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Oregon's Distance Runners Don't Have to Go Far to Defend Pac-10 Title

May 22, 1987|MAL FLORENCE | Times Staff Writer

CORVALLIS, Ore. — Oregon came to the Coliseum last year and surprised UCLA and Washington State by winning the Pacific 10 Conference track and field meet.

The Ducks dispelled the notion that they perform better in cooler weather than they do in a warmer climate.

Now it remains to be seen whether UCLA can compete in Oregon as effectively as the Ducks did in Los Angeles in 1986 when they scored 134 points to 115 for the second-place Bruins.

The Pac-10 meet starts today at Corvallis, on the Oregon State campus. It's virtually home territory for Oregon, which is located 45 miles away in Eugene.

"Oregon beat us here last year, and it has an even better team this year," UCLA Coach Bob Larsen said. "But we're also better than we were last year. Still, it's difficult to beat Oregon in Oregon."

Larsen is concerned whether his team can offset Oregon's strength in the distances races.

"When you look at the best-marks list, they have an amazing number of distance runners," Larsen said. "There is scoring through six places, so a team, such as Oregon, can load up in a few events and score a major amount of points.

"We figure that they have about 12 to 13 distance runners who could score in the five distance events."

Oregon's Dave Anderton is favored in the 800. Mark Dunbar and Harold Kuphaldt should be among the top four in the 1,500; Dan Nelson and Kuphaldt have the conference's best times in the 5,000, and Nelson, Matt McGuirk, Chad Bennion and Shemi Sabag are potential high scorers in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and 10,000.

Oregon's strength isn't just confined to the longer distances. J.J. Briden and Latin Berry have the best marks in the long jump; Berry is a threat in the triple jump; Tim Canfield is the defending champion in the pole vault, and the Ducks will score in the hammer throw.

UCLA has a balanced team with strength in the sprints and hurdles.

"It's imperative that our sprinters remain healthy," Larsen said.

Such wasn't the case in last year's meet, when Henry Thomas injured a hamstring in the 400-meter relay and couldn't compete thereafter.

But the Bruin sprinters are healthy and should account for a lot of points. Thomas is entered in the 100 and 200 and sprint relay; Danny Everett will go in the 200, 400 and the short relay, and Mike Marsh, the defending 100 champion, will be in both sprints and the relay.

Other Bruins who figure to be a factor are 400-meter hurdler Kevin Young, shotputter Jim Banich, high hurdlers Steve Kerho and Raymond Young and discus thrower Brian Blutreich.

Mark Junkermann will be trying to cut into Oregon's point total in the steeplechase and 5,000.

USC, which has won a record 29 conference meets, is expected to improve on its fifth-place finish in 1986. The Trojans are healthier than they have been at any time this season and could finish as high as third.

The Trojans will mainly rely on sprinter Pancho Morales, the 1984 Pac-10 winner in the 200; high hurdler Robert Reading, who has apparently recovered from a groin injury; half-miler Eric Schermerhorn, pole vaulters Eric White and Steve Klassen, intermediate hurdler George Porter, long jumper Jesus Olivan and weightman Tambi Wenj.

Women will compete in the Pac-10 meet for the first time. A local rivalry will be renewed in the Northwest as USC and UCLA are favored, with Oregon a strong challenger.

The Trojans got off to a fast start earlier in the week when Wendy Brown won the heptathlon, providing her team with 10 points.

She is expected to score more points as the favorite in the triple jump, while also competing in the long jump, high jump and 100-meter hurdles.

USC's Yvette Bates will join Brown in the long and triple jumps as well as the hurdles.

As usual, UCLA will rely on versatile Gail Devers for the major portion of its points.

Devers is entered in the 100, 200, 100-meter hurdles, long jump and will anchor the 400-meter relay team. She will also be available to run in the 1,600 relay if the outcome of the meet hinges on that race.

The Trojans beat the Bruins, 69-67, May 2 in a dual meet, and the Pac-10 rematch could be just as close.

Track Notes The meet begins at noon today at Patrick Wayne Valley Field with trials and finals in field events. . . . The weather is relatively cool, in the lows 60s, so that should be to Oregon's liking. . . . UCLA Coach Bob Larsen says that Duck distance runners will benefit from a partisan crowd. "Distance runners respond to the urging from fans and often move up to a higher place when they've been lagging," he said. . . . UCLA pole vaulter Brandon Richards has a congenital back ailment, but he's expected to compete. . . . Five athletes will defend 1986 titles: Oregon's Tim Canfield, pole vault; UCLA's Kevin Young, 400-meter hurdles; Arizona State's Andrew Parker, 110-meter high hurdles; Stanford's Brian Marshall, high jump, and UCLA's Mike Marsh, 100 meters. . . . UCLA's Steve Kerho won the high hurdles in the 1984 and 1985 conference meets before redshirting last year. . . . Gail Devers has the best marks in the conference in every individual event she has entered.

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