SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Two miles into her first collegiate cross country race Friday, Oregon freshman Jordan Hasay was faced with a challenge.
The lead pack of about 15 runners at the fourth annual Bill Dellinger Invitational was starting to make its move on the grassy 5,000-meter course at Springfield Country Club, and Hasay wasn’t sure if she should go with them.
“I was planning to stay in the front pack for most of the race,” said Hasay, who had settled comfortably into the top 10.
“But after two miles, everyone took off. It was kind of unexpected, so I just tried to hang in there.”
Hasay, the heralded recruit out of Mission Prep, did more than that.
In her Oregon debut, she not only stayed with the leaders, but she was closing hard on the home stretch as she finished sixth overall out of a field of 85 runners with a time of 16 minutes, 39.71 seconds.
“Jordan did a great job. She handled herself perfectly,” Oregon cross country coach Vin Lananna said.
“It’s a whole different animal when you’re running in a pack, and often, it’s the frontrunners in cross country who have difficulty being able to make that step forward. I have no doubt she will continue to improve throughout the season.”
Hasay, the 2008 national high school runner of the year, was the Ducks’ No. 2 finisher, trailing junior Alex Kosinski, who placed second in 16:25.75.
Villanova’s Sheila Reid won the race with a 16:22.92 clocking as the fifth-ranked Wildcats put five runners in the top nine to easily win the meet with 22 points. The No. 2 Ducks settled for second with 41 points.
The No. 18 Cal Poly men finished sixth in that team race with 173 points. No. 9 Alabama won with 63 points with No. 12 BYU second with 63 points and No. 1 Oregon, the defending NCAA champs, was third with 71 points.
“Obviously, we’re not very happy with today’s performance as a team,” Hasay said. “But we haven’t backed off at all. We’re still doing really hard training right now ... this is only our first race and we know we’ll be ready for nationals.”
Spoken like a true veteran. And if the Ducks want to challenge for an NCAA title this year, they will need Hasay to perform like a veteran.
Thus far, she has made a seamless transition into college life, although she admitted things got a bit hectic this week with school starting on the heels of an intense three-week training camp in central Oregon.
“Things are actually going better than I thought they would as far as getting adjusted and getting along with the team,” Hasay said. “It has been a really great transition. As far as racing, I still have a learning curve, and hopefully, that will keep coming.”
Hasay said the hardest part of her first race in a Duck uniform was getting used to the fact that she didn’t know the other runners up front, and thus, couldn’t gauge their fitness or tactics.
“In high school, you know all the girls that are up there with you,” she said. “Or else there’s nobody up there with you. It was a lot tougher than I expected and it will take some time to adjust to that.”
However, with four weeks until the Pac-10 championships, and then three more weeks until nationals, she has plenty of time to make those adjustments.
“I’m training harder and better than I ever have in my life,” Hasay said. “This was a good start and I’m happy with it, but I definitely want to improve on it, and I hope to peak later on in the season.”
In the men’s race, Cal Poly was led by Joe Gatel, who completed the 8,000-meter race in 24:10.97, good for 21st place. Evan Anderson was 34th for the Mustangs in 24:29.47, and Andrew Wright was 40th in 23:39.39. Daniel Gonia did not finish for Cal Poly.
Tribune staff contributed to this report