One championship, three seconds give boys fourth at state track meet

Scott Swanson

It had been nearly a decade since Sweet Home last brought home a team trophy in boys track and field, but the Huskies broke that drought Saturday, May 19, at the state 4A championships with a fourth-place finish.

It was the fourth trophy in the history of the Sweet Home boys track program.

The meet was held this year at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, together with the 3A Division championships, due to construction at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field, where the championships are usually held.

“We went in and there was a lot of coaches that had us plugged in for only 36 points,” Coach Dakotah Keys said of his team, which finished with 46.

“They didn’t have us even coming close to placing. They guys stayed stayed confident.”

The finish was a little bittersweet for the Huskies, who wound up a close second to Gladstone in a literal footrace for third place in the 4×400 relay.

Newport won the boys title with 65 points, followed by Mazama (59), Gladstone (49.5) and the Huskies, who finished ahead of La Grande (42) and Sisters (36).

Hidden Valley won the girls title with 97 points, ahead of Philomath (69.5), Marshfield (51.5) and North Valley (49). The Huskies scored three points to finish 28th, tied with McLoughlin and Tillamook.

Sweet Home had four individual medalists for the boys.

Senior Noah Dinsfriend won the 300 hurdles and placed a close second in the 110 high hurdles.

Junior Casey Tow finished second in the 400 and sophomore Tristan Calkins was also second, in a tie-breaker, in the long jump.

The boys’ day started with a bit of an upset – the good kind, by Hanson, Dinsfriend, Tow and Brad Wolthuis, who stepped in to replace Calkins, who had an injured hip flexor. They finished fifth in the 4×100 relay after coming in as the ninth seed in the event.

Wolthuis powered down the home stretch on the anchor leg in fifth place to clock 44.71.

“I came in as an alternate,” he said. “Tristan just wasn’t up to par, so I got stuck in. I knew it was going to be tight, filling in that spot. I felt good about it. I knew we were seeded first in our (slow) heat, but I knew we were going to have to push a little harder if we wanted to get on the podium. That’s what happened.

“It felt really good to get fifth, especially coming in as an alternate and not even going to get a medal and now I’m going home with a medal.”

The girls short relay team of Jessy Hart, Torree Hawken, Zoe James and Kate Hawken also got on the podium, running out of Lane 1 in the fast heat to finish eighth. They came back in the 4×400 to finish ninth in 4:13.40, one spot out of the medals.

“You can’t look past the women’s side. They did good,” Keys said. “They had a slight PR in the 4×100 and they came in ninth and took ninth in the 4×400.

“They all stepped up and ran another PR in that. They did really good. All of those girls are coming back except for Kate. The program needs to keep growing. We’re going to keep seeing more success.”

Junior Katen Edwards’ first experience at state ended with 11th place in the javelin, with a best throw of 105-7.

“It felt great to be at state,” Edwards said. “When I went out there to throw the javelin, I felt really calm, but my results didn’t turn out as good as I wanted them to be. I was hoping to get a PR. It just didn’t turn out.

“I wish it would be Hayward Field, but this is as close as I’m going to get.”

Sophomore Jessy Hart was seventh in the 400 after getting in as a wildcard entry following a third place-finish in the district championships. Running out of Lane 1, the least advantageous in that event, she finished in 1:00.66 after running 1:01.09 to qualify in a fast prelim the day before.

“I had a slower start than I wanted, but I got the comeback that I wanted,” Hart said. “I was kind of hoping that I would break 60 (seconds), but – next year. I’m just glad I placed.”

Keys said Hart’s performance was “a success.”

“She got the wild card to compete there. She made it to the finals. She ran a good race from Lane 1 to take seventh, a tenth of a second off her lifetime best.

“That was such a good experience for her. She’s going to go back next year and be someone who’s going to be in contention. She’s finding herself and becoming more confident.”

On the boys side, in the 4×400, Saultz, a junior, stepped in for Calkins, as he and Dinsfriend, Tow and Hanson finished second in a valiant attempt by Hanson, on the anchor leg, to catch Gladstone.

