Oregon City's Ricky Ascencio wins 400, pacing Pioneers to fourth place
As the starter's gun sounded, Oregon City sprinter Ricky Ascencio broke from the blocks as well as he's ever broken from the blocks before.
A good start? Try great.
And the finish was even better.
Ascencio overtook top-seeded Sam Baricevic of Jesuit a few strides from the finish line and won the Class 6A boys 400-meter dash state title in a personal best 49.13 seconds at the OSAA track and field championships at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.
"This means so much," Ascencio said. "As a sophomore, winning a race at state, that's mind-blowing. I'm super-happy right now."
Tualatain won the 4x100 relay, Mariano Kis added wins in the shot put and the discus, and the Timberwolves scored in six other events to clinch the boys team title with 74 points.
Sherwood finished second with 47 points, Jesuit was third with 45, and Oregon City scored 41 points and took home the fourth-place trophy — the Pioneers' fourth trophy in eight seasons.
In addition to the 11 points that Ascencio and Corban Remsburg scored in the 400, the Pioneers' other points came from the 4x400 relay (second), the 4x100 relay (fifth), Wyatt Lovell in the 300 hurdles (eighth), Jake Follett in the long jump (second) and triple jump (eighth), and Lane Marshall in the discus (fourth) and shot put (sixth).
"The goal coming into the year was to get a team trophy," Oregon City coach Adam Thygeson said. "We knew coming into the meet that Tualatin was way out in front and that it would be a three-way race for second. We ended up fourth, but a couple of points here and there could have turned it."
Oregon City trailed Jesuit by two points heading into the final event — the 4x400 relay — so the Pioneers still had a chance to tie or pass the Crusaders for third place. But the race followed the form chart with the top-seeded Crusaders winning in 3:19.56, while the Pioneers' quartet of Ascencio, Lovell, Follett, and Remsburg finished second in 3:21.24.
"We were just going to go in and do our best," Remsburg said. "I don't think we had any goals of finishing in a certain place as a team. The whole idea was just to come in and do our best, and if a trophy came, that would just be a part of it."
This year's championship meet was held on May 24-25 with temperatures in the mid-50s, rain showers during most of the preliminaries on Friday, and steady rain throughout most of the finals on Saturday.
In Friday's 400 prelims, Baricevic, the Jesuit junior, won the first heat in 49.44, and Ascencio won the second heat in 50.13, edging Westview's Denzel Pinto by five-thousandths of a second. Remsburg finished third in the second heat and qualified fifth overall at 50.38.
In the final, Ascencio was in lane five, while Baricevic was in lane four, Pinto in lane three, and Remsburg in lane two.
"I thought I had a chance. I thought I had a small chance," Ascencio said. "This was the moment, so I tried to push as hard as I could."
Ascenscio set the pace over the first 100 meters, Baricevic moved in front around the final turn, and then Ascencio surged down the final straightaway, nipping Baricevic at the finish.
"My start was one of the best I've had," Ascencio said. "Even in these conditions, I thought it was a pretty clean start. I could tell that I was slowing down after the first 200, but I knew I had a lot left for the last 100, so I just pushed through to the finish."
As the runners made their way through the final turn, Ascencio said it looked as if Baricevic was "7-10 meters in front of me."
"It was a pretty good gap," he said. "But as the race started coming to an end, I was getting closer and closer and I knew I could still win it and I just pushed through. I didn't want to lose."
When did Ascencio know he had the race won?
"The last 5 meters," he said. "It was so close."
Ascencio crossed the finish in 49.13, breaking his previous personal best of 49.55 at the Three Rivers League district championships. Baricevic was second in 49.23, Madison's Colin Quinn placed third in 49.68, and South Salem's Eric Lungu was four in 50.11.
"We saw Ricky get out fast and he had a good first 200," Thygeson said. "The Jesuit runner came back and took the lead at about 150 out, and then Ricky ran him down, which I don't think has happened to him all year."
In 10 previous 400 races this season, Baricevic had finished first nine times.
On the mark
In the long jump, Summit's Jack Normand won with a mark of 22 feet, 1 1/2 inch, edging Follett by 2 1/2 inches for top honors.
Follett led briefly with a jump of 21-8 1/4 on his second jump of the preliminaries, but Normand bounced back from scratches on his first two attempts with his best jump of the day on his third and final attempt of the prelims.
Follett improved to 21-11 on his third attempt to secure his position in second place heading into the finals, followed by Westview's Wayne Jamison at 21-8, and Grant Pass' Jaren Emptage and Roosevelt's Cabree Figueroa both at 21-5 1/4.
None of the nine jumpers saw any improvements on any of their three jumps in the finals.
"It was a bad meet," said Follett, who also finished as the runner-up in the 2018 state meet as a junior. "I didn't jump a good jump a good jump. I was hoping to jump at least 23 feet and aiming for 24 feet.
"If I feel that I'm jumping far, I can tell during warm-ups, but I didn't feel that today. And then, I don't know, it didn't feel like I was fast on the runway. I felt really slow and that's what affected me."
The cool, rainy conditions didn't help, either, he said.
"Everybody is in the same competition, so everybody got affected, but, yeah, it probably affected my mark," Follett said. "I usually do better in hot, humid weather, but …
"I didn't have good height on my jumps, so that didn't carry me that well. I didn't feel that great and I didn't do my best, but I don't regret what I did, so that's good."
Marshall, a four-time state qualifier in the discus, went into Saturday's finals seeded fifth and finished fourth with a mark of 150-6.
"I probably could have done better," Marshall said. "My second throw of prelims, I had a foul that was probably about 160 feet. I was hoping for 160 because I'd been throwing it all week in practice, but the west conditions didn't help.
"The ring was a little slippery from the rain on Friday and it just never dried out all the way. The grass was wet, too, so your shoes were wet. There were towels that helped a lot, but it was still a little slippery."
In Friday's shot put, Marshall had a throw of 47-8 on his second attempt of the preliminaries, and then improved to 48-3 on his next-to-last throw of the finals to finish in sixth place.
"Everything was just off," said Marshall, who threw a personal best 53-3 a month before the state meet. "I wasn't throwing well, at all. It's kind of weird that it's over now, but all things come to an end."
Marshall would like to continue his track and field career in college and has looked into Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Lane Community College in Eugene, and Umpqua Community College in Roseburg.