Huskies qualify athletes in six events for state track

Scott Swanson

Though few in numbers, Sweet Home’s girls had some big successes at the Sky-Em District Track and Field Championships Thursday and Saturday, May 12 and 14, at Sutherlin.

The Huskies qualified five individuals and the boys 4×400 relay team for the state meet, which will be held Friday and Saturday, May 20-21, at Hayward Field in Eugene.

The qualifiers were freshmen Megan Hager in the discus and Zoe James in the 400, senior Dana Hiett in the triple jump, junior Eric Blanchard in the pole vault and sophomore Noah Dinsfriend in the 300 hurdles.

Cottage Grove’s boys won the team title for the second year in a row and the Sisters girls repeated as team champions for the third straight year. Sweet Home’s boys were fifth and the girls were sixth in the team race.

“The meet went really well,” first-year Head Coach Dakotah Keys said. “I know all the coaches are really proud of all the student athletes.

Perhaps fittingly for a year that veteran coaches say has been one of the worst for training-friendly weather, both Thursday and Saturday were interspersed with downpours. Sutherlin’s brand new all-weather artificial-turf field improved conditions in that weather.

Hager, who throws from a standing position, came up with a PR at the right time in the girls discus, unloading a big one – 98-6 – on her fifth of six throws to take second and qualify for state. She said she got nervous when Cottage Grove’s Cassidy Herbert threw a PR of 97-1, while Hager was 11 feet under her personal best at 86-7. But that got her into the finals.

“I guess I’m used to competing and stuff,” said Hager, an experienced club swimmer who won a state title in swimming in the 100 freestyle this year and placed second in the 50 free. “I know how to channel my anxiety and adrenaline into, like, exploding in that moment. My first one in finals, I threw it as hard as I could, and it went straight out of bounds. My second throw, I threw it really good, I got a really good snap in. I threw it 98 for second place.”

She said she’s not necessarily expecting a replay of her trip to the swimming state finals, but “track’s like a welcome change from doing swimming and stuff. I know it’s not going to be like swimming. I’m not going to be, like, state champion and stuff. But it’s fun.”

The good news was that she took two teammates into the discus finals with her, junior Kendyl Stutzman, who had only thrown once before this season and came up with a throw of 67-5, and sophomore Sarah Hewitt, who popped a massive nine-foot PR of 65-9 to place eighth and ninth respectively.

“Megan Hager pulled it out,” Keys said. “She threw a PR and beat out another girl for the second spot on the state team.”

James had not run a race since the Meet of Champions on April 29 due to an injury, Keys said. Her best effort in the high jump on Saturday morning was 4-8, four inches short of her season’s best, and good enough for fourth place.

But when she came out of the blocks in the 400 she moved right to the front of the field and stayed there, battling with Hannah Albrecht of Cottage Grove and holding off Sutherlin’s Heidi Christiansen to take second with a PR of almost a second: 1:03.85.

“I was really nervous going into it,” James said. “I knew that I would have couple girls, at least, that would be pushing me. When I got out there, I started as fast as I could and I ended up trying to stay with the girl in front of me and that paid off in the end and I got second.

“As a freshman, I didn’t expect to make state. I did expect to do pretty good. I’m just happy that I did make it to state, even though it hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Keys said he was glad to see James pull it out after “missing her opportunity” in the high jump.

“It’s just confidence,” he said. “She came out of the blocks hard and now she’s making it to state as a freshman in the 400 meters. That’s awesome.”

He also noted that Dinsfriend, too, overcame an earlier disappointment, after getting called for a false start in the 110 hurdles.

Running in third entering the home stretch of the 300 hurdles, he passed Junction City senior Josiah Starr on the home stretch to post a personal best of nearly a second in 42.44 and earn a trip to state.

Dinsfriend said he felt bad for Starr, who fell at the finish line, “because he hurt himself and it’s his senior year and I beat him.”

He said he got a slower start than he’d hoped for, “but I made up for it in the end.

“Amazing. I’m just glad I could get my nerves in check and finish.”

Hiett, who scored in four events for the Huskies – the 100 hurdles (sixth), long jump (seventh), pole vault (sixth) and the triple jump, trailed Sisters freshman Jade Anaya coming into the finals, after landing awkwardly on her first attempt and “barely made it into the pit,” as she put it.

