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Observer 11/24/14

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Home arrow Opinion arrow EO TRACK SIZZLES ON DAY 2

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EO TRACK SIZZLES ON DAY 2

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — In 24 hours, the Eastern Oregon track team reversed its fortune at the NAIA National Outdoor Track and Field Championships Saturday.

Damien Johnson moved into seventh in the decathlon after a solid second day.

Johnson was sitting in 11th place after Friday's events.

His day started off with a very solid 15.48 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles.

That performance, fifth out of the decathlon hurdlers, put him in ninth overall. Next up was the discus and he came up with a huge personal-best throw of over 118 feet to move up to eighth.

The vault was the only event he even came close to faltering in, as he jumped around 11-0.

Johnson cleared 9-0, 10-0 and 11-0 all on his first jump, but struggled at 11-6 and settled for 11-0.

It was still almost a foot better than the 10-2 he vaulted at the Cascade Conference meet.

However, he took his frustration out on the javelin, finishing third in the event with a huge personal best of about 177-10. His previous best was in the 163-0 range from the Willamette invite in early April.

The throw put him back in eighth.

Entering the 1,500-meter run, he knew he needed a good race to have a shot at taking seventh.

Johnson responded with about a four-second personal best to run 4 minutes, 42.84 seconds and secure the seventh-place finish.

"It was a great performance from a great athlete and competitor who we will miss next spring," Coach Ben Welch said.

The weather delayed the 10,000-meter run.

With three of the top five ranked in the race, expectations were high, Welch said.

"The high heat and humidity at 7:40 p.m. ensured the race would be slow and tactical — and that it was," Welch said.

Two runners from Minot State and Cumblerland broke away a bit at about mid-race, with a chase pack of Tim Riley, Eric Griffiths and a Minot runner, and last year's runner-up from Black Hills State, Dennis Newell, who was followed by a Brian Crowl of EOU and two other runners.

Crowl dropped off the pace at two miles, slid as far back as ninth by four miles and rallied to fight for the seventh spot with a Malone runner until late in the race when he could not quite hold on and finished a respectable eighth.

Griffiths ran with the main pack until late in the race, when he pulled in a struggling Minot State runner and moved late in the race to kick very strongly for fourth.

"Of course the story of the day was senior Tim Riley," Welch said.

"Tim ran a splendid tactical race, moving out at about four miles to chase down the two early leaders, catching the Cumberland runner, who ended up third, with about four laps to go. The two then traded the lead for several laps until Tim threw in a strong surge to break away and then with a lap to go seal the deal with a blistering last 400 of 60.3 seconds.

"Tim's timing was nearly flawless and when he dropped the main chase pack at about four miles, it became a matter of would he place first or second. He has trained hard for five years for this day and the last lap was an exclamation point on the day for EOU."

Welch said the 18 team points equals what Eastern had at the end of the meet last year with Shawn Trimble in the pole vault, Johnson in the triple jump and the four guys in the 5K.

"We hope to finish strong and perhaps finish at a new high point in the team standings," Welch said.

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