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Oregon Senior Patrignelli Wins Steeplechase, Leads Local Charge

Published by
ArmoryTrack.com   Apr 7th 2014, 1:32pm

Oregon Senior Patrignelli Wins Steeplechase, Leads Local Charge 

By Jack Pfeifer

EUGENE, Ore. – A year ago this weekend, Megan Patrignelli, a slight, quiet young woman from Monroe, N.Y., became a steeplechaser, near the beginning of her junior season for the powerhouse University of Oregon women’s track team. 

Up to that point she had been a journeyman miler, with a 1,500 PR of 4:23. The Ducks, looking for points at conference or possibly beyond, pressed Megan into trying the grueling 3,000-meter steeple, over all those barriers and water jumps. “If that’s what the coaches want me to do,” Patrignelli said gamely a year ago, “I’ll give it a try.”

In her very first effort, she produced an excellent 10:25 debut, finishing 4th in the 2013 Pepsi Invitational, before the home crowd at Hayward Field. She finished 18 seconds behind the winner of the race, Mel Lawrence of the University of Washington, who once held the national high school record in the event.

She ran the steeple four more times last season, running 10:17, 10:14 and exactly 10:09.83 on two occasions. She finished 5th at conference, and made the NCAA semifinals.

Last Saturday here in Eugene, in this year’s iteration of the Pepsi meet – a dual meet against the University of Arizona – Patrignelli ran 10:29.58, the slowest of her six career steeples, but this time there was a difference. She won the race, on a raw, wet, windy day, by a large margin. A 21-year-old senior, her college career winding down, it was the first time she had won a race on her home track; the first time she had won a steeplechase, and it included the first fall of her brief steepling career.

“Oh, that was nothing,” Patrignelli said afterward. She clobbered a barrier on the final lap, went down, got up. “I used to play soccer, so I was on the ground a lot.”   

Patrignelli is coming off a strong senior indoor season. 

“I am so excited, so confident,” she said, “especially after my good 3K indoors.” Patrignelli ran 9:04 in February, then anchored Oregon’s DMR to 6th place at the NCAA indoor nationals a month later. 

“I would love to go under 10 in the steeple this year, for sure,” she said. “If I could score at Nationals, that would be huge.” The NCAA outdoor championships will be here at Hayward Field in June. “The steeple is the focus for me right now. I love it. Anything I can do to help the team.” Oregon won the NCAA indoor team title, by half a point; the Ducks have not won the outdoor team championship in 29 years. 

Patrignelli – who won the New York state 1,500 for Monroe-Woodbury High School five years ago – does not see herself as exclusively a steeplechaser. “Later on, I would love to try a 5K. I’ll try anything.”

Francis sisters

The New York City natives Phyllis and Claudia Francis were also in action for the Ducks on Saturday. 

Phyllis, the older of the two and now a senior, is coming off her dramatic double win at the NCAA Indoor Championships – her brilliant anchor leg on the 4x4 gave the Ducks their narrow victory in the team race. She is the linchpin of Oregon’s hopes for an outdoor team title as well, as she runs the backstretch of the team’s excellent 4x1, anchors the 4x4 and can run the 200 or 400. On Saturday she cruised through a 22.82w 200 – on the chilly afternoon, no one else broke 24. 

Claudia, a sophomore after a redshirt season a year ago, ran the 800 and a leg on a 4x4.

The sisters are both scheduled to run for the Ducks on their big trip to Philadelphia later this month for the Penn Relays. Oregon has entered three Championship of America races for each gender – the 4x1, 4x4 and 4x8 for the women, and the 4x4, DMR and 4xmile for the men. A year ago, Phyllis Francis anchored Oregon to victory, in meet-record time, in the 4x4, while Claudia ran a leg on the winning 4x8 two years ago, as a freshman.

Oregon has already run 43.74 in the 4x1 this spring, but on Saturday they did not get the stick around, as Jenna Prandini and the anchor Jasmine Todd failed to connect. “We have a lot of work to do in that race,” Prandini said matter-of-factly. “We haven’t practiced much.”

Oregon, known for its distance tradition, is loaded in the sprints. Prandini and Todd both made the NCAA 60 final last month, and Prandini followed that up with a 22.98 200 a week ago. They are joined on the relay by Francis and by the freshman MaryBeth Sant, from Colorado. Sant was national high school leader in the 100 last spring, at 11.25. 

Cheserek makes an appearance

There was a Cheserek sighting on Saturday, but it wasn’t on the track. Edward, the precocious freshman from New Jersey – with three NCAA titles to his credit six months into his first college season – dropped by the track in street clothes after nailing down a respectable time in the 10k the night before at Stanford. He and two teammates, Parker Stinson and Trevor Dunbar, cruised to times in the low 28:50s, likely good enough to advance them to the NCAA Regionals in May. Cheserek is expected to take on the challenging 5k/10k double at Nationals, as the Oregon men will try to win their first outdoor team championship in 30 years.

Cheserek is penciled in for one race at Penn Relays, where he ran three thrilling DMR high school anchor legs for St. Benedict’s Prep, including the championship in 2012. This time he will be wearing the green and yellow of Oregon, and he is expected to again anchor the DMR, joined by Mac Fleet (1,200), Michael Berry (400) and Boru Guyota (800). Fleet is merely the reigning NCAA champion in the 1,500, and he outkicked the outstanding Arizona runner Lawi Lalang here on Saturday at that distance. 

“I knew he was just going to be sitting on me,” Lalang said of Fleet. “I still have to do a lot of really good training” this spring. At the NCAA meet in June, Lalang could face his fellow Kenyan, the younger Cheserek, in the 5,000 or 10,000 – Lalang is defending champion in both – or he could face Fleet, should he go for the 1,500. Asked which distances he might run at Nationals, Lalang said that all options were possible.

In the Penn Relays men’s 4xmile – a race in which the Ducks are the defending champions – they are expected to run a lineup of Fleet plus three Easterners – Eric Jenkins (Portsmouth, N.H.), Jeramy Elkaim (Livingston, N.J.) and Brett Johnson (Ocean City, N.J.). Elkaim and Fleet ran the final two legs a year ago. Jenkins, a 13:18 5k runner last year for Northeastern, transferred to Oregon in the off-season. He has not run for the Ducks yet this spring. Elkaim cruised to a 13:59 win here on Saturday in the 5k, while Johnson was 3rd behind Fleet and Lalang in the 1,500.

The other major West Coast presence at Penn this year will be the Stanford Cardinal, and Coach Chris Miltenberg will have several prominent New Yorkers on his squad. Marco Berolotti is scheduled for the 4xmile, Aisling Cuffe the women’s DMR and 4x15.

Arizona’s Passalaqua

The Arizona senior Amber Passalaqua had a busy day Saturday for the Wildcats, in a losing cause. (Oregon won both dual meets handily.) 

Passalaqua is a heptathlete from Pine Bush, N.Y. She transferred to Arizona after beginning college at Syracuse. She competed in four events here and was near PR performances in every one – 14.09w for 3rd in the hurdles, 18-9 for 3rd in the long jump, 37-4 in the shot and 103-11 in the jav.      

Photos Courtesy of Kim Spir

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