#Pac12Sports: Oregon Track & Field Stars Earn National Awards

EUGENE – On the heels of winning the 2021 NCAA Indoor Championships, the Men of Oregon dominate the list of USTFCCCA national accolades announced Wednesday afternoon. Robert Johnson and Ben Thomas collected top coaching honors while Cole Hocker was voted the nation’s top track athlete.

USTFCCCA National Men’s Coach of the Year: Robert Johnson
USTFCCCA National Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year: Ben Thomas
USTFCCCA National Men’s Track Athlete of the Year: Cole Hocker

With Wednesday’s release, Johnson collects his fourth national indoor honor with the men’s team, and 10th overall; he is also a six-time USTFCCCA National Women’s Indoor Coach of the Year (2011-14, ’16-17). Johnson is now a 14-time USTFCCCA National Coach of the Year.

The Men of Oregon won the 2021 NCAA indoor team title with 79 points, the second-highest total in meet history and the most by any team since 1994. The win was the men’s fourth NCAA indoor title under Johnson and pushed his overall total to 14 as the Ducks’ head coach. The team’s six NCAA titles equals the most by one team in a single year. In addition to their DMR, the UO men had 10 individual national qualifiers.

Individually, Johnson worked directly with Emmanuel Ihemeje who became the program’s first NCAA champion in the triple jump. Ihemeje entered the meet with a qualifying mark of 16.41m/53-10.25; he eclipsed that mark four times at the NCAA Championships. Ihemeje finished the meet with a best of 17.26m/56-7.5 to improve upon his own school record and move into a tie for the No. 6 performer in collegiate history.

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For a second-consecutive season, Thomas is the nation’s top assistant coach for his work with the Ducks’ distance crew. Thomas coached his charges to NCAA titles in the 800 meters, mile, 3000 meters and distance-medley relay. Oregon became the first program to sweep the 800m, mile and 3000m in the same year. The UO distance group racked up 52 points of the team’s winning total.

During the year, the Ducks established collegiate records in the mile (Cooper Teare) and distance-medley relay with an additional school record in the 800 meters (Charlie Hunter).

Hocker becomes the fourth UO man to win top indoor accolades, joining the exclusive list featuring Galen Rupp (2009), Edward Cheserek (2014-16) and Eric Jenkins (2015). In winning his two NCAA titles, Hocker recorded the first mile-3K sweep since 2013. The Indianapolis, Ind., native broke the NCAA Championships meet record to win the mile in 3:53.71 and, in one hour’s time, was back on the track to post a personal best of 7:46.14 to claim the victory at 3,000 meters.

Earlier during the indoor season, Hocker tallied the second-fastest mile time in NCAA history with his 3:50.55 at the Tyson Invitational (Feb. 12). He sits only behind Teare who won that race in 3:50.39, the standing collegiate record. Hocker also ran the opening leg of the Ducks’ DMR that broke the collegiate record with a 9:19.42 at the Razorback Invitational (Jan. 29). For good measure, Hocker also ran 1:48.44 over 800 meters at the Tyson meet.

Hocker was one of three Ducks on The Bowerman Pre-NCAA Watch List, along with Teare and Charlie Hunter with Micah Williams, the NCAA 60-meter champion, receiving votes. The next update to the watch list is scheduled for March 25.