Heavy winds and rain put a damper on the Pepsi Invitational

Originally Posted on Emerald Media via UWIRE

Oregon’s men’s and women’s track and field teams swept the team competitions at the Pepsi Invitational on Saturday, one of the last meets that Hayward Field will host this season before it undergoes dramatic renovations this summer.

While the results were a promising start to the outdoor season for the Ducks, the weather conditions were the dominant storyline. Winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour enhanced the sharp rain that fell throughout the meet and threw expected yet still challenging hurdles at the athletes competing.

“It definitely added another element to the race, especially since we’ve been running indoors where the weather conditions doesn’t affect us,” distance runner Lilli Burdon said. “So yeah, it definitely affected our racing today.”

Saturday’s weather ran true to forecasts. A high wind warning had been issued for Northwest Oregon, and while the worst was still to come as the meet wrapped up around 6 o’clock, the wind still constantly berated runners during competition. Meet organizers even moved the 100-meter dash from in front of the west grandstands to the east grandstands and moved the women’s pole vault off the infield to under the west grandstands.

“The first three steps I felt like I was tripping,” Vanessa D’Arpino said about her wind-aided (+4.9) 100-meter time of 11.33 seconds.

Other sprinters shared similar experiences.

“[The wind] pushed me closer to the barriers and it’s hard to stay away from them, which I’m not that good at already,” hurdler Braxton Canady said.

The gusts were so strong at points that they ripped off two small sections on the roof of the 99-year old east grandstands, which flapped in the air whenever a strong breeze came through.  

Like the sprinters, distance runners also couldn’t escape the push and pull of the wind.

“It didn’t matter where you were in the pack, it didn’t matter who was leading, like wherever you ran you were gonna feel a headwind down the homestretch and then really feel it at your back down the backstretch,” said Jessica Hull, who took second in the 800 (2:10.6) and fourth in the 1,500 (4:26.31). “So I think it definitely was a factor for everyone.

“No one really got away unscathed there.”

At the very least, the conditions didn’t surprise the Ducks. They do, after all, train in Eugene where this kind of weather is common. They knew the forecast coming into the meet and said they shifted their focus accordingly.

Hull said that at a team meeting ahead of Saturday’s meet, coaches emphasized effort over individual marks.

“Don’t get wrapped up on getting the shiny new PR because it’s not going to happen today,” Hull said. “We’re just going to work through the meet.”

Oregon head coach Robert Johnson expressed pleasure with the overall team effort and even several of individual performances.

“Good stuff in spite of, as you can see, the conditions are challenging,” Johnson said. “But we talked the other day … saying we weren’t going to bitch and complain about the weather and just go out there and compete.”

Oregon did so and with great success, despite the conditions, in front of 3,113 bundled-up fans.

Follow Gus Morris on Twitter @JustGusMorris

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