The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Noah Dinsfriend, Kate Hawken named Husky track MVPs


June 5, 2019

TRACK AND FIELD award recipients are, from left, Lance Hanson, Hailey Green, Noah Moore, Madelyn Neuschwander, Austin Sills, Torree Hawken, Jake Swanson, Shelbey Nichol, Tristan Caulkins, Zoe James, Noah Dinsfriend, Kate Hawken, Casey Tow, Kennedi Waldrop, Tanner Waldrop, Katen Edwards, Robbie Yunke, Jessy Hart and Tristan Saultz.

Seniors Noah Dinsfriend and Kate Hawken were named Most Valuable track and field athletes Friday evening, May 31, during the teams' awards dinner.

Coach Dakotah Keys noted that this year's team bought into the coaches' philosophy of creating an environment in which athletes could "grow with confidence" which, he said, hopefully will translate into confidence in seeking jobs and higher education.

"They were working out, pushing themselves to do something they didn't think they could do at first," he said.

The boys finished fourth in the state, with only seven competitors.

Keys said the way to improvement for the Huskies is depth.

"Strength in numbers is what it takes to be successful," he said. "If build that confidence, we just have to continue to grow."

He said that seniors provided a lot of leadership this year for Sweet Home, particularly Hawken and Dinsfriend.

Hawken decided to try track part-time last year after skipping her sophomore year after an injury-ridden freshman season.

She was fourth, in a PR of 13.03 in the district 100, and anchored the Huskies' 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams in both the district and state competitions.

"I'm so glad she came back out for track," Keys said. "I had heard so much about her athletic ability."

With Bethany Gingerich moving on to college, the Huskies needed leadership and "Kate filled that spot," he said.

Hawken is "humble, hardworking" and others gravitate to her because of that, he added.

"Kate comes to practice every day with focus and determination," he said.

The MVP honor was the second for Dinsfriend, who won a state championship this year in the 300 hurdles, in 40.01 – the third fastest in school history, after finishing second, by a hair, in the 110 hurdles, and helped the boys to a surprise fifth-place finish in the 4x100 relay and then second in the 4x400, which gave them their first team trophy since 2010.

He finishes his high school career with the fifth-fastest time (15.54) in the high hurdles and helping the boys to their second-fastest long relay time ever (3:26.45).

"He's very calm. Humble. Extremely competitive. Relentless when it comes to accomplishing goals," Keys said.

Dinsfriend pushed others during sprint workouts and competition and "individually, he was somebody people naturally looked up to, not only because of his success but because of his personality. He has hidden confidence and he's very approachable. He truly has had an impact."

Distance Runners of the Year were senior Madelyn Neuschwander and junior Tristan Saultz.

Neuschwander switched from sprints and hurdles this year, said Keys, who coached the distance crew.

She was Sweet Home's top performer in every distance event.

"The will she has to compete, I haven't seen in a lot of kids," Keys said. "She trains hard, physically, mentally."

Saultz was the Huskies' fastest 1500 runner (4:33.20) and a close second in the 800 (2:04.52) and stepped in to help the boys 4x400 relay team to second at district and state, running a 52-second split at state.

He'd improved from 1:06 to 1:02 in that distance as a freshman – without a lot of raw talent, Keys noted.

The difference, he said, was due to Saultz's dedication in the weight room and winter mileage.

"He leads in the distance program," Keys said. "He's a valuable asset to the program."

Best Throwers were junior Katen Edwards and seniors Noah Moore and Jake Swanson, all javelin throwers, introduced by Coach Nathan Whitfield.

Edwards improved by 10 feet this season to 115-9, which qualified her for state and is third on the list of Sweet Home performers, Whitfield said.

"No. 2 is still a foot in front of her and No. 1" – his sister, Annie Whitfield at 144-2, "is still a ways out there," he said, adding that he things Edwards could make big strides next season in that event.

Swanson threw 159-11 at districts this year, a season's best, but fell short of the 172-4 mark he had as a junior.

Moore threw a PR of 159-3, but it wasn't at the district meet.

"At one point they were second and eighth in the state, both top-10," Whitfield said, calling them "two of the hardest, toughest workers."

Coach Chris Carpenter inroduced the Best Jumpers – sophomores Shelbey Nichol and Tristan Caulkins.

Nichol, he said, came into the season "with a whole new determination" and ended up with a 32-4 PR in the triple jump.

Calkins was good in the long jump as a freshman, Carpenter said, but finished with a best of 19-9. He came into this season telling Carpenter he wanted to jump 20 feet, but he broke that mark with a 20-6 in the first meet.

"Every single meet he came out and broke his PR until he jumped 22-3," the coach said. "That was a huge jump."

Calkins finished second overall at state after suffering an injury and jumping 21-7¾.

"All winter, he was texting me every single day," Carpenter said. "All that hard work really paid off."

Coach Ramiro Santana introduced the Best Sprinters, junior Casey Tow and sophomore Jessy Hart.

He said both showed a strong work ethic that paid off on the track.

Tow finished second in the 400 at state, in 50.66, just off the PR of 50.58 he set at districts – both losses to Sisters' Brody Anderson.

