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The Mustangs' decathlete persevered through a back injury to score 5,676 points in qualifying for the USATF Junior Olympic national championships in Sacramento

Milwaukie's Arthur Katahdin was cautiously optimistic as he set out to compete in his first decathlon since recovering from a broken bone in his left wrist.

The cast that he had worn for three months had come off three days before the start of the July 4-7 USATF Region 13 Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships in Tacoma.

Katahdin had lost significant strength in his left wrist, which he knew would limit him in one event in particular — the pole vault, which normally is one of his strongest events. But he figured he could offset whatever points he was likely to lose there with strong performances in the other nine events.

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Milwaukie's Arthur Katahdin, pictured in an April 10 meet at La Salle Prep, posted a score of 5,676 to place fourth in the 17-18 boys decathlon at the USATF Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Tacoma.He was the pre-meet favorite to win the 17-18 boys decathlon and jumped out to an early lead when he won the 100-meter dash in 11.47 seconds and scored 759 points.

Then Katahdin strained a muscle in his lower back while warming up for the long jump and suddenly he was having to deal with a much bigger issue than the one at the end of his left arm.

With nine events remaining, the sore back and weak wrist dashed any hope Katahdin had of winning the regional title, but he pressed on, setting his sites on a new target — the 5,579 points needed to qualify for the July 22-28 USATF Junior Olympic national championships in Sacramento.

Somehow, he made it happen.

Katahdin's point total took some big hits in the long jump, pole vault, discus, and javelin, but he also set a couple of personal bests in the shot put and the high jump.

Going into the final event, the 1,500, he needed to run a time no worse than 5:53 to get the points necessary to put him over the top. He went out and ran a 5:32.01 giving him 389 points and pushing his overall total to 5,676.

Sacramento, here he comes.

"I would have liked to have been healthy and have both my arm and back be 100 percent, but I'm glad I got through it," Katahdin said. "And I will say not having to put 100 percent effort into it made things a lot easier.

"In the 1,500, I'm usually a little anxious going into that because it's the last chance to earn points and it's not necessarily the most fun race. But I was able to relax and just really have fun and almost treat it like a jog."

Setting the pace

Sweet Home's Casey Tow won three of the 10 events and finished first overall with 6,278 points, followed by Port Orchard's Ryan Thoma (6,215), Olympia's Colby Wilson (6,096), and then Katahdin in fourth.

"I did what I needed to do and that was my goal," Katahdin said. "I knew with my back and because my hand is still weak that I wasn't really competing against the other guys. I was just competing to meet the qualifying standard for nationals.

"If I had been healthy, I would have been up there with Casey and Ryan and, hopefully, I would have beaten them, but that really wasn't in the game plan the second day."

Katahdin said he may have tweaked something in his lower back while practicing the long jump during the week leading up to the regional meet. He thought it would be fine for the meet, but after a couple of practice jumps, whatever was wrong with his back only got worse.

"I take off on my right leg and I guess I hadn't warmed up all the way," he said. "I'd been feeling something wasn't quite right and then whatever I did at regionals sent it over the top."

His personal best in the long jump is 18 feet, 9 inches, but he managed to jump only 16-9 3/4, which was good for 405 points, but that was about 100 points below what he had been projected to score.

"Each jump made it a little worse," he said.

Katahdin bounced back in the shot put with a personal best throw of 46-5 1/2 to win that event, and then he cleared a personal best 6-0 3/4 in the high jump — jumping off his left foot, not his right — and tied for second in that event.

Next, he closed out the first day of competition by finishing fourth in the 400 in 53.50, pushing his score to 3,232 points through five events.

'Smooth sailing'

All that remained were the 110 hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1,500 on the second day.

"The second day, I knew if I could make it through the 110 hurdles that I would be okay and I could probably qualify for nationals, but I was really hurting," Katahdin said. "My parents got me a back brace from Walgreens to see if that would help and I ran a better time (15.94) than I ran at state, which still wasn't great, but the brace did what I needed it to do.

"Because I had done so well on day one, I needed only about 2,500 points on day two. And then after I did well in the 110 hurdles, I was hoping it would just be smooth sailing to get the next few marks and get it done."

He threw 118-1 in the discus, cleared 9-6 1/4 in the pole vault (his PR is 14-7 3/4), threw 121-3 in the javelin, and then clocked 5:32.01 in the 1,500.

"The second day, I don't want to say I didn't try very hard because in events like the pole vault, I tried my best," he said. "But it was more to get a mark and to try to do the least amount of damage to my back. My discus and javelin marks were low compared to what I'd like to be getting, but I took my first throw and then passed the next two just to try and get something on the board."

Katahdin's personal best in the decathlon is 6,060, which he set last year when he won the boys 15-16 division at the USATF Junior Olympics National Track & Field Championships in North Carolina.

This year, he'd like to make a run at a new personal best, but without knowing how his back will respond to treatment and how his wrist will respond to some strength training between now and Sacramento, it's hard to project what might happen.

"All of my personal bests in each individual event would work out to a score of about 6,700," he said. "If I were completely healthy, I probably wouldn't score that high because it's not realistic to think you're going to equal your PR in every event. But I'm hoping to score 6,500."

National qualifiers

In other USATF Region 13 Junior Olympic track highlights:

• Eight athletes representing the Oregon City-based Super Thrower Track Club claimed 12 qualifying spots in six events for the upcoming USATF National Junior Olympic Championships in Sacramento, led by Tualatin's Mariano Kis, who placed first in the 17-18 boys discus with a mark of 173-11 and finished second in the shot put with a throw of 56-7 1/4.

Wilsonville's Madison Jones won the 15-16 girls hammer with a mark of 123-9, Lake Oswego's Ava David won the 17-18 girls hammer with a throw of 168-2, and Central Catholic's Joseph Nizich won the 17-18 boys javelin with a mark of 201-4.

Oregon City's Anessa Chirgwin, the reigning OSAA Class 6A girls discus state champion, placed third in the Region 13 finals with a toss of 143-6, followed by Sandy's Keeley Rasmussen (138-2) and Lake Oswego's Ava David (133-7).

• Milwaukie's Yazmeen Williges, competing for the Mustang Track Club, won the 11-12 girls shot put with a personal best throw of 39 feet, 2 1/2 inches, breaking her previous PR of 38-2 1/4 set at the USATF Oregon Association Junior Olympic Championships.

Williges, who recently completed sixth grade at Alder Creek Middle School, also placed third in the discus with a personal best 73-6 1/4 in qualifying for the USATF Junior Olympic national championships in Sacramento.

• Sonia Katahdin of Milwaukie and younger sister to Arthur, qualified for nationals in the 13-14 girls division in two events after placing second in the pole vault with a personal best 10 feet, 10 inches, and finishing fourth in the shot put with a mark of 37-3.

She also finished fifth in the pentathlon with a score of 2,500, setting new personal records in the 100 hurdles with a time of 16.78 seconds, and the shot put with a mark of 39-5.

• Logan Law, an incoming freshman at Milwaukie High School, placed second in the 13-14 boys 1,500 with a time of 4:24.18 and was second in the 3,000 in 9:20.68.

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