Gingerich finishes high school track with a flourish – state title in 300 hurdles

Scott Swanson

Bethany Gingerich broke a long famine for Sweet Home track and field, winning the 300 hurdles and placing second in the 100 hurdles at the state championships Saturday, May 19, at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon.

Noah Dinsfriend delivered a third-place finish in the 300 hurdles for the boys.

The girls 4×100 and 4×400 relay teams both placed, giving the Huskies enough points, 22, to tie for 10th with Tillamook, by far the highest finishes by the girls since 2011, when they placed fourth and 2012, when Annie Whitfield won an individual title in the javelin.

Marshfield won this year’s girls team title with 60 points, followed by Astoria (55), Philomath (52.5) and North Valley (50). The Sky-Em League’s highest finisher was Sisters with 34 points.

The boys finished 23rd, with the six points Dinsfriend scored. La Grande won the boys championship with 94 points, ahead of Crook County (74), Scappoose (59) and Marshfield (52). The Sky-Em League’s highest finisher was Cottage Grove, sixth with 47 points.

The Husky boys’ chance at points in the 4×100 fizzled with a disqualification when their first exchange went out of the zone, and then they finished seventh in their flight of the 4×400.

Lance Hanson was 14th in the triple jump, with a single legal leap of 38-11.

Austin Stevens finished 13th in the long jump, his best effort of the day totaling 18-8¼.

Coach Dakotah Keys attributed some of the missteps to inexperience at the state level.

“They did really good,” said Keys, who has competed many times in the stadium, both in high school and as a college decathlete at Oregon.

“It’s hard for some of these kids, the first time, to be here at Hayward. You step out there, this place just feels so big.”

It wasn’t the first time at Hayward for Dinsfriend, who ran the 300 hurdles last year but did not place, and for Gingerich, who competed in both the 200 and 400 as a freshman and sophomore, as well as the short relay, but missed last year due to an injury.

It also wasn’t the first time at state for sophomore Megan Hager, who placed seventh in the discus last year, but this time, she said, she wasn’t 100 percent, blaming some “medical issues,” including a sore elbow, and some stage fright in her first outing in the state shot put, which unlike most high school competitions, where the throw events are located separately from the track, the shot and javelin are in the center at Hayward.

After fouling her first throw, Hager got the next two in, but her best was 30-8½, five feet short of her personal best set the previous week at the district meet.

“I’ve never been to state in the shot put before and it was kind of weird being in the middle of the field, with the shot out there,” she said.

She struggled in the discus as well, managing a throw of 64-3 on her first attempt – nearly half her personal best, from a standing position, and then fouling the next two, the second from a spinning release.

“I just happened to scratch two-thirds of my throws and the one that I didn’t was less than desirable,” Hager said. “I can always hope for better next year.”

In the boys long jump on Friday, Stevens was fair on all three of his jumps in the preliminaries, but his best effort of the day was 18-8¼, significantly shy of the PR of 21-4 he’d posted the week before at districts to qualify for state.

Hanson had difficulties Saturday in the triple jump, fouling on his first and third tries and going 38-11 on his only fair jump. He’d PR’d with 40-3½ at districts.

“It was my first time ever going off a 36-foot board this year,” Hanson said. “It definitely got in my head because I was expecting to jump off 32. I just let it get to me. I only got a mark once and I jumped two feet off my PR.”

Though the boys struggled in the field and the relays, the girls team of Gingerich, freshman Jessy Hart, sophomore Zoe James and junior Kate Hawkin got past a rough handoff on Saturday in the 4×100 to finish eighth, in 51.40, just slightly off their season best of 50.70 set at district. Then they wound things up with a better finish in the 4×400, taking sixth in 4:10.59, just shy of their district PR of 4:10.27.

Hart said the crowd at Hayward and the atmosphere helped her run faster.

“It was so exciting,” she said. “When I was down there, I got so nervous. It definitely helped us.”

Hawken, who returned to track midway through this season, after taking last year off to play softball, said she had an “amazing” time at state.

