Sweet Home continuing to climb the ranks in track and field

Some seasonal weather seemed to put some spring into Sweet Home’s top track athletes Saturday, April 22, as most posted personal bests in the Meet of Champions, one of the premier meets in the state for smaller schools.

On Tuesday, April 18, the Huskies hosted Cascade and a number of smaller schools, which gave them a chance to qualify more athletes for the Saturday meet, and which resulted in a slew of personal bests.

The Saturday meet, hosted by Sweet Home in conjunction with Cascade, featured hundreds of the top performers from 1A through 4A division schools, all of whom had to qualify to compete.

“The meet went really well,” said Sweet Home Head Coach Nathan Whitfield, who directed the event. “The kids did pretty well,” adding, “To be honest, you get a little bit of good weather, things start happening.”

Philomath, which has clearly emerged from the COVID pandemic in the best position among OWC teams, swept both the boys and girls competitions, as the Warriors showed their depth and power with top placers in key events, particularly the sprints.

But Sweet Home’s boys and girls both showed that they are moving up the ladder in the short relays, both posting season-best times.

The girls 4×100 team of Stephanie Saultz, Kaylynn Mamac, Amelia Sullens and Loralai Mark took a big jump in the OWC standings, moving into third after bettering their season-best by nearly a second to finish in 53.99.

Then, the girls 4×400 team of Wright, Natiya Koenig Walters, Miler and Sullens cut a whopping 11 seconds off the previous season-best in that event for Sweet Home, finishing in 4:38.35, which moved them from the bottom of the OWC to fourth.

The boys short relay team of Conner Stevens, Dakota Seiber, Von James and Chase Cameron were leading through most of the race until the final 50 meters, when Philomath’s Warwick Bushnell was able to catch Cameron to finish in 44.69, as Cameron crossed the finish line in 44.83, a PR of 1.28 seconds for Sweet Home, which moved the Huskies solidly into second place in the OWC standings, by .17 second, behind the Warriors.

Sweet Home’s top performer was, once again, senior Mason Lopez, who finished second in the javelin with a throw of 169-3, short of the 169-3 he threw at North Marion two weeks ago. But going into this week hewas ranked third in the 4A Division, behind Keegan Young of North Bend, who has thrown 173-3, and Estacada’s Cody White (172-5), who won the event at Meet of Champions.

Lopez is also ranked third in the Oregon West Conference in both the 110 Hurdles and the 300 Hurdles, in which he posted a PR of 44.44. He didn’t PR in the Meet of Champions 110, though he came close with a 17.89 in what was his sixth-ever race in that event.

Sophomore Kasey Kast moved into third in the OWC standings with a PR of 2:07.63 as he placed seventh in the 800.

Chase Cameron, also a sophomore and new to high school track, placed eighth in the 100 in 11.95, a personal best.

In the shot, Nathan Aker improved by a foot to 43-2¼, which puts him in fourth place in the OWC.

Tomas Stafford moved into fourth in the OWC discus standings as well, with an 8-foot PR of 123-6.

“Tomas had a big day,” Whitfield noted. “He finally broke 120.”

Freshman Mckenzie Miller had a big day for the girls in the 1500, cutting 11 seconds off her previous best to finish ninth in 5:19.89, which moved her solidly into fifth place in the OWC standings.

Lydia Wright posted a four-second PR in the 800, taking 12th in 2:42.48, in what was the fourth time she’d competed at that distance. Earlier, she’d also PR’d in the 400, cutting nearly a second off her previous best to place 12th in 1:06.19.

“Lydia Wright, we finally know where her home is,” Whitfield said of the junior’s success in the 800. “She’s PR’ing in almost every race. We never knew what side of middle distance she was on. We were so short-handed (in the past two years), she was doing all sorts of stuff.”

As the season moves into its final month, Whitfield said his young team, particularly in experience, is making progress. The fact that the Huskies have numbers means athletes can focus on specific events, he said.

“In the past, with our younger kids, we really didn’t know where they fit in. Now we have a bunch of kids who know where they fit, and they’re improving a lot.”

The Huskies skipped the Oregon West Tri Meet they were scheduled to participate in on Monday and they will not travel Saturday, April 29, to the Stayton Invitational because that meet would have made it difficult for Sweet Home kids to get home in time for prom.

They are scheduled to host Stayton Tuesday, May 2, before hosting the Oregon West Conference championships May 19-20.

Also, some Huskies will likely compete in the OWC JV Districts meet at North Marion on May 15.

“At this point, I’m excited to see what happens,” Whitfield said of the upcoming weeks. “I’m hoping the peak is still coming. I hope we get a lot of people through at district to state. Not everybody is expecting us to do that but our kids are moving up the ranks. We have a lot of potential, considering how young our team is.”

See more Meet of Champions photos in our online gallery.