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Hasay_Jordan1-NCAAxc10.JPGJordan Hasay, NCAA Championships, 2010
Photo by PhotoRun.net



Oregon Coach Touts Vast, Untapped Potential

At last week's NCAA Div I Cross County Championship, as women continued to stream across the finish line, the first finishers -- which included Oregon's entire team -- gathered in the mixed zone tent eagerly awaiting the official team tally. The Lady Ducks were hopeful, yet anxious. When word finally came that the Oregon women had captured their first team title in 25 years, the tent filled with shrieks and squeals as the 7 diminutive Oregon racers embraced in a bouncing and joyful Duck huddle. Tears of joy flowed as the women of Oregon celebrated their hard-earned victory.

Senior Jordan Hasay, Oregon's revered team leader, also shed authentic tears of happiness and displayed genuine wide-eyed joy. But a more careful observation revealed that Hasay -- one of the most gifted female collegiate distance runners in recent memory -- was overcome with a variety of differing emotions. As the victorious women danced and hugged, Hasay's effervescence was occasionally interrupted by a flickering pout as she struggled to hold back tears of a different kind -- the tears of personal disappointment prompted by her narrow loss of the individual title. Oregon's #1 runner had come to Louisville's E.P. "Tom" Sawyer State Park on a mission. After earlier NCAA XC championship finishes of 18th, 3rd, and 2nd, Hasay knew that only a win in her final championship appearance would be the fitting capstone for her collegiate cross country career -- and would meet the expectations of so many in the track & field community who, perhaps unfairly, have watched her every move and have eagerly awaited the kind of breakthrough of distance domination that was her high school trademark.

The championship race found Hasay caught up in the race's electrifying finish over the final 600 meters -- a four-way battle which pitted her against Wichita States' Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton, Dartmouth's Abbey D'Agostino, and Iowa State's Mary Saina. After a weak break attempt by the Shocker failed, Hasay threw in what looked to be the decisive move with 250 meters remaining. But Saina was ready. The ISU senior responded with a vengeance over the final 80 meters to overtake the Oregon star for the 4-meter victory. When a disheartened Hasay eased in the final strides, she unwittingly allowed the fast-closing D'Agostino to catch here at the line. NCAA officials had to review those second-place and third-place times down to the third decimal before awarding the runner-up spot to the Dartmouth junior.

Candid as always right after the race, Hasay patiently recounted the cat-and-mouse kickers' game that unfurled down the race's final straightaway. "I was prepared. It was the perfect race. I just couldn't get away," she explained. "I've had a lot chances to win individual titles. I'd rather win the team title than all of the individual titles. I am really happy for our team. My race strategy was to be the last move, but she [Saina] just held me off. I really believed I had the best finish."

Recapturing her composure, Hasay did allow herself to offer an insight into her personal disappointment. "This has been a little bittersweet for me," she confided. "It was just my last chance and I really wanted to do something special. I just couldn't pull it off today. It is hard. But I'll be back as always."

Hasay's admission offered an inside view as to the heightened expectations -- and the accompanying pressure -- that have accompanied Hasay since she arrived on the Eugene campus a little over three years ago. Hasay's magical and celebrated high school career is like no other. As a California prep, Hasay essentially re-wrote the girls' middle distance national record book in distances ranging from 1500 meters to 2-miles, winning 7 Junior national championships and setting 13 age-group records and 9 high school class records.

All the while, speculation grew as to where the young phenom would attend college and how she might perform on the bigger stage. The University of Oregon ultimately won the Hasay Sweepstakes, purportedly appealing to the young star that the protective and supportive laboratory that is the extended U of O track & field family would offer the best and most comfortable environment for her to explore her prodigious potential. It must be added that Hasay's decision to become a Lady Duck had to be influenced in some intangible way by the connection she made with the Eugene community during the 2008 Olympic Trials. After Hasay broke the American high school record for the 1500 in the semi-final round, the new record holder knelt by the infield time clock while a bevy of photographers clicked photos amid the rhythmic chant of the 22,000+ Hayward Field fans: "[clap, clap, clap-clap-clap] Come To Or-e-gon!"

With the young middle distance star now in her senior year, it can be said that both the greater university family and the athlete have delivered as promised. As it does with all of its track & field athletes, U of O and the larger Eugene community have embraced Hasay, providing her with a blend of matchless facilities, expert and accessible coaching, academic assistance, a knowledgeable and passionate fan base, and spirited community support not to be found elsewhere. For her part, Hasay has been assembling a truly impressive collegiate career. With her senior track seasons remaining, and in addition to numerous Oregon and PAC-12 victories and honors, the 15-time All-American has captured 2 NCAA crowns -- 2011 indoor wins in the mile and 3000 -- which resulted in her being named the USTFCCCA 2012 Indoor Athlete of the Year. It shouldn't be overlooked that Hasay, a business major, is also a 2-time Academic All-American.

And yet, there is an unspoken uneasiness around the fact that Hasay's phenomenal record as a young high schooler is not being fully replicated at the collegiate level. Perhaps consistent with the old maxim that no good deeds go unpunished, Hasay's impressive record while at Oregon is nonetheless viewed by some as falling somewhat short of what might have been expected from an athlete who totally dominated her events as a prep.

Maurica Powell, the Oregon women's distance coach, views it all quite differently. With specific reference to Louisville's cross country championship race, the Oregon mentor cites Hasay's ability to focus and notes, "Jordan Hasay cared more about winning the team title than she did about winning an individual title, so she ran that way." Powell is quick to acknowledge that this cross country race -- Hasay's final one as a collegian -- had special meaning for her team leader. "She has been sentimental all week. It is a hard thing for her to see cross country coming to an end because she loves it so much."

Powell swiftly dismisses any notion that Hasay's further upside potential may be limited. "This is, in my mind, just the beginning of the career for Jordan Hasay. I can guarantee you she has not nearly scratched the surface of how good she can be," she states without reservation. "Anything she did in high school is nothing compared to what she can do."

This is a welcomed forecast for those who love track & field -- and especially for those who attach special joy to witnessing the middle distance successes of Jordan Hasay.

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Dunaway AwardAt the 2019 annual meeting of the Track and Field Writers of America, Dave was presented with the James Dunaway Memorial Award “for track & field journalism excellence.”

Dave Hunter

Dave HunterDave Hunter is a track & field journalist, announcer, and broadcaster.  Dave reports on the premier track & field gatherings around the globe, frequently serves as an arena or stadium announcer for championship events, and has undertaken foreign and domestic broadcast assignments in the sport.


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