But on her fifth attempt she managed an effort of 32-10, which was good enough to outdistance Anaya and secure her second straight district title in the event.

“It was interesting, because I always know what I need to do, but it’s not always what happens,” Hiett said. “So I try to focus hard on one thing at a time – keep my hips forward, keep my legs extended out. And other than that, just trust myself to know what to do in the other phases.

“It’s been a rough season for me. I haven’t been close to my PR from last season (33-7¾) at all.

“I PR’d at state last season, so I’m hoping for the best.”

Blanchard, who went into the district meet as the league leader in the pole vault, came through in a steady downpour, winning with a jump of 13-0. Sisters senior Sam Lewis PR’d with a vault of 12-8 to take the second spot ahead of Sweet Home senior Dillon Stutzman, who jumped 11-6. Both Huskies were well under their all-time bests, but Blanchard was just happy to be heading for state, given the conditions.

“When it’s like that, you just have to jump at every bar happening,” he said. “You can’t overestimate the weather. You kind of just need to plan for the weather and make the best of it and hope to make bars when it’s the right time to.”

Blanchard hasn’t reached the PR of 13-6 he posted last year at Central Linn, where he placed second at the state 2A championships, but he said he’s hoping to hit that in the 4A competition.

“This year it’s just about moving up poles and moving up to bigger heights,” he said. “13-6 would be awesome, but 14 is what I’m shooting for.”

The Huskies had their share of highlights from some younger nonqualifiers, all of whom came close.

“I just can’t ask enough of these kids,” Keys said. “They’re all competitive. Their confidence is starting to show. If you look around at all the events, there’s somebody who did something they weren’t supposed to do.”

The biggest head-turner came from freshman Casey Tow in the 800, a race he had run twice before coming into the district meet.

Tow posted a nearly 15-second improvement from his first race, two weeks prior to Districts, bettering his time by roughly five seconds with each new race. His PR in the final was nearly six seconds, from 2:11.5 on Friday to 2:05.85 on Saturday.

He led the field for 600 meters until his lack of endurance training clearly caught up to him as he rounded the final curve and three competitors passed him. But he caught one of them at the finish line.

“Going in, my plan was just to start out really fast, keep them behind me, slow them down on the corners,” Tow said. “It worked until the last 300, then I tried to outmuscle them down the home stretch. “It felt pretty good, to get that much of a PR. It was pretty good.”

“That was the fourth 800 of his life,” Keys noted. “He had not really done any training.”

Sophomore Hayden Nichol also had a big day, in the 200, Saturday, taking fourth in 23.85, a PR of nearly half a second.

“Hayden Nichol had a huge PR in the 200 meter,” Keys said. “He performed extremely well. That’s a smoking time.”

Junior Austin Griffin had been steadily improving in the boys shot coming into the district and he also came through in the clutch, posting a four-foot PR of 39-9¼ to place fourth.

“I just kept thinking about all the things I worked on the week prior, about getting my hips and exploding onto that block,” Griffin said. “I really just concentrated on fixing the little things that made my shot work in the end to my benefit.”

Keys, who as an athlete led Sweet Home’s boys to three straight state championships in 2008-10, said low numbers have hindered the Huskies all season – particularly on the girls side.

Though the largest school, by far, in the league, Sweet Home fielded nine girls in the district meet, compared to 21 for Sisters, 20 for Cottage Grove and 16 for Junction City. The Huskies had no entries in any of the distance races, in which they were a dominant player several years ago.

Then, losing two of their best sprinters – senior Trey Reed, who transferred to Scio during Spring Break, and junior Bethany Gingerich, who injured her hamstring two weeks before Districts, added to the challenges.

“I really hope next year word can get out about how much fun this team is having and the success with the low numbers we’ve had,” Keys said. “Hopefully that brings more kids out next spring.

“But I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. And being my first year, this was probably the best way to start it. It’s a good group of kids, and we’re not going to lose a lot of seniors, although those seniors are really good leaders on the team. That’s kind of the daunting aftermath of this meet, is that kids are going to be moving on.”

He said there’s more to the program than just winning.

“The PR’s are great and the winning is great, but these kids are learning a lot about themselves and about what hard work and how to deal with failure and setback. Then they come back and stay in the mindset of improving and working on themselves.

“I couldn’t be more happy.”

