Madras track and field leaves Hayward Field hungry for more
Following the track and field state championships this past weekend, the Madras High School teams returned home with a little bit of hardware — and a lot more hunger.
Coming off a district title on the boys side and a second-place Tri-Valley trophy for the girls, Madras took a large contingent of athletes to Eugene for the OSAA 4A Track and Field State Championships on Friday and Saturday, May 20-21.
Only one athlete — junior Illiana Hance — made it to the podium for the White Buffalos, and she did so in both of her events. Hance placed sixth in the javelin (105-09) and seventh in the high jump ( 4-10), earning Madras' only two medals over the weekend.
Despite having the best results of anyone on the Madras team, Hance was not fully satisfied with her two performances on Friday.
"I feel like I could have done better," said Hance later that afternoon. The junior made it to the state championships in both events last season, too, and improved her placing in each one this time around.
"I've still got next year," she added. With one more season to go, Hance noted that she will be putting in even more effort and discipline as a senior.
Hance was nearly joined on the podium on a few other occasions — most notably, all three events that included senior Ethan Tapia.
On Friday, Tapia set a new personal record in the 300-meter hurdles at 43.73 seconds to place ninth in the preliminaries. After placing fourth in the first preliminary heat by roughly four-tenths of a second, Tapia saw two more athletes finish with just a hair faster in the next heat — which pushed him out of qualification for the final.
"I gave it my all," said Tapia on Friday, noting that the lowered his season-best time in the 300 hurdles by a second. Tapia just started doing the event midway through his senior season but made it all the way to Eugene and nearly up onto the podium. "It's pretty good for it being my first year. I wasn't disappointed."
Earlier on Saturday, Tapia also started things off for the boys 4x100 relay that placed 11th overall. The Buffalo squad of Tapia, Picard, freshman Andres Pineda and junior Wade Simmelink finished in 45.35, missing out on a top-eight spot by just over three-tenths of a second. Both Banks and Molalla outraced expectations and jumped up from the first heat to replace Baker and Madras — which were both seeded in the top eight — on the podium at Hayward Field.
In the last 4A event of the day, the Madras boys 4x400 relay team ended on a good note by winning their heat in the timed finals. In addition to Tapia, the second leg of the relay, and the anchor Picard, fellow senior Ethan Nava and junior Isaiah Wapsheli ran the first and third legs. Though the team trailed Astoria heading into the final turn, Picard used a burst of speed to overtake first as the relay team set a new season-best time of 3:36.72 — nearly four seconds faster than their previous best.
"I was just staying behind him by the 200 (meter mark)," said Picard of his final push against fellow anchor leg Trey Woodrich of Astoria. "Then at 150, I passed him and just made sure to keep my form."
"We had improvements at every meet," said Nava of the 4x400 team, which won a district title earlier this month at the Tri-Valley Championships. "It was slowly leading up to this (race), and we were just hoping to get up on the podium." Unfortunately, all eight teams in the second heat finished faster than Madras did, so it was another ninth-place finish for the White Buffalos.
"A little sad," Tapia said of his emotions after the final race of his senior season. "I won't be able to see my teammates — they grew on me. It is what it is, though."
Tapia noted that he is still deciding between colleges, but he definitely plans to attend the University of Oregon for at least two days next year — to watch the Buffs compete in the 2023 state championships at Hayward.
In other results from the field events, Madras also got tenth-place finishes from three of its athletes.
Matty Buck had the best throw of her junior season in shot put (29-06.75), while both pole vaulters — senior Briann Ellis and junior Tobias Byrd — cleared their opening heights before hitting a wall. Ellis topped out at 7-06, while Byrd got up to 11-06 with his best clearance.
"My performance wasn't great, but it was fun to be out here for my senior year and just have fun with it," said Ellis, who had just one word to describe the feeling of walking onto those hallowed grounds of Hayward Field for the first time.
"Shock," she stated bluntly before elaborating on the emotions of performing in that stadium. "It was nerve-wracking, but it was exciting."
As the team's top two pole vaulters, Ellis and Byrd worked a lot together throughout the season to help raise the bar for one another. That bond in the pit led them both to an unforgettable experience at state.
"It was surreal," added Byrd, who also placed 12th in the high jump (5-08) on Saturday.
"It was very surreal," echoed Ellis emphatically. "I still can't believe it happened."
Back on the track, juniors Hannah MacDuffee and Isaiah Wapsheli had very similar days in the distance races. MacDuffee took 11th place in the 1,500 (5:20.32) and 12th in the 3,000 (11:52.82), setting new personal records in both. Wapsheli had the same placements, finishing 11th in the 1,500 (4:24.15) and 12th in the 3,000 (9:57.63) and setting his own PR in the shorter of the two events.
Rounding out the results were an 11th-place finish — and new PR — from freshman Emily Picard in the girls 800 (2:31.72), as well as Michael Picard taking 12th in the boys 400 (54.19). Unfortunately, the girls 4x400 relay had the worst luck of the weekend, as a dropped first exchange resulted in a last-place finish of 4:40.52.
"It was just an eye-opener seeing outside the Tri-Valley," said Wapsheli of his two-day experience at Hayward Field, a sentiment likely shared by at least a few of his teammates.
"Those guys are putting up crazy times, and we'll do the same next year," he added, providing a note of optimism for the future as the weekend came to a close.
With only five of their state qualifiers graduating this year, the outlook for Madras track and field going forward is still very bright. Perhaps even brighter now that a little fuel has been added to their collective competitive fire.
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