The Huskies still finished in a big season’s-best of 3:26.45, just a second off the school record of 3:25.53 they’ve been chasing all year, set in 2009 by Robert Callagan, Nick Hall, Sam Macklin and Tim McDowell.

Their goal was to beat Gladstone, which had run five seconds ahead of them all year to lead the state 4A teams in the event, to get third place by half a point.

“I wish I could have pulled through to get that third, but that fourth is pretty nice,” Hanson said afterwards, as he got his wind back. “It was great seeing Tristan Saultz come in for Calkins, and run a great race. We ended up PR’ing by five seconds, which is great to do at a state meet, only a second off our school record, which is really nice.”

Keys called their performance “impressive.”

“I told them before race (that the Huskies needed to win) and they said, ‘It’s time to go. We’re going to do this.’ To PR like that is pretty amazing. They came pretty close.”

Tow was second in the 400, in 50.66 after finishing with the fastest time (51.45) in the prelims the day before.

He went out fast but Sisters’ Brody Anderson and Hidden Valley’s Jeremiah Noga opened a small gap on the backstretch before Tow powered down the homestretch, passing Noga and nearly catching Anderson, who ran 50.45.

“I felt pretty good,” he said. “Going in, I felt really prepared. I wanted to get a good start and I felt like I kind of did. My backstretch, I was smooth but I should have stayed with the (lanes) 5 and 6 guys a little more. Down the homestretch, I was stronger than both of them, but they had just gotten out there too far.”

Keys noted that this year Tow focused almost exclusively on the hurdles, which meant “he sacrificed a lot of stuff he was comfortable with – the javelin, distance.”

“He made it count.”

Calkins, due to his injury, was limited to the long jump, but came through with second place after leaping 21-7¼ on his third attempt, which tied leader Ben Carringer of Mazama, who out-jumped Calkins for the tiebreaker by half an inch on their second longest efforts, 21-6¾ to 21-6½.

Sweet Home fans got a clap rhythm going for him that, he said, was helpful.

He said his hip was making its presence known, “but Coach put me through a really nice warmup so it wasn’t really hurting in prelims.”

He said that following the break between the preliminaries and the finals, in which the top nine jumpers take three more attempts, “it started hurting in the final. I’m a very strong third jumper. So that was the one. With the drive and the crowd, it was amazing. It would have been nice to get first, but I did my best and that’s what matters. Next year, first.”

Keys credited Calkins for getting the team some points by “pushing through the muscle strain.”

“All of those guys, they’re so mentally tough,” he said.

Dinsfriend finished second in the 110 hurdles in 15.84, then followed that up with a championship in the 300 hurdles, in 40.21 – after setting a PR of 40.01 in prelims the day before.

In the 110s, he said, he got a little “sloppy” before closing on winner Trevin Del Nero of Philomath (15.82) over the final three hurdles.

“It was a good day,” he said. “I was feeling pretty good about it. I just had a lot of good friends in that race, so I was happy to compete against them.

“The last three hurdles were good, but not good enough to catch him by .02 I was hoping. It was close.”

After that close second, “I was really hungry for a win. That’s what I went into the 300 hurdles with.”

“He got it done this year,” Keys said, noting that Dinsfriend’s 300 was the third-fastest ever for the Huskies and his 110 was fifth in the school record book. “That’s pretty good.”

Dinsfriend, who has competed in more state finals than any other current Husky, said the trophy is significant.

“Every year you lose a couple of good runners and get a couple,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to know when you are going to get enough to win something. I’ve been working with a lot of these kids for a couple of years.

“We just got a good morale boost and went into the season pretty strong. After that we realized, ‘Hey, we can do something good this year. We didn’t have quite enough depth, but where we were good, we were good.”

Keys said the trophy is an indicator that the program is growing, but “obviously, it’s not about the end result.”

“It’s about these kids learning some really good stuff and becoming confident. The other stuff is just cherries on top. It just comes down to kids being willing to compete, being confident.

“The program needs to keep growing. We’re going to keep seeing more success.”