Dakotah Keys makes it official; signs with Oregon

Dakotah Keys made it official on National Signing Day €“ Wednesday, Feb. 3 €“ when he signed a letter of intent to compete for the University of Oregon’s track and field team.

Flanked by his coaches, Billy Snow and Jim Kistner, and surrounded by family, friends and teammates, Keys was overcome by emotion as he signed the letter and thanked them for their support.

“It’s been a great experience,” he said. “Just the support from the coaches and from my family.”

Keys was one of three in-state signees Wednesday for the Ducks men’s team. Sam Crouser of Gresham, whose father Dean was a three-time national champion thrower for Oregon in the early 1980s, changed his plans after verbally committing to UCLA and signed with the Ducks. Crouser is the top high school javelin thrower in the nation, with a toss of 239-0 in a summer meet after his junior year.

Also signing was Cole Watson of Rogue River, who won three 3A state titles last year in the 400 (50.57), the 800 (1:56.85) and the 1,500 (4:06.32) and ran away from the field in the 3A state cross-country championships last fall to win by 41 seconds (15:52).

Keys, who is entering his senior season in track and field at Sweet Home, scored a state-record 7,204 points in the decathlon, which comprises 10 events encompassing all aspects of track and field, to win the junior national championship in 2008. He was unable to defend that title last summer due to a knee injury he suffered just after the end of the high school track season last year.

However, he won three events at the 4A state championships €“ the 110 high hurdles (14.67), the pole vault (15-6) and the long jump (23-8 1/2) and was second in the javelin (196-10). The long jump title was his second, having won the event as a sophomore as well.

Keys said he picked Oregon because it he believes it is “perfect” for him.

“They have the best facilities and I love the coaches,” he said. “It has a great atmosphere. The coaches get who I am and what I want. We’re all on the same page. I love the fans. I love competing at Hayward Field.”

He said on his official visit he got to hang out with two-time NCAA decathlon champion Ashton Eaton of Bend and Brian Schaudt of Philomath, whom he competed against before Schaudt moved on to Oregon.

Keys is finishing his second season in swimming as one of Sweet Home’s top freestyle specialists.

He said his goal this year in track is “just to have a good season” and “not to tear my own self apart.

His goal in college is “just to do the best I can and use what God gave me,” said Keys, who added that he hopes to make the Olympic trials his sophomore year and make the 2016 Olympic team.

Meanwhile, he plans to get married in August to his fiancé, Justine Calhoon, whose family, as well as his own, have contributed to his success, he said.

“A lot of it is just family, their support and love,” Keys said. “My mother (Lela Danforth), Justine, Junia (Calhoon), my dad (Shannon Keys) and stepmom Lisa, Jamey Calhoon (Justine’s father) and Grandma Wanda and Papa Ben (Justine’s grandparents).”

Snow, who is head track and field coach for the Huskies, said Keys has earned the chance to compete for the Ducks.

“I think a lot of people outside track and field, maybe even in the community, see that kid as talented, good at what he does,”

he said. “But he works hard, tremendously hard. People don’t know how hard he works behind the scenes to do what he does.

“We have been about as blessed as we possibly could be in having that kid around. It is so exciting to have that young man close (at Oregon). It’s going to be a great program.”