Though widely considered to be the best overall team in NCAA history, the Ducks have had their share of ups and downs. Star sprinter Hannah Cunliffe, the 2017 NCAA 60m champion, withdrew from West Prelims due to injury. Their NCAA record holding 4x100m relay was disqualified. On day one, several top women -- including defending NCAA 100m/200m champion Ariana Washington -- did not automatically advance to finals. In the 200m, NCAA leader and 2016 Olympian Deajah Stevens fell to the ground just meters from the finish line and was disqualified.
Yet, the Ducks persevered, and, like all great track and field championships, the tension came down to one final event: the 4x400m relay.
By then, Georgia led Oregon by 8.2 points. The Ducks would need to win gold in the 4x400m to win the team title, and they were up against NCAA leaders and indoor collegiate record holders USC, whose sprint group was firing on all cylinders this weekend.
Freshman Makenzie Dunmore got the Ducks off to a strong start with a 51.6 split, but USC's Amalie Iuel, who took third in the 400m hurdles earlier in the day, was first to the break and handed off to Deanna Hill in front. Oregon's Elexis Guster, who was sixth in the 400m final, ran right next to Hill and passed her coming down the homestretch with a 50.80 split, the fastest third leg in the final. Five-time NCAA 800m champion and half mile collegiate record holder Raevyn Rogers got the baton first with Kendall Ellis, third in the 400m final, right on her tail. Ellis passed Rogers on the inside of the first curve, but Rogers battled home first as both teams crossed the finish line under the old collegiate record of 3:23.75.
Rogers split 49.77 to take Oregon home in 3:23.13, and Ellis split 49.63 to get USC across in 3:23.35. Chrisann Gordon of Texas, the 400m champion today, ran the fastest split of the evening with a 49.41 anchor leg to place the Longhorns fifth overall.
The win was just enough to put the Ducks ahead of Georgia, 64 points to 62.2 points. But even once the race was over, the Ducks had to wait out a tension-filled 10 minutes as UGA filed multiple protests against the team champions.
Georgia sprint coach Ken Harnden filed two official protests: one against Stevens, for being allowed to run second leg on the 4x400m after being disqualified in the 200m, and another against Guster for impeding Hill on the third leg of the relay. Both protests were denied, and after an awkward few minutes in which ESPN on-field reporter Jill Montgomery asked Oregon head coach Robert Johnson how it felt to win, and then was directed to "throw it back" to the commentator booth, the Ducks were declared team champions.
You can see the protest paper work below:
Other highlights included Mikiah Brisco of LSU, who won the 100m in 10.96, the sixth-fastest mark in NCAA history.
You can read the full live blog here, which features event-by-event commentary.