The regular season is largely fodder for the Jesuit boys track and field team — two months of ramp up to what really matters most — the Metro League district and state championship meets.
All the dual meets, all the inter-season showcases, all the big galas that arise throughout the course of the year are merely checkpoints dotted throughout a rigorous training program devised for peak performances in the postseason. Jesuit believes personal records will pop when momentous medals hang in the balance because of preparation that's applied in the months prior.
And so, while Beaverton and Sunset appeared poised to pull off an upset, the Crusaders came to a crescendo on their home turf, winning the Metro League district championship meet with 182 points at Cronin Field on May 12. The Crusaders and the rest of Metro will chase Class 6A state championship glory at Hayward Field on Friday and Saturday.
"The team is catching fire at the right time," Jesuit junior Josh Schumacher said. "We're coming on. It's exciting. Our coaches do a great job of prepping us for these meets. We know results might not be going perfectly early on, but it's all part of the process. They're constantly telling us the results will come, the drops (in time) will come. Everything we do is pointed toward this point in the season. That's what is showing on the track and in the field."
The Apollos took second with 135 points while the Beavers were third with 88. Westview finished fourth with 74 points, Southridge was fifth (52 points) and Aloha took ninth (20 points).
Beaverton was a possible threat to Jesuit's crown because of their stable of sprinters and various standouts in the field events such as Beau Sheeran in the high jump and Braden Masanga in the pole vault. Sunset, likewise, sported a stout long distance crew that was based around its killer cross country team. Yet, as has been the case for nearly two decades, Jesuit relished the best breakthroughs in a timely fashion on the second-biggest stage.
"This point in the year is where championships are won," Schumacher said. "Meets like Centennial (Invitational) and Twilight (Relays) are good practice, good rehearsals for districts and state. And, we approach them as such because how you do in those meets is indicative of how you do in the end. But at the same time, we're not totally tapered down or mentally engaged. Districts and state are always in the back of our minds."
Schumacher swept the 1,500 (3:58.08) and 3,000 (8:29.66) and was the only Crusader to win more than one event over the two-day event. After dealing with a number of nagging injuries that sidelined him for most of the year, the junior came to Cronin with fresh legs and a re-energized mental state. Though Schumacher was sidelined, he was still able to attend a majority of Jesuit's meets, which only whetted his appetite to race full bore. With age-old archenemy Sunset senior Andy Muha in hot pursuit in both long distance races, Schumacher was able to stay back and then unleash his long limbs into action for the runaway victories.
"I learned a lot about patience last year ... that if you get in a groove late (in the season), you'll be fine," Schumacher said. "That really paid off this year. I never really panicked even though things didn't go great early in the season.
Jesuit junior Antonio Angel was the Crusaders' only other individual winner on the track after taking top honors in the 300 hurdles (38.60). Jesuit senior Patrick Beckett was able to unseat Masanga with a first place in the pole vault (15-00).
"Once things started clicking and the guys started to run better times, we were able to turn it on as a program late the season," Schumacher said. "I think that showed across the board."
Jesuit's 4x100 relay of Angel, Briceton Branch, Trey Lowe and Alex Wan upset Beaverton's favored short relay squad to begin the day. And, Branch, Wan, Angle and Andrew Lang finished off the day with a triumph in the 4x400 relay. Branch fended off a strong surge from Southridge star Josiah Carpenter for the 4x400 victory, while Wan held off Beaverton's Anthony Albright in the 4x100.
"All we can do is put our heads down and focus on ourselves," Schumacher said. "As a team we're necessarily worried about other teams, knowing if we stick to the process, the results will come."