2022 Pac-12 Track & Field Men’s Championships Preview

The Oregon men are going for their 15th consecutive title, but could the Trojans end the streak?

Posted on May 13, 2022


  By Steve Ritchie, SportsPac12

In 2007, the Oregon men’s team won the Pac-12 Track & Field Championships by three points over Arizona State.

The Ducks were led by then-sophomore Galen Rupp who won both the 5,000 and 10,000-meter races.

Oregon Ducks Logo Pac-12Two young and little-known freshmen athletes contributed to the Ducks’ victory that weekend.

Andrew Wheating gave Oregon two unexpected points with his seventh-place finish in the 800, while Ashton Eaton surprised with his second-place finish in the decathlon.

The future world record holder and two-time Olympic gold medalist was a decathlon novice in 2007 and his performance was completely over-shadowed by Arizona’s Jake Arnold, the NCAA leader in the multi-event.

Arnold finished 600+ points ahead of Eaton in an overwhelming victory at the Pac-12 meet.

For the next two years Rupp, Wheating, and Eaton would form the nucleus of the Oregon team which would start an unprecedented winning streak at the Pac-12s.

While that trio would go on to shine brilliantly on the national and international stages after college, the men of Oregon would continue adding to the streak.

Eaton and Wheating are now retired and Rupp, at age 35, is nearly there as well, but the streak goes on and now stands at 14.

usc logoThe question now is do the Ducks have the talent and the determination to keep it going, or will the USC Trojans rise up and end the streak on Oregon’s home track at Hayward Field?

My formchart for the meet has Oregon winning by five points over USC, and I would be surprised if the winning margin for either team was much more than that.

Ironically, a trio of little-known emerging Oregon athletes could be the difference for the Ducks this weekend.

The top two times in the 800 meters belong to a pair of Trojan seniors, Sam Van Dorpe and Bobby Poynter.

Below them on the performance list are three Ducks: Elliott Cook, Luis Peralta, and Matthew Erickson.

I gave 18 points to the Trojans on my formchart and 10 for the Oregon runners.

Pac-12If Cook, Peralta, and Erickson can finish above Van Dorpe and Poynter, or break them up, the point swing will be dramatic and could prove to be the difference.

No doubt, Oregon head coach Robert Johnson will be looking to the 800 and a number of other events for the famous “Hayward Magic.”

Here are some other key events in the team race to watch, as well as some individuals currently leading the nation.


100, 200, and  4×100
Davonte Burnett | USCTrojans.com
The sprints could be the best races to watch, both for team race implications and for the Athlete of the Meet competition.

UO’s Micah Williams and USC’s Davonte Burnett will go at it for the second straight year.

Last year Burnett nipped Williams in the 100 by .04 seconds and went on to win the 200 as well as running on the victorious 4 x 100 team. Oregon can’t let that happen again and expect to win the meet.

Williams

Williams is healthier this year than he was in 2021 and has the second-best 100 time in the collegiate ranks, a wind-aided 9.83 at the Mt. Sac Relays in April.

Williams ran in the Elite section at that meet and completely blew away a field of professionals.

He is also running the 200 far better than he did in 2021 and has switched to running the second leg on Oregon’s 4 x 100 team, a strategic move by Coach Johnson, trying to get the most out of his star.

Burnett also ran at Mt. Sac but in the collegiate 100 and finished in a wind-legal 9.99. The Trojan sprinter has a better 200 time than Williams—20.28 to 20.35—but the gap in that event has narrowed considerably.

The Trojans 4 x 100 is a few hundredths faster than Oregon’s relay. Whichever team can win that race may use the momentum to get an edge in the team battle.


High Jump
Earnie Sears | USC Athletics
USC’s Earnie Sears is tied for the national lead with a best mark of 7’-6.5, which is several inches better than his nearest competitor.

Sears has had a nice career at USC and seems poised to make the jump (pun intended) to the pro ranks.


Triple Jump
Emmanuel Ihemeje | The Register-Guard
Like Sears, Oregon’s Emmanuel Ihemeje stands at the top of the national list at 55’-9.25 and would seem to have little to fear from his Pac-12 competitors.


5,000 & 10,000
Eduardo Herrera | Colorado Athletics
It appears that the distance races will feature a team battle between Washington and Stanford.

Oregon is projected to get just two points in the 5K and none in the 10K, and Colorado has Eduardo Herrera but not much else in the way of contenders.

UW’s Brian Fay has the national lead in the 5K at 13:16.52, while Cardinal Charles Hicks leads a trio of Stanford runners in the 10K who rank 2nd through 4th nationally.

These races should be tight, tactical affairs, which will be fun to watch.


Discus
Mykolas Alekna | SI
Get ready for a clash of the titans here. Freshman Mykolas Alekna of Cal leads all collegians at 222-feet but ASU’s Ralford Mullings is third nationally and within striking distance of Alekna at 214-feet-6.


Decathlon
Max Vollmer | The Oregonian
The conference made the right decision to bring the multi-events within the rest of the meet instead of holding them the weekend before.

And there should be an exciting duel to watch between UO’s Max Vollmer and Cal’s Hakim McMorris, both of whom are in the top ten nationally.

Vollmer cracked the 8000 point barrier at the Bryan Clay Invitational in April, racking up 8022, while McMorris is close behind at 7941.

In case you missed it: 2022 Pac-12 Track & Field Women’s Championships Preview




—More from Steve Ritchie—