Ex-Clovis High and current University of Oregon star Jenna Prandini is off to a flying start at the NCAA Track and Field Championships, winning the long jump Wednesday with a mark of 21 feet, 6 inches.
Fresno State junior Je'Nia Sears was ninth at 20-4.
"It's incredible," Prandini was quoted on the Ducks website after becoming the program's first women's outdoor NCAA champion in the event. "This is exactly what I wanted to do, and to come out here and do it, it's an amazing feeling."
Prandini, a redshirt sophomore competing at home at the Ducks' Hayward Field, also advanced to Friday's 100-meter final in a personal-best 11.11 seconds. Her heat-winning time trailed Alabama junior Remona Burchell (10.95) and Texas sophomore Morolake Akinosun (11.04).
The Ducks women, perennial national powers, took the Day 1 lead in pursuit of their first outdoors team title since 1985. But they didn't escape misfortune. The 400 relay team botched its first handoff, preventing Prandini from even running her leg on Oregon's second-seeded foursome.
Prandini passed on her final long jump attempt, saving energy for 200 qualifying Thursday. And she said that was the silver lining from the 400 mistake, in which she was to run the third leg but never touched the baton after the fumbled first exchange.
But it could come back to haunt Oregon in the team title chase. The Ducks, coming off a sixth straight Pac-12 title, are ranked third behind Texas and Texas A&M by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. Kansas is the defending women’s champion.
Prandini has a legitimate shot at three individual medals, if not three golds. She entered this week's finals seeded first in the long jump (21-4½), second in the 100 (11.17) and fourth in the 200 (22.73).
In last year’s NCAA finals, Prandini placed seventh in the 100 (11.43) and ran legs on fourth-place 400 and 1600 relays — each earning All-America honors because they were among the top eight.
She was a five-time state gold medalist at Clovis in the 2010 and ’11 seasons in the long jump (twice, 100, 200 and triple jump at Buchanan’s Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Earlier, Fresno State senior Meagan McKee finished 18th in the women's hammer with a top throw of 191 feet. Princeton sophomore Julia Ratcliffe was the first champion crowned, winning at 219-5. She is the first woman from the school to win an NCAA track and field title.
Thursday's lineup of events includes the men's long jump, with Long Beach State sophomore Willie Alexander (Central High) in the field.