Hart set a personal best of 1:00.49 at the district meet, then ran 1:00.66 in Lane 1 at state to finish seventh.

"I've been here a long time," Santana said. "These two are incredible, the way they do their workouts, in practice."

The Newcomer Award, given to a rookie in the sport, went to senior Kennedi Waldrop and her freshman brother Tanner Waldrop.

Kennedi Waldrop tried the discus for the first time this year and PR'd in the event in all but two meets, including a 6-foot PR at the district meet to finish third with a throw of 104-10.

"If she had been in any other league, she would have made it to state," said Whitfield, who introduced the honorees. "I wish I could have had her for four years."

He said Tanner Waldrop, whom he coached in football, developed a love for the discus and improved steadily, also PR'ing in all but two meets during the season.

"After the first meet he threw, it was like a lightbulb turned on," Whitfield said. "He started showing up for morning lifting."

Waldrop improved by 23 feet over the course of the season, throwing a PR of 105-6 to finish on the podium in eighth at the district meet.

Most Improved, introduced by Santana, were senior Austin Sills and sophomore Hailey Green.

Sills, who had been primarily a distance runner during his first three years of track, tried the long jump this year and became one of the best in the league, improving by two feet to max out at 19-11, which he matched at the district meet to place fourth.

But he also improved dramatically in the 800, finishing fourth at district in a jostling final, in a PR of 2:03.83 – nearly 12 seconds over his best as a junior.

"He's come a long way," Santana said. "I could not believe how fast he was going."

Green, who got to track later than her teammates due to commitments to the dance team, still came on strong in the six weeks that she competed, placing sixth in the 400 at districts, running a three-second PR of 1:04.92.

"She amazes me, how well she has done this year," Santana said. "If she comes earlier in the season, her times from last year to this year would be incredible. We're going to lose Kate. If she works, she could be a top runner in the state."

The Mad Dog award, given to an athlete who pushes him or herself mentally and refuses to back down, is based on the legendary painted stone awards that now-retired Coach Billy Snow used to make from rocks he picked up on runs, painted with students' names and exploits, and tossed to them during team meetings, said Keys, who said he always coveted those awards.

"I always wanted to fight for them," he said, introducing this year's winners: senior Lance Hanson and junior Torree Hawken.

Hanson was a key contributor on both relay teams that placed at state and ran a nail-biting anchor lap to barely lose to Gladstone in the long relay at state in a race for the third-place team trophy.

Hanson "brings pure determination to the table in this program," Keys said. "He's one of the few kids who came in with a goal in mind: He wanted to be the best sprinter on the team. He wanted to go to George Fox. He set his mind on some pretty hefty goals."

Hanson is also humble enough to be teachable, "which is sometimes hard for kids," Keys continued.

"He's definitely one of those kids who, purely through determination, is able to push himself."

Hawken came out for high school track for the first time this year, he noted.

"I'm thankful and I think a lot of kids in the program are as well," he said, adding that Hawken filled gaps left by graduates last year in the relays. "The 4x4 is definitely out of her comfort zone. I really have seen very few push themselves the way she pushes herself in the 400."

Coaches Awards, to athletes who have stepped up to help others, went to junior Zoe James and senior Robbie Yunke.

Carpenter said James "gave a lot of sass" but delivered.

She didn't want to continue high jumping, in which she'd competed through her first two high school seasons, but offered to try the long jump instead and ended up being one of the top three jumpers for Sweet Home.

Whitfield introduced Yunke, saying coaches had dificulties knowing where to place him over his high school years in track and field.

Yunke "loved the javelin" but wasn't outstanding in that event, Whitfield said.

This year he tried hurdles, but kept working on the javelin on the side and blossomed.

"Two weeks before districts I told him he'd be throwing a districts," Whitfield said, and Yunke caught fire, throwing a 16-foot PR of 156-1 to place fifth.

"We didn't have him placing at all. He came out with attitude and beat everyone."

Fourth-year letters went to seniors Noah Dinsfriend, Lance Hanson, Noah Moore, Madelyn Neuschwander, Hayden Nichol, Austin Sills and Jake Swanson.

Third-year letter winners were junior Megan Hager, Kate Hawken, Zoe James, Tristan Saultz, Casey Tow and senior Brad Wolthuis.

Second-year letters went to Tristan Calkins, Katen Edwards, Hailey Green, Jessy Hart, sophomore Sicily Neuschwander, Shelby Nichols, junior Hannah Powell, sophomore Natalie Rodgers, junior Kirsten Watkins and Robbie Yunke.

First-year letter recipients were freshman Aiyana Alford-Grimes, freshman Paul Amrein, freshman Mercedes Burks, junior Sevin Carson, freshman Nathaniel Coleman, sophomore Keegan Fox, Hailey Green, Torree Hawken, sophomore Kailey James, senior Parker Lemmer, freshman Jorel Leyba, sophomore Jillian Lynn, freshman Eddy Martinez-Maya, junior Eric Roddy, freshman Aiden Shamek, Kennedi Waldrop, Tanner Waldrop and sophomore Crystal Wolfe.


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