2017 Sky-Em District

Track and Field Championships

Top Two (State Qualifiers) and Sweet Home Finishers

(Finishes below eighth place are preliminaries results except in jumps and 3000 and 1500 distances.)

**Personal Record

Boys Results

Team Scores – (1) Cottage Grove 162; (2) Junction City 157; (3) Sisters 115.5; (4) Elmira 91; (5) Sweet Home 86.5; (6) Sutherlin 38.

100 – (1) Jacob Woods (Cottage Grove) 11.37; (2) Jake Rogers (Junction City) 11.38; (4) Austin Stevens (SH) **11.84; (6) Justin Carpenter (SH) 12.07; (7) Nick Rietz (SH) 12.09.

200 – (1) Jake Rogers (Junction City) 23.08; (2) Jacob Woods (Cottage Grove) 23.17; (4) Hayden Nichol (SH) **23.85; (10) Nick Rietz (SH) 24.90.

400 – (1) Karson Laing (Elmira) 52.48; (2) Michel Vargas (Junction City) 52.51; (5) Nathan Hager (SH) 53.84; (7) Wes Parker (SH) 54.91; (10) Noah Taraski (SH) 54.90.

800 – (1) Conner McAdams (Junction City) 2:04.79; (2) Keaton Green (Sisters) 2:05.36; (3) Casey Tow (SH) **2:05.85; (8) Austin Sills (SH) 2:20.97; (13) Ricky Yunke (SH) 2:20.70 .

1500 – (1) Jordan Pollard (Sisters) 4:16.24; (2) Carson Bain (Elmira) 4:18.88; ((13) Tanner Sayers (SH) 4:43.13; (14) Austin Sills (SH) **4:46.49; (15) Ricky Yunke (SH) **4:48.20.

3000 – (1) Joran Pollard (Sisters) 9:40.70; (2) Konrad Raum (Cottage Grove) 9:40.70; (9) Tanner Sayers (SH) 9:55.18; (14) Cameron Taber (SH) 11:06.46.

110 Hurdles – (1) Keegan Greaney (Sisters) 15.84 (2) Tanner Barth (Junction City) 16.17; Noah Dinsfriend (SH) DQ.

300 Hurdles – (1) Keegan Greaney (Sisters) 40.40; (2) Noah Dinsfriend (SH) **42.44; (6) Lance Hanson (SH) **44.97.

4×100 Relay – (1) Junction City 44.31; (2) Cottage Grove 44.60; (3) Sweet Home (Nick Rietz, Austin Stevens, Hayden Nichol, Justin Carpenter) 45.09; (4) Sisters 45.70; (5) Elmira 46.40.

4×400 Relay – (1) Sisters 3:30.95; (2) Sweet Home (Wes Parker, Noah Taraski, Austin Stevens, Nathan Hager) 3:34.54; (3) Junction City 3:37.93; (4) Elmira 3:45.05; (5) Cottage Grove 3:51.38.

Shot Put – (1) Tristan Needham (Sutherlin) 42-2¼; (2) Hunter Hall (Cottage Grove) 43-0¼; (4) Austin Griffin (SH) **39-9¼; (11) Noah Moore (SH) 34-11; (14) Jake Swanson (SH) *32-10¼.

Discus – (1) Tristan Needham (Sutherlin) 129-9; Finn Mitchell (Junction City) 128-6; (8) Jake Swanson (SH) **96-7; (12) Austin Griffin (SH) **87-4; (16) Noah Moore (SH) 72-6.

Javelin – (1) Tristan Needham (Sutherlin) 159-11; (2) William Weaver (Elmira) 158-11; (10) Jake Swanson (SH) 131-10; (12) Dillon Stutzman (SH) 130-3; (13) Nathan Hager (SH) 119-10 .

High Jump – (1) Erick Vallejo Giffen (Cottage Grove) 6-1; (2) Brandon Land (Junction City) 5-11; (6) Casey Tow (SH) 5-5; (8) Noah Dinsfriend (SH) **5-3; (11) Connor Russell (SH) 4-11.

Pole Vault – (1) Eric Blanchard (SH) 13-0; (2) Sam Lewis (Sisters) 12-8; (3) Dillon Stutzman (SH) 11-6; (7) Brad Wolthuis (SH) 9-0.

Long Jump – (1) Tucker Porter (Cottage Grove) 28-8; (2) Jacob Woods (Cottage Grove) 20-6; (4) Austin Stevens (SH) 19-0.

