'Group effort' leads Clackamas girls to fourth Mt. Hood district track title
Clackamas High School's girls track and field team has done it again, sinking its spikes into another district meet title.
Senior Taberah Schmidt placed first in the 400-meter dash and junior Isabelle Combs won the triple jump, leading the Cavaliers to a fourth consecutive team title Tuesday at the Mt. Hood Conference track and field championships at Sandy High School.
Junior Kailee Yoshishige added second-place finishes in the two hurdles races, the 400-meter relay finished second, and Clackamas scored points in 15 of 17 events overall as the Cavaliers clinched the title with 115 points to runner-up Centennial's 104. Sandy was third with 102 points.
The performance earned Clackamas five automatic berths into this week's OSAA Class 6A track and field championships beginning Friday at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, but it was the points the Cavaliers picked up by placing third through eighth that swung the district title in their favor.
"After all the people we lost last year, this was a group effort this year, a huge group effort," Schmidt said. "We couldn't have done it without everybody that was here this year.
"We started the season off telling ourselves, 'We can win it again.' We just had to get everybody to embrace that mentality by the end of the year and … we pulled through again."
Added Yoshishige: "We knew we had it in us. We might have had to work a little bit harder, but that honestly was more motivation for us to be able to do that.
"It's an honor to be part of a team like Clackamas. Teamwork and having a positive mindset was a big part of it."
When Clackamas' girls dropped two regular-season dual meets to Centennial and Sandy, it looked as if the Cavaliers might be destined to finish no better than third behind the Eagles and the Pioneers.
But then Clackamas swept both girls and boys team titles at the May 3 Dean Nice Invite at Gresham High School and Cavaliers head coach Emma Vaughn started to think that her girls might be ready to make a run at another district meet title.
"I think we've set a standard for what we want to happen and we just keep doing it," Vaughn said. "I told the team the other day, 'We are the ones with the target on our back. Everyone wants to take us down. Don't let them. Go out there and make them work hard to beat us.'
"This was a collective effort. We scored in a lot of events and every point mattered this meet. I think they started to see that collective effort, they got behind each other, and we were able to do it. I couldn't be more proud. This is why I do what I do."
Centennial had an 84-69 lead in the girls team race through 11 events. Clackamas then Schmidt and Kiah Wetzell went 1-4, respectively, in the 400 to score 15 points that pulled the Cavaliers even at 84-84.
Next came the 100 hurdles, which Centennial's Madison McHone won to give the Eagles 10 points, but Clackamas' Yoshishige, Lindsey Smith, and Madisyn Nguyen finished 2-5-8 and scored 13 points to give the Cavaliers a 97-94 lead with four events remaining.
Neither team scored in the 800, Clackamas picked a point with Macey Groves' eighth-place finish in the 200, the Cavaliers then scored Centennial 11-10 in the 300 hurdles, and then the Cavs closed out the meet with a third-place finish in the 4x400 relay that was good for another six team points.
"This definitely was a sweet victory for me," Vaughn said. "I'm proud of my squad. I doubted us a little bit in the beginning and I never should have done that. I shouldn't ever doubt us."
Combs helped get the ball rolling for Clackamas in Tuesday's triple jump finals when she popped a jump of 34 feet, 6 1/4 inches on her first attempt of the competition. Reynolds' Samantha Andresen finished second with a mark of 34-3 on her final jump, and Clackamas' Hermya Brock was third at 33-5.
"I almost took a year off from track," said Combs, a junior who injured her left ankle during volleyball season and was uncertain how the ankle would respond to the rigors of the triple jump. "Then I saw the early-season marks for the district and I thought, 'Why not go and give it a shot? See if I can do something amazing.'"
She qualified for state a year ago when she placed seventh with a personal best 35-7 1/4 — a mark she'll have he sights set on this week.
"I'm really excited for state," Combs said. "My body has finally healed and there's no pressure on me."
Schmidt, the senior sprint specialist who has run in the shadow of Brooklyn James a year ago, had her moment to shine in Wednesday's finals when she won the 400 in a personal best 59.07, crossing the finish line 0.22 seconds ahead of David Douglas Angelica Gatica Gomez.
"My plan was to go out hard, hit the 200 mark at 28 seconds and then finish it," Schmidt said. "It's just a hard spring race and if you go out too fast, you might not have enough energy to finish it. You've got to have the energy for the last 200 or else you're not going to win.
"When I came around the last corner, I felt people coming up behind me, but I knew I could finish it."
And how does it feel to be a member of the four-time reigning district championship team?
"Yeah, it's pretty cool to finish out my senior year with another district trophy," Schmidt said. "I wouldn't want to go out any other way."