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It's a Duck dynasty atop NCAA indoors

(The Register-Guard) — ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Oregon made history Saturday night by the length of Phyllis Francis' nose.

Ninety-minutes after setting the American indoor record in the 400 meters, the Oregon senior finished off the Ducks' dramatic rally in the 4x400 relay with a desperate lean at the finish line to secure the Duck women's fifth straight national title.

They weren't celebrating alone.

The Duck men also won a national title in convincing fashion on Saturday during the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championship meet at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

It was the first time since Arizona State's dual victories in 2008 that a school swept both titles.

"Absolutely outstanding," coach Robert Johnson said. "Absolutely outstanding on both sides."

While the men took a lead into the final day and never relinquished it, the women were forced to scramble late in the meet Saturday to get in contention, then they went into the 4x400 needing a victory to win their NCAA record-tying fifth straight title.

The Ducks took 34 points into the final event, behind Texas and Florida, which had 35Â 1/2 each, and Georgia, which led with 40Â 1/2 but didn't have a team in the 4x400.

The Ducks were ranked third in the 4x400, behind both the Longhorns and Gators, so when they went to the starting line in the final relay heat, they had some work to do.

In order, veteran Chizoba Okodogbe, 800 national champion Laura Roesler and freshman Christian Brennan put Oregon in second place behind Texas going into Francis' final leg, and that's where she remained heading into the home straight.

But as the finish line approached, Francis made a dramatic surge past the Longhorns' Ashley Spencer only to catch her with no length of track remaining.

Oregon's time was 3 minutes, 27.40 seconds. Texas came in at 3:27.42.

"I didn't know what happened until my teammates started celebrating," Francis said.

Neither did her coach.

"I was in the middle of the straightaway, so for a minute there I was like 'Oh my gosh, did we really leave it to that late?'" Johnson said. "But hey, she got them at the end."

With that, the Ducks finished with 44 points, just ahead of the Longhorns at 43Â 1/2.

It was an amazing comeback for Oregon, which had nothing going in its favor through the first day and a half of the meet. The Ducks underperformed in the long jump and distance medley relay on Friday and freshman Sasha Wallace didn't finish the 60 hurdles on Saturday after crashing through the fourth hurdle.

Wallace, who reset her own American junior record on Friday with an 8.08 finish in the prelims, had entered the finals with the fifth-best time.

"We were snakebit a little bit there in the long jump and the DMR," Johnson said. "We thought we'd have a few more points there after those events. And then I would never, ever have thought in a million years that Sasha Wallace would come out here and hit a hurdle. That's just not in her nature.

"I was a little worried after that."

Then Francis sparked the Ducks with a sizzling 400 that she won in 50.54 to break Francena McCorory's American indoor record of 50.54.

"It was so surreal when it happened," she said. "It still hasn't hit me yet because I had to get ready for the 4x400. But oh my gosh, it's a great feeling."

Jasmine Todd and Jenna Prandini followed with a third- and seventh-place finish in the 60, respectively, and Roesler kept it going with a victory in the 800 in 2:03.85.

And just like that, Oregon had 34 points and was in fourth place after starting the day with just six.

Even so, Roesler said she never felt the Ducks were out of it.

"Not even one percent," Roesler said. "We have the best 400-meter runner in the country, the best 800-meter runner, the best 4x400 in the country, and we had top-three girls in the 60. If you thought coming into this day with only six points we weren't going to be a factor, you were wrong."

The Ducks were in a similar situation last season when they locked up the national title with a win in the 4x400. But that team beat second-place Kansas 56-44.

The margin for error wasn't nearly as large Saturday.

"I went back and told the girls, 'Winner takes all,'" Johnson said.

The challenge was accepted.

"We had a little chip on our shoulder," Roesler said. "We don't like being counted out when we're this good, and I think we came out here and stuck it to everyone by winning both, like, 'Don't forget about Oregon. We're a program to be reckoned with.'"


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