The Crook County High School track and field squad knew going into the state meet that things would have to go nearly perfectly for either the boys or girls team to earn a trophy at state.
Things went about as well as could be expected, but the team came up just short of that goal as the Cowboys finished fifth, 1.5 points out of fourth place, while the Cowgirls wound up 10th.
Still, Crook County head coach Ernie Brooks was pleased with what he saw from his team.
"We sent 20 athletes to compete and 17 came home with medals," Brooks said. "The other three either moved up in the rankings or set personal records. It was a great meet for us."
Rain was one of the major stories of this year's state meet. Forecasts heading into Friday's opening day of the two-day meet suggested that there would be a slight chance of light showers late in the afternoon, with more showers late Saturday afternoon. Instead, a driving rainstorm hit midway through Friday's competition, and cold and rainy conditions settled in for nearly the entirety of Saturday's final day at the meet, which was held at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham.
"I'm just proud of our kids and how they competed and handled the rain," Brooks said. "Could we have gotten a trophy? Yeah. We thought we could get into third or fourth if things had gone right, and you know what, they did go right. We just ended up a point and a half short. No second guessing or could have, should have, would haves. Our Cowboys and Cowgirls showed up."
North Bend won the boys team championship with 72.5 points, while Ashland was second with 65.
Silverton, Churchill and Crook County were locked in a tight battle for the remaining podium spots, and with just four events remaining, the Cowboys were in third place. However, Silverton came on strong late in the day, finishing with 57 points, while Churchill scored 49.5, and the Cowboys 48. Pendleton finished sixth with 47, while Willamette, 47, Crater, 39, Dallas, 35, and Scappoose, 24, rounded out the top 10.
North Salem dominated the girls team race, amassing 119 points. Silverton finished second with 48, West Albany third, 41, and Hood River Valley fourth, 37.
Rounding out the top 10 were North Bend, 30, Thurston, 29.5, Churchill, 27, Springfield, 24, North Eugene, 24, and Crook County, 23.
Crook County managed their high team finish without crowning a single individual champion.
Noah Chaney was the top finisher for the Cowboys, taking second in the pole vault. The event started more than an hour late Friday afternoon after the earlier 6A vault was suspended due to heavy rain.
By the time the Class 5A pole vault finally started, the rain had slowed, but field conditions were less than ideal.
"Honestly, the weather didn't affect anything," Chaney said. "I was hoping to jump up at 15 feet today, but anything can happen in pole vaulting."
Chaney was one of just two vaulters to clear 14-00. But that was as high as Chaney would go while Crater's Cody Le Bel managed to clear 14-03. The bar nearly stayed on in Chaney's final attempt at that height, but bounced off, leaving the Crook County senior in second.
"I think I wasn't pushing hard enough with my right hand," he said. "That's the biggest thing that I have been trying to work on is my top, making sure that I have enough push off. I was hoping for a little bit more, but I'm not going to worry about it."
Also scoring points for the Cowboys on Friday were Tyler Humeston with a fourth in the shot put, Dominic Langley, fifth in the triple jump, and Jason Slawter, seventh in the javelin.
Humeston, a senior, threw nearly a foot farther than his previous best, heaving the 12-pound ball 51-00.75. Hood River Valley's Henry Buckles and Silverton's Ben Willis were in a spirited competition for first, trading the lead multiple times during the course of the competition. Buckles finally won with a final throw of 59-05.50. Willis took the lead after five throws with a heave of 57-01 but was unable to improve on his final throw, while Buckles improved by more than two feet on his final throw.
West Albany's Aiden Paul finished third, passing Humeston on his sixth throw with a toss of 54-01.25.
"I knew that he had some pretty good throws before state," Humeston said of Paul. "But seeing him throw today, I thought that I could get him. Still, I was happy with my PR (personal record) today. I'm excited to finally hit 51 feet like I wanted to."
The timing couldn't have been worse for Langley on Friday. The schedule had him competing in the triple jump and 400-meter preliminaries at approximately the same time.
"I just tried to do the best I could to deal with it," the senior said. "It was a little bit of a scramble because I had to run the 400 in between the prelims and the finals. I was supposed to jump in the second flight, but we talked to the officials, and they moved me to the first flight and that really helped me."
Still, Langley posted his best mark in the prelims and was unable to improve in the finals after qualifying for Saturday's finals in the 400.
Elijah Fields of Churchill won the triple jump with a leap of 45-03.25, while Edwin Linares of Pendleton was second with a jump of 43-09.50. Langley's leap of 42-03.00 was fifth, four inches out of fourth place and five inches short of third.
