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Crook County overachieves, nearly finds way to win conference title despite being picked to finish fourth

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Maggie Ramoss celebrates as she crosses the finish line in first place in the 4x400 relay race. Ramoss, Alyson Thomas, Gracie Kasberger and Mckinzee Mode finished with a time of 4:13.69, seven seconds faster than the Cowgirls have run all season.The Crook County Cowgirls were penciled in for fourth place at the Intermountain Conference Track and Field Championships, which were held in Prineville Friday and Saturday.

Instead, the Cowgirls nearly pulled off a major upset, finishing in second place, just one point behind the eventual champion Ridgeview Ravens.

"We talk about kids coming together," Crook County head coach Ernie Brooks said. "Once they love each other and get into competition that brings the bond tight, it's just amazing to see a bunch of kids come together like this. Everyone wants to get on their phones and social media and all of that, and, instead, our kids just enjoy being with each other, and I think that's the difference today. That was real special."

Ridgeview finished with 129 points, while the Cowgirls had 128. Hood River Valley finished third with 118, while The Dalles was fourth, 108, Pendleton fifth, 99, and Redmond sixth, 70.

Unlike the Cowboys, the Cowgirls got off to a bit of a slow start on Friday, qualifying just two athletes for state on the opening day.

However, the team performed much better than expected on Friday as they moved up from third in the standings.

Junior Kenna Woodward, who was named female field event athlete of the meet, led the Cowgirl efforts, qualifying for state in a pair of events.

Woodward won the shot put on Friday with a heave of 37-08, her best of the year.

Then Saturday, she won the discus with a throw of 109-11.

Woodward was also sixth in the javelin with a throw of 93-05.

"They went better than I thought they were going to," Woodward said of her events. "Recently I haven't been doing as good as I wanted to, but everything just seemed to click this weekend. I wish I could have thrown a little bit further in the discus, but I have got to be happy with the win. With both of those throws, I should be able to come in and at least be a little bit intimidating at state. I'm excited to see what I can do."

Marissa Asher will join Woodward at state in the discus. The junior placed second with a toss of 108-10.

"I'm real excited," Asher said. "I was hoping to throw a little farther, but I'm just happy that I got what I got and get to go to state. It's a great opportunity."

Shelby Squire also qualified for state in the throws. Squire, a senior, finished third in the javelin with a throw of 105-11. She left the track disappointed to have come up just short of one of the automatic qualifying berths but learned Sunday that she had earned a trip to state as one of the five wild cards in each event.

Emma House of Pendleton won the event with a throw of 107-10, while Jenna Albrecht of Ridgeview was second with a throw of 105-11. With a throw of 105-08, Redmond's Ellie Corwin, who was fourth at district, also qualified for the state meet.

The Cowgirls also qualified two athletes for state in the jumps.

Senior Faith Wagner placed second in the pole vault with a clearance of 10-01, while sophomore Dallas Hutchins qualified in the triple jump, finishing second with a leap of 33-02.

"I'm just happy that I got to go to sate, and I'm really happy that I got to compete with Poppy (Miller, the pole vault winner from Hood River Valley) because I've enjoyed her as a person. I'm glad that I got to finally jump with her. I never have a meet without making a new friend, and that's something that I will always remember."

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jan Carne sprnts away from a runner from The Dalles on her way to a second place finish in the 1,500. Carne ran a personal record time of 5:04.66 in the race. Carne also placed fourth in the 800.Wagner added that she hopes to set a new personal record at state and finish on the podium.

Hutchins was also happy to be going to state.

"It was nerve wracking for sure, but I'm excited," she said. "I knew I could do it. My goal is 34 feet at state. I don't think that it has really sunk in yet that I'm going to state."

Although they had a lot of placers on the track, the Cowgirls struggled to qualify runners to the state meet.

Jan Carne punched her ticket to state in the 1,500, placing second with a time of 5:04.66, a personal record. Carne was also fourth in the 800 with a time of 2:33.23.

A cross country standout, Carne has struggled at times on the track, but not this season.

"It's unbelievably exciting," she said. "It means probably more than going to state ever has for me. It's a huge deal. I think I executed my plan well. Now, it's just go to state and have fun."

The Cowgirls went into the 4x400 meter relay thinking that they didn't have any other runners qualify for state.

The relay team of Alyson Thomas, Mckinzee Mode, Gracie Kasberger and Maggie Ramoss entered the meet ranked third but ran a 7-second personal best as they won in a time of 4:13.69.

The win was especially satisfying as Kasberger was coming off of a knee injury that caused her to miss the entire basketball season, while Ramoss had a lower leg injury that caused her to miss all but one meet prior to district.

The senior sprinter ran the leadoff leg in the relay and gave the Cowgirls a lead they never relinquished.

"I'm really excited, especially coming back from that injury," Kasberger said. "I'm so excited to be going to state. We knew how much competition we had, and we all wanted to go to state so badly that we have been talking about it for a week now. We knew that we had to push ourselves our hardest to get here, and that's exactly what we did."

"I thought that we could make it to state, but I didn't think that we would get first, though," Mode said. "I was disappointed with myself in the hurdles today, but this made up for it so much."

Thomas, who ran the third leg for the Cowgirls, was also pleased.

"It was a big thrill," she said. "We haven't ran that kind of time since state last year. We haven't even come close since then. We ran our hearts out on the track. We all came together, and we ran our hearts out. This is what we have wanted all season."

Ramoss, who ran the anchor leg, withstood a late challenge from Hood River Valley and Pendleton.

She received more good news following the meet, when she learned that her third-place finish in the 400 was good enough to qualify for state as well.

"It was incredibly difficult," she said of running three 400s in two days without the benefit of training all year. "I knew that those girls were right behind us, and I could see all of my teammates on the sideline. I knew that they gave everything that they had, so I knew that I had to do the same thing, too. I'm thrilled. That's what we have wanted all year is to get this team back together and at state."

Ramoss ran a time of 61.58 in the 400 for her third-place finish while Thomas was sixth in 64.71.

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Kenna Woodward won both the discus and shot put at the Intermountain Conference meet. Woodward was also sixth in the javelin and was named female field event performer of the meet.Other Cowgirls to place on the track included McCall Woodward, seventh in the 3,000 in 12:10.76. Emma Hehn and Jenae Mapes were fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 100 hurdles with times of 17.91 and 18.24. Mode, Hehn and Mapes all three placed in the 300 hurdles with Mode fourth in 49.95, Hehn seventh, 51.77, and Mapes eighth, 53.04.

The Cowgirl 4x100 relay team of Thomas, Hutchins, Tienna Quinn and Wagner finished fifth with a time of 52.53.

Other Cowgirls to place in the field events were Asher with a sixth in the shot put, Leahlynn Cates, sixth in the high jump, Kendall Maycutt, eighth in the high jump, Aubrey Love, fifth in the pole vault, and Sofia Langley, sixth in the triple jump.

"We don't wear our black uniforms very often, but we wore them today," Brooks said. "When we wear our black unis, we say it's lights out because we don't pull them out very often, and when we do, we need your best, and that's exactly what we were counting on. The girls came through. The biggest thing is just their tightness and wanting to fight and compete for each other. That's special."

Brooks added that he wanted to thank all of the volunteers who made the meet possible.

"We had 90-some helpers," he said. "We couldn't do this without them. We just have great volunteers."

The state track meet will be held Friday and Saturday, May 24-25 at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham.

Field events start at 11 a.m. on Friday with running events beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday field events once again start at 11 a.m. with running events set to begin at 1:30 p.m.

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