo by Mike Scott) bid for the first national title by a University of Washington runner at 1500 meters or a mile since Rufus Kizer turned the trick in 1928 came up just a little bit short on a slightly overcast and windy late spring afternoon at Historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus, as the Lakewood native finished second in a time of 3:38.06 on the penultimate day of competition at the NCAA track & field championships.
Yorks went to the front with Virginia’s Henry Wynne and stayed towards the front, but when the racing started on the last lap, Wynne charged ahead with 250 to go and appeared to break away from Yorks as they exited the Bowerman Curve for the final 100 meters.
However, as they came off the turn, Clayton Murphy of Akron charged past both of them and opened up a gap. Yorks reacted and tried to counter Murphy’s move, but was late. He did manage to pass Wynne to take second, as Murphy’s winning time was 3:36.38.
Murphy’s winning time was the fastest at the NCAA Championships since 1987 and third-fastest ever since the event switched to the 1,500-meters from the mile in 1976. Last year, the winning time was just 3:54.96 in a tactical battle.
Yorks expected that Murphy, best known in national circles as the runner who replaced Nick Symmonds of the Brooks Beasts at last year’s world championships in the 800 meters when Symmonds refused to sign the contract with USATF, would make a late charge, but thought that he and Wynne had established a big gap over the Akron Zip.
“I was expecting him to come,” said the Lakewood, Wash. product, “but I wasn’t expecting his kick to be as effective as it was. For me and Henry we were just sucking a good bit of wind up front, and that was effecting us slowly so that we couldn’t cover the move in the end. Really good on Clayton for running to his strengths and kind of staying out of harm’s way so he can better utilize his kick.”
In the men’s 400, Tacoma native Marcus Chambers of the University of Oregon made a late charge down the stretch, but came up short, finishing fourth in a time of 45.27.
“I just didn’t have it at the end,” Chambers said. “So I know I’ve got some work to do before the Trials. We’ll get back to the drawing board on Monday, get to it and I’ll be ready for that.”
Washington’s Colby Gilbert finished 13th in the men’s 5000, running 13:54.45, as Edward Cheserek of Oregon completed yet another 5000/10000 double victory, winning in 13:25.59, and putting him in rarified company in collegiate history, with the likes of Texas-El Paso’s Suleiman Nyambui as one of the greatest distance runners in NCAA history after picking up his 15th NCAA title, a feat matched only by Nyambui.
Gilbert, who broke the Washington school record this season in a victory at the Pac-12 Championships, settled around 14th for the first half of the race, but just a second or two behind the leaders. With two miles to go, Gilbert looked good and picked up a couple spots, getting up to a high of 10th with two laps to go. But when the top group of runners made one more big push, Gilbert was unable to go with them. He hung on to finish 13th overall in a time of 13:54.45.
“I think I was a little tired. Around eight laps I felt like I was finishing, when I needed to be more up front with the guys and feeling a little better than I was,” Gilbert said. “This was the first full year for me competing at all three national championships, and I had a great season but I think I was just a little burned out for today, so I’ve just got to take a rest and move on.”
After four events in the heptathlon, Washington State’s Liz Harper stands 14th with a first day total of 3398 points.
She started off by running 13.74 in the 100 hurdles, then followed up with a jump of 5-8.75 (1.75m). In the shot put, she threw 35-0.5 (10.68m) and ran the 200 meters in a time of 24.93.
Akela Jones of Kansas State leads at the break with 3951 points.
Harper resumes competition in the heptathlon Saturday at 11:30 am. She’s also entered in the high jump competition which starts at 3 pm, but before the final event of the heptathlon, the 800 at 5:13 pm. She will have completed both the long jump and the javelin before the start of the high jump.
Among other athletes with Washington ties competing on the final day include Montesano’s Tera Novy of USC in the discus, and the University of Washington trio of Amy-Eloise Neale (1500), Charlotte Prouse (3000 steeple), & Baylee Mires (800). Gig Harbor’s Brenna Peloquin of Boise State, who was eighth in the 10000, doubles back in the 5000.
One of the biggest questions is whether Federal Way’s Hannah Cunliffe will be on the third leg of Oregon’s 4 x 100 relay after apparently aggravating an injury in Thursday’s 100 meter semis.
Below are the competition times for those athletes with Washington ties.
W Heptathlon (11:30 am)—Harper
W High Jump finals (3:00 pm)—Harper
W Discus finals (3:05 pm)—Tera Novy
W 4 x 100 relay (3:32 pm)—Hannah Cunliffe (?)
W 1500 finals (3:41 pm)—Amy-Eloise Neale
W 3000 steeple finals (3:52 pm)—Charlotte Prouse
W 800 finals (4:47 pm)—Baylee Mires
W 5000 finals (5:25 pm)—Brenna Peloquin
The NCAA track & field championships will be shown live Saturday on ESPN2 starting at 3:30pm Pacific.
NOTE: The University of Washington, Washington State University, the University of Oregon, and the NCAA contributed to this report.