Slawter also had a solid performance on Friday, throwing the javelin 160-02 to finish seventh. Orion Osborn of Churchill finished sixth with a throw of 160-04, while North Bend's Ty Hampton, who is the No. 1-ranked thrower in the nation, won with a toss of 213-11.
"It was only two feet off of my PR, so it wasn't a bad day," Slawter said. "I just wish the rain didn't come down as fast, but it's all good. It just got colder, and I wasn't prepared for rainy weather."
Still, Slawter was pleased to have placed.
"After coming to state and not podiuming each of the last two year, then doing it my senior year, I'm really pleased about that," he said. "This year was really fun."
Also scoring points on Friday was Shelby Squire, who finished sixth in the girls javelin with a personal-record throw of 114-06. Squire was not expected to place at the state meet after finishing third at district and only advancing to state with a wildcard entry.
Still, the senior thrower reached the finals and then set a new PR on her final throw.
"I cried because my goal was to get 115 to 120 feet and I was super close," Squire said. "But I still PRd, so I was proud of myself for that. I wasn't expecting to get this high, so getting sixth place is pretty good."
Silverton's Riley Traeger won the event with a throw of 138-09.
Kenna Woodward, a junior, had a big day for the Cowgirls on Saturday, taking third in both the shot put and discus.
Woodward heaved the shot put 36-02.50 on her final throw of the meet to edge West Albany's Alyssa Walls, who finished fourth with a toss of 36-01.
Lebanon's Morgan Hopkins won the event with a heave of 38-06.50, while Kate Bakken of Springfield was second with a toss of 36-06.25.
With heavy rain pouring down during the discus, no one was able to throw their best.
Savanna Ramirez of Milwaukie won with a throw of 118-05, while Hopkins was second, 112-09, and Woodward third with a throw of 111-08.
"I felt like I could have done better, but I'm actually happy about how it ended up," Woodward said. "With the rain, my fingers get cold and then it starts to get into my head a little bit, especially when the weather got worse. It affected me quite a bit, but my last throw was my best throw, so I'm surprised that I pulled it off."
Junior Marrisa Asher also made the finals in the discus, but failed to place, finishing ninth with a throw of 99-05.
Faith Wagner, a senior, also had a solid performance for the Cowgirls Saturday.
With standing water on the pole vault runway, conditions were less than ideal. Still, after missing twice at her opening height, the Crook County senior settled down, eventually clearing 10-00 to finish in third place.
Poppy Miller of Hood River Valley won with a clearance of 10-06, while Gracen Hokanson of Crater was second. Hokanson cleared 10-00 just like Wagner and three other jumpers, but finished higher due to fewer misses earlier in the competition.
"Vaulting when it's raining is so hard," Wagner said. "You have to keep your pole dry, and I didn't get enough warm up, so getting on that pole was kind of a leap of faith. I was disappointed that I didn't clear 10-06, but I was just happy I got over 9-00, and I was definitely happy with my placing. It was the highest I've placed in my career."
The final Cowgirls to score points were the four members of the 4x400 relay team.
With two of those runners missing much of the season with injuries, the state meet was just the second time the quartet ran together all year.
The team was fourth after two legs of the relay but dropped to seventh in the second half of the race.
The team of Gracie Kasberger, Mckinzee Mode, Alyson Thomas and Maggie Ramoss finished with a time of 4:12.8. North Salem easily won with a time of 4:03.62.
"I just knew that we were going to get on the podium," Kasberger said. "We were looking for a higher place, but we are just proud that we got on it."
Kasberger, a senior, was seen encouraging Thomas, a junior, following the race.
"I told her she shouldn't be disappointed," Kasberger said. "We all ran super hard and that's all we could have done. Especially with this weather, I think that our time was pretty good. I think we are just happy that we got to this point, especially with district being the first time running together all year."
The final two Cowgirls to reach the state meet was Jan Carne and Dalla Hutchins. Carne finished 11th in the 1,500 with a time of 5:11.30.
Although she was well back in the pack, Carne, a junior, still ran her best time of the year.
Samantha Prusse of Wilsonville outkicked Hood River Valley's Frances Dickinson to win the race with a time of 4:45.48.
Meanwhile, Hutchins was 10th in the triple jump with a leap of 33-02.50. Chelsea Howard of North Bend won the event with a leap of 36-07.25.
The Cowboys continued to score points in the field events on Saturday.
Sophomore Zach Guthrie placed third in the long jump with a leap of 21-01. Simon Dexter and Elijah Fields, both of Churchill, finished first and second, respectively, with leaps of 21-09 and 21-03.25.
Guthrie might have finished higher, but he injured himself during the 100-meter finals, which took place between the prelims and the finals of the long jump.
