Miners advance to NCAA Championships


Luis Barrio, Staff Reporter

Eugene, Oregon will be the site of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships from June 11-14. It will be the culmination of a season based on the discipline and hard work of every athlete in the country who performed well enough to qualify for a national crown.

In total, the Miners have seven athletes making the trip to Oregon.

Nestled in the greenness of the Pacific Northwest, Eugene is known as Track Town USA.

The sport is as large, if not larger, than the football and basketball programs at the University of Oregon.

Since the season began, the Miners recognized this was the ultimate goal, but stayed grounded on the task at hand. The Miners have been training since the fall semester.

The most recent hurdle to Eugene was the NCAA West Preliminaries.

The women’s 4×100-meter relay team consists of All-American Janice Jackson, Anna-Kay James, Aiyanna Stiverne and Florence Uwakwe. This team was the first of the preliminary competitors to qualify for a national spot.

Of the members on the relay team, Jackson and James will both compete in the 100-meter hurdles. Jackson posted a time of 13.40—her best of the season.

“My coach told me to run my preliminary like it was the finals. I really tried to focus on that,”  Jackson said.

For the most part, head coach Mika Laaksonen said that the competition participating in the preliminaries would resemble that of the competition to be faced in Oregon.

For Jackson, it’s her start to every race that she is not happy with. She’ll come out a little slower than she would like, then turn on the jets and finish strong. It is something she says has been a problem all year, but is getting better.

“Part of it is a habit. The other part is I am thinking too much,” Jackson said. “I’m not as in the zone as I should be in the beginning as I am in the end.” 

Jackson has been leading the squad all year—with her performance, her preparation and her willingness to guide the younger runners.

“Janice is the natural leader. She is kind of the leader of the whole team, boys and girls side,” said Laaksonen.

Jackson would offer little tidbits of advice throughout the season to her teammates.  The one thing she has stressed was relationships with the coach. She preached that it is not enough to simply ask the coach about their times, but to sit down and establish good and productive sessions with the coach.

The Miners’ track and field team is a hidden treasure that many are not aware of. The team has never drawn a lot of attention; and it is not because of the lack of success. The men’s outdoor track and field team has accomplished six outdoor National Championships.

The team has plenty of talent and are precious gems. In 2013, Anthony Rotich claimed six first-place finishes, including the NCAA Championship in the steeplechase, recording a school record time of 8:21.9

Expectations for Rotich are nothing short of victory.

A sad sight will be not seeing All-American Mark Jackson competing at nationals. Earlier in the week, before the West Preliminaries, Jackson injured a hamstring, which sidelined him and ended his college career. JThe team has been prepping and taking their season one day at a time. They do not get ahead of themselves and they stick to a routine.

In a sport where every millisecond matters, patience seems a bit out of the question.

The competitors need to know when to turn it up another gear. Every movement of the body is the difference in victory and defeat. Posture in running, timing and awareness when passing the baton and getting the right acceleration on the gun will all be showcases for one weekend in June. 

It is no longer a marathon race to the NCAA—the time has come and the race is now a full-on sprint.

Luis Barrio may be reached at [email protected]