Sweet Home boys qualify for state track in three events

Benny Westcott and Scott Swanson

Sweet Home qualified six athletes in three events – with a few more close misses – at the Oregon West Conference district championships Friday and Saturday at Husky Field.

Although the boys were fourth in the team standings, and the girls finished seventh, both scored more points than, Coach Nathan Whitfield said, coaches had expected.

“I think districts went really well,” he said. “A lot of kids showed up. The majority of them did really, really well. There’s always some disappointments, but that’s the nature of the beast.”

The girls, who had

Qualifying for state were the Huskies’ 4×100 relay team of freshman Conner Stevens, juniors Dakota Seiber and Von James and senior Charley Crawford, who took the district title in that event, along with junior Mason Lopez, who won the javelin. Also qualifying was senior Aiden Shamek in the triple jump.

The biggest surprise of the day was probably the boys 4×100 relay team who won the district title over a Woodburn team that had topped the league standings for weeks.

Though Whitfield said he expected them to finish in the top two to qualify, ” I didn’t see first place coming.”

“But they nailed their handoffs and did what they needed to do and they took first, which was awesome.”

“Our guys really worked hard this meet,” Stevens said. “We just pulled around every corner and got them at the end.”

He said the handoffs were key to the victory. “Everyone was right on their handoffs and just got them done quick.”

He has realistic expectations for the state meet. “I think we’ll do good, but there’s a lot of people that are doing better than us. So we’re going to try our best.”

“We were thinking that we were going to get second overall, because that’s what we were simulated to get,” James said. “But when the gun went off, something just kicked in us. The first exchange between Conner and Dakota was so good, and I just felt as though I needed to keep it up. So I ran my best. I ran really fast. I didn’t think I had that in me.”

James handed off to Crawford, who sealed the victory.

“Every meet we’ve just been doing what we do best, running and running,” James said.

He also noted the importance of handoffs. “I feel like we take more time during practice to do handoffs than any other event, so it really paid off today.”

Looking ahead, he said “I feel like we’ll do really well at state. We have a really good shot. We have another week of tapering, ice baths and stretching.”

Lopez’s second trip to state – he placed sixth at the end of last year’s truncated senior as a sophomore – wasn’t a surprise, he said.

“Mason’s been pretty consistent, luckily, and he showed up when we needed him to do it. Now he’s seeded No. 2 going into the state meet.”

Lopez said that he was stuck in the 130s and 140s during the season.

“I was in a trench and couldn’t get out of it. I was expecting to throw a little farther (at districts), but it still wasn’t bad,”he said.

Things changed this season when he started working on technique the past couple of weeks. He said he listened to other people and watched videos, and focused on the little things.

He said he felt good and was happy after he won the javelin. He had to leave early to participate in a hurdle event, but was “smiling the whole race.”

He said he is very excited for the state meet and has never been to Hayward Field, which was largely completed last year after a total reconstruction and will be hosting the track and field World Championships this summer – after it hosts the high school championships.

Shamek never quite got the long jump he wanted – a 20-footer, placing a disappointing sixth on Friday, but he came back Saturday with a 40-0¾, a 9-inch personal best, in the triple to place second behind Newport’s Quintin Travis and nail a berth at Hayward Field this Saturday afternoon.

“He finally put it together and did what he needed to,” Whitfield said.

“This whole season I’ve been looking for a 40-foot jump,” Shamek said, who achieved that feat on his last effort. “I was just praying for a good jump, and I hit that 40 and its probably the most exciting moment ever. I’m so happy.”

He said the keys to making state were “putting in the work, watching how I eat, stretching and everything. My whole body hurts by the end of workouts.”

“It’s just pushing myself, honestly,” he continued. “I’m very proud of myself for how I did today.”

He said going to the state meet is “a little intimidating.”

“But I’m really excited to see where I can get myself. I’m definitely going to put in the extra work to PR even higher.”

Shamek also placed fourth in the pole vault, in which he was competing for the second time in his life, jumping 9-0 to finish a foot higher than his maiden effort in that event 10 days earlier.

On the girls side, senior Victoria Ferrioli exited high school with an exclamation point, finishing fourth with a PR of 8-6.

Senior Kami Hart just missed a state berth in the shot, with a third-place finish.

Conner Stevens one of only two underclassmen in 100 finals, finishing fourth in a personal best 11.85.

In the boys 100, James barely made it into the finals with an eighth-place finish in the 100 prelims on Friday, then followed up Saturday with fifth-place finish in a personal best of 11.92. He then just missed state with a third-place finish in the 200 in 24.72 after running PR of 24.33 the day before.

Although other teams also have plenty of underclassmen on their rosters, Whitfield noted that the Huskies only had four seniors and a junior in the district tournament, one of whom was hurt.

The boys were also missing freshman Kasey Kast, who was the Huskies’ second-fastest 800-meter runner and third-fastest in the 1500 going into districts, who was out with an injury.

This season and the district meet will give Sweet Home momentum going into next season, Whitfield said.

“I think it’s going to help just build them up immensely. All those freshmen and sophomores, they’re all returning and they’re going to have a lot more experience and be a lot more competitive next year,” he said.