“It was crazy,” she said. “It was definitely a great experience, for sure, my first time racing at Hayward. I loved it. It didn’t feel real.”

Gingerich said she was happy with her team’s efforts.

“We may not have run our best races today, but I’m really proud of us and how we did,” she said. “With our 4×100, we had one bad hand-off, but we put in a lot of good effort. I’m super proud of those girls.”

The boys team of Taraski, sophomore Casey Tow, Hanson and Dinsfriend were less enthusiastic about their 4×400 finish, a 3:36.56 that trailed the 3:32.59 they ran at the district meet.

“We were seeded seventh. We took last (in the heat),” Taraski said at the end of the meet. “We gave it our best, though. It’s been a long day for a couple of us. They’ve had multiple events.

“I was sitting all day, so I felt sluggish to begin with. It doesn’t matter how much you warm up.”

Taraski, who was on last year’s 4×400 team that competed at state, also said the atmosphere at Hayward raises the pressure.

“It definitely brings the stress level up. You have a big crowd, lots of fast people. But it also intimidates you, so you want to give it your best.”

Keys said the relays were a learning experience for the Huskies.

“Relays, you can never really know,” he said. “Teams are putting different teams together at districts, just for team points there. Then they change them around when they get here. All it is, the kids have to come in here and compete. And they did.

“It’s all about the experience right now because everybody’s coming back except for our seniors. It’s all about the experience at this point, just about the building.”

Gingerich was rough over the 300 hurdles in the preliminaries on Friday, stutter-stepping three hurdles on the backstretch and curve and hitting the final hurdle before stumbling across the finish line – in what turned out to be the fastest time of the day. On Saturday, though, she looked nearly flawless, leading nearly all the way to her win in a personal best of 44.48.

“I just keep impressing myself,” she said of her progress in the event, in which she had only competed three times before this season and which she took up seriously halfway through this year.

“I just thought ‘I want to try hurdles.’ I decided to give it a shot and I guess I wasn’t so bad. It was super awesome. I was going for the school record and I was .2 or .3 of a second off. But I’m so happy with a state championship. It’s something I’ve always wanted since I came here freshman year and I got it in a race I never thought I’d be running. Super awesome.”

Her second-place time of 15.77 in the 100 hurdles was nearly half a second faster than the 16.32 PR she ran on May 4.

” It felt so good,” she said, with emphasis. “I ran a smooth three-step 100 race. I got it under 16 secs to 15.77. That was an awesome race. I can’t believe it. I wanted to get first, but honestly, second place, I’m so happy with that.”

Keys said Gingerich’s confidence was key to her success.

” After only doing that for a year, and then coming out here and beating some girls who have been doing it for a long time, that’s really impressive,” he said. “It comes down to her dedication and her willingness to learn.

“Obviously, she’a very talented athlete. But talent doesn’t get you to where she is. She works extremely hard and I can’t be more proud of her. The team can’t be more proud and we’re going to miss her because she’s a great leader on this team.

“Those girls on the 4×4 and the 4×1 look up to her. She’s done a lot for this program and hopefully those girls will carry on with what she’s been doing.”

Dinsfriend was clearly disappointed with third place in the 300 hurdles, but he edged closer to breaking the 40-second mark with a personal best of 40.15 in chasing Cade (39.60) and Nathan (40.94) of La Grande, which won the boys title, nearly catching the latter at the finish line, where Dinsfriend tumbled across.

“I was hoping for first,” Dinsfriend said. “I still PR’d. It was a good time, but I was expecting more. But if I settle for what I get, don’t think I’m going to get any better.”

Keys called Dinsfriend’s performance “an awesome, amazing, stand-up job.”

“He competed hard, all the way to the end, almost catching that guy. That’s what it comes down to, his heart to compete. And he just comes out here and competes every time. He gives it everything he’s got.

“You can tell he cares, immensely, about competing. It comes out in in his emotions. We can’t ask for anything more.

“He’ll be here next year and he’s going to be a force to reckon with. That’s what it’s going to come down to.”