Triple Jump – (1) Brandon Land (Junction City) 40-4; (2) Tucker Porter (Cottage Grove) 40-2; (8) Lance Hanson (SH) 37-4½; (10) Wes Parker (SH) 35-11.

Girls Results

Team Scores – (1) Sisters 175; (2) Cottage Grove 170; (3) Elmira 116; (4) Junction City 79; (5) Sutherlin 57.5; (6) Sweet Home 56.5.

100 – (1) Erynn Ricker (Sisters) 12.90; (2) Hannah Albrecht (Cottage Grove) 13.00; (16-tie) Ria Chiba (SH), Jessi Thomas (SH) 14.80.

200 – (1) Mandi Calavan (Sisters) 27.70; (2) Hannah Albrecht (Cottage Grove) 28.20; (14) Ria Chiba (SH) 32-0; (16) McKenzie Yoder (SH) 33.40 .

400 – (1) Hannah Albrecht (Cottage Grove) 1:01.77; (2) Zoe James (SH) **1:03.85; (10) Mc[Kenzie Yoder (SH) 1:12.70.

800 – (1) Shayla Solomon (Junction City) 2:25.99; (2) Hudson Weybright (Cottage Grove) 2:29.85; No Sweet Home entrants.

1500 – (1) Anna Bartlett (Sisters) 5:05.06; (2) Sabrina James (Cottage Grove) 5:08.98; No Sweet Home entrants.

3000 – (1) Anna Bartlett (Sisters) 11:31/30; (2) Sabrina James (Cottage Grove) 11:31.30; No Sweet Home entrants.

100 Hurdles – (1) Sabrina Reifschneider (Sisters) 16.31; (2) Faryn Dahlen (Cottage rove) 16.97; (6) Dana Hiett (SH) 17.78.

300 Hurdles – (1) Sabrina Reifschneider (Sisters) 48.30; (2) Amy Hills (Sisters) 49.98; (8) Madelyn Neuschwander (SH) 56.43.

4×100 Relay – (1) Sisters 50.82; (2) Junction City 52.65; (3) Sutherlin 53.38; (4) Cottage Grove 53.75; (5) Sweet Home (Gracie Olson, Madelyn Neuschwander, Jessi Thomas, Alice Ramsey) 56.93; (6) Elmira 57.00.

4×400 Relay – (1) Sisters 4:16.17; (2) Cottage Grove 4:20.70; (3) Junction City 4:23.78; (4) Elmira 4:43.87; (5) Sweet Home (McKenzie Yoder, Gracie Olson, Jessi Thomas, Madelyn Neuschwander) 4:46.43.

Shot Put – (1) Cassidy Herbert (Cottage Grove) 30-10½; (2) Kiersten Porter (Sutherlin) 30-3¾; (8) Megan Hager (SH) 26-0; (12) Shelby Goodwin (SH) 20-5¾; (13) Sarah Hewitt (SH) 18-7.

Discus – (1) Miranda Harrison (Elmira) 100-4; (2) Megan Hager (SH) **98-6; (8) Kendyl Stutzman (SH) 67-6; (9) Sarah Hewitt (SH) **65-9.

Javelin – (1) Emillia Carpenter (Elmira) 115-7; (2) Julianne Meeter (Sisters) 115-2; (7) Kendyl Stutzman (SH) 92-0; (12) Megan Hager (SH) 78-8.

High Jump – (1) Ryliereece Morgan (Sisters) 4-10; (2) Keara Murphy (Cottage Grove) 4-10; (4) Zoe James (SH) 4-8.

Pole Vault – (1) Erynn Ricker (Sisters) 9-0; (2) Marissa Shults (Elmira) 9-0; (4) Gracie Olson (SH) 8-6; (6) Dana Hiett (SH) 8-0.

Long Jump – (1) Ryliereece Morgan (Sisters) 15-3½; (2) Kennady Laing (Elmira) 14-9¾; (7) Dana Hiett (SH) 14-6½; (13) Ria Chiba (SH) 13-4; (16) Jinny Chawengchote (SH) 11-8.

Triple Jump – (1) Dana Hiett (SH) 32-10; (2) Jade Anaya (Sisters) 32-4; (11) Gracie Olson (SH) 26-11.