Bucks haul in medals, memories at Hayward
EUGENE – With a mix of underclassmen and seniors competing, St. Paul track coach Todd Swan had some decidedly not technical advice for this year's state team prior to the Class 2A track and field state meet last week at Hayward Field: savor the moment.
Considering the University of Oregon is also preparing to tear down the historic structure in order to build a new facility, that message applied pretty equally to both sets of athletes.
The Bucks not only heeded Swan's call, but performed quite well to boot, earning five individual medals, including one state title for Isabelle Wyss in the triple jump, and podium finishes in all four relays.
"Before a lot of the jumps and races, I reminded them to just look around and take those mental pictures, take a deep breath and don't be so stressed or caught up in the moment that 10 or 30 years from now you don't remember it," Swan said. "They really did a good job. I could see them out there looking around. People probably thought they weren't paying attention. They were out there recording those memories and I know that later on in life, especially with this place being remodeled and these are the last performances here, they're going to be glad they did."
Thanks to Wyss' title and top-four finishes in both the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays, the St. Paul girls scored 31 points to finish a tie for eighth place with Culver.
On the boys side, senior Holden Smith and sophomore Alex Dela Cerda scored team points individually to go along with a third-place showing in the short relay and a sixth-place effort in the 4 x 400 to lift the Bucks to 15th place with 14 points.
"It was a good state meet and send off for our seniors," Wyss said. "We brought our other seniors as our alternates, too, so they got to experience that with us and it was really cool to have them there."
A sophomore, Wyss cleared 35-10.75 on her first attempt in the triple jump Friday and that mark stood up the rest of the way to leave her atop the podium.
"We knew as soon as we put her in that event early in the year that it was going to be her event," Swan said. "She's just so powerful and very coachable. Jumping a 36-3 last week and 35-10 this week as a sophomore, with her attitude and work ethic, she's going to be a top jumper in the entire state regardless of level the next few years."
Junior Rachel Vela also brought home a pair of fifth-place medals after clocking a 13.21 in the 100 and a new PR of 1:02.19 in the 400, then joined Wyss, Logan Robinson and Taysha Veeman on both relay teams.
Robinson, who also placed ninth in the long jump, ran anchor for the 4 x 100 relay earlier in the day. St. Paul held the lead after the second and third exchanges but could not hold off hard charges from champion Central Linn (51.20), Grant Union and Enterprise and finished fourth in 51.41.
In the meet-ending 4 x 400, Vela pushed the Bucks up into second place by the time she handed to Wyss for the final lap. She was able to catch up to Enterprise on the final turn, but couldn't overtake Riley Gray. The foursome finished in 4:14.51 to claim second and a new PR.
"We're very happy about it," Wyss said. "This is pretty much what we were going for. We wanted to have fun with this one and do the best we could do. I think we all bettered our times individually, which made us better as a whole."
The boys had a similar experience to the girls in the 4 x 100, as smooth transitions between Gianni Grasso, Jaden Thompson and Jaidyn Jackson put anchor Justin Herberger in the lead at the final handoff. The junior was eventually overtaken by Weston-McKewan's Jacob Speed and Regis' Brandon Piete, but held off several others to finish in 45.27 and claim third.
"It was a huge PR and the fastest for us since athletic.net has been posting times," Swan said. "That's always good and the fastest time for maybe 10 years or more. It was a great performance by those boys and they all come back for next season."
Smith, who placed seventh in the 1,500 (4:22.79) earlier in the day, joined Grasso, Thompson and Jackson on the 4 x 400 relay, which took sixth (3:41.53).
"He was close to his PR and that's exciting when you can do that on a stage like this, so we're proud of him to compete up here this year," Swan said of Smith in the 1,500. "Last year we had a conflict with baseball, I believe, so this was good for him to go out his senior year."
A sophomore, Dela Cerda came in as the top seed after uncorking a massive PR of 170-9 at the district meet, but couldn't replicate that magic. He did best his PR prior to districts with a throw of 145-8 that was good enough for sixth.
"He was in a boot for over a month and unable to practice," Swan said. "So for him to do what he did was pretty exciting. I know it gave him a taste of success and he'll be back next year pushing it hard."