Despite the injury, Guthrie was still fifth in the 100 with a time of 11.29.
North Bend's Jonathan Chilcote won with a time of 10.98.
Guthrie continued to jump in the long jump finals but was unable to improve on his preliminary performance.
After placing fifth in the triple jump, Langley improved to fourth during Saturday's high jump finals with a leap of 6-01. Langley nearly cleared 6-02 on all three of his jumps at that height, but all three times he just brushed the bar with his legs.
La Salle Prep's Alex Boyd won with a leap of 6-04, while Pendleton's Shawn Yeager was second, 6-02, and Justin Conklin of The Dalles was third, 6-01.
"It wasn't want I wanted, because I wanted to be either first or second," Langley said. "But I started to realize that even with getting fourth, I'm satisfied that I got to go (to state) and compete in my last time on the track in high school. I'm just super blessed to even be a part of the podium."
Humeston and Caleb Parrott both reached the finals in the discus, with Parrott finishing eighth and Humeston a non-scoring ninth.
Still, Humeston had a 10-foot improvement over his previous best throw with a toss of 143-07. Parrott also had a personal-record throw with a heave of 145-09 to score a point for the Cowboys.
West Albany's Paul won the event with a throw of 169-02.
"It feels real good," said Parrott, a senior. "It all came down to one moment, and all the work I did just paid off. I came in with a big PR last week, and I just built off of that, so it was a good week. I'm definitely happy about how I finished up my senior year."
Scoring points for the Cowboys on the track were senior Miles Chaney in the 800 and junior Jonas Rice in the 300 hurdles.
Rice just barely snuck into the finals, then ran a personal-best time of 40.57 to finish sixth in the finals.
Lane Maher of Pendleton win with a time of 38.75.
"It was pretty sweet," Rice said of finishing on the podium. "I was scared at first, thinking that I wouldn't make it to the finals. I wish we had a little better weather and a faster time was a hope, but placing — that was pretty awesome."
Chaney, who entered Friday's 800 prelims with the second-slowest time in the field, put on a late surge to pass three runners in the closing yards to reach Saturday's finals.
Then on Saturday, he raced his way into seventh place, once again on a late charge.
Chaney finished with a time of 2:01.63, while David Rojas of North Salem won with a time of 1:56.04.
"I was kind of a dark horse, so making the finals was really big because nobody expected me to be there, and then I just came in in the last couple of meters and barely edged this kid out. This is my first year making state, so to get to the finals and make the podium is a big deal."
The Cowboys still had a chance to earn a trophy going into the final race of the day, the 4x400 meter relay.
With Guthrie injured, Noah Chaney replaced him as the team's lead-off runner.
The team of Chaney, Triston Fischer, Alec Carne and Langley wound up seventh with a time of 3:31.59, nearly five seconds slower than their time at district.
Still, despite not placing higher, Langley was pleased with the team's effort.
"This was my favorite event of the whole meet," he said. "To see our guys come through with that kind of effort when we were missing a runner says a lot about our program and what we can do. I just love the relay. All the guys come together as one and just run their hearts out for the team."
Willamette won the race with a time of 3:25.81.
Speaking for the rest of the team, Langley said that he had hoped the team would earn a trophy but was still satisfied with how well the squad performed during the meet.
"I'm a competitor and you always want to finish higher," he said. "But I'm so proud of the people on this team. They all wanted a trophy, and we all gave it our all, and whether we got fourth or fifth place, or whatever, I'm not going to be disappointed because I know we all left it all out there."
Langley added that track and field changed his life for the better.
"This track program changed my life," he said. "It built my confidence. It taught me to work hard and be disciplined, and it taught me to be humble. I wouldn't be the way I am today without the program."
The state track meet is normally held at Hayward field in Eugene. However, with that field being rebuilt to accommodate the 2021 world championships, the meet was moved to Mount Hood Community College.
Typically all six classifications compete together. However, with limited seating at Mount Hood, just Class 5A and 6A competed this past weekend.
Wagner summed up the difference for everyone.
"It's a lot different," she said. "The whole atmosphere is different, but I don't think about it too much. You have to deal with every meet no matter what."
"The atmosphere is kind of intimidating at Hayward, and it's not as much here," she said. "It's definitely more relaxing. I don't know. It just doesn't feel like state right now."
"It's a good facility, but the crowd is different," Noah Chaney added. "This feels more like a district meet rather than the big Hayward Field state meet that we usually have. It's comfortable and fun, but it's not as daunting. It just seems smaller. I can't wait for Hayward Field to be done because the next group of kids that are going to come to state, they are going to have one heck of a ride."
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