St. Helens senior shrugs off injury, captures high jump title at 5A state meet

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: DAVID BALL - St. Helens senior Dakotah Camberg clears the bar en route to his second straight Class 5A state high jump championship at Hayward Field in Eugene on Saturday.Those around him wondered last week whether Dakotah Camberg would be able to even attempt to defend his state high jump title.

"We were really worried," St. Helens assistant coach Jerry Tinkle said.

Or, would the Lions senior compete at Hayward Field but be physically unable to perform well enough to repeat as king of Class 5A?

"I had a lot of concerns that he wasn't going to be able to win it again," Tinkle said.

But, after giving his sore knee and aching feet a lot of rest and ice all week, Camberg put everyone's concerns to rest.

He won, clearing 6 feet 5 inches, one inch higher than the next four competitors (Marist senior Pierce LaCoste, Summit junior Jack Normand, South Albany senior Logan Whittaker and Mountain View sophomore James King).

"I felt really good," he said.

In 2017, it took 6-6 for Camberg to wear the crown. And, earlier this season, he got over 6-7, a personal best.

So, making "only" 6-5 didn't have him doing cartwheels. But on the state meet stage, it's all about being smart and where you place, and Camberg handled both of those with aplomb.

And no one in any of the other five Oregon School Activities Association classifications jumped higher than 6-5 during the three days of competition.

Camberg needed to jump only four times to get his second title. He passed at 6-0, cleared 6-2 on his first attempt, passed at 6-3, made 6-4 on his first try, and cleared 6-5 on his second jump. When the other four competitors missed all three of their tries at 6-5, he had his back-to-back first-place medals.

"Dakotah didn't seem to have the concerns we did. He just got out there and did the job," Tinkle said.

"Getting it (6-2 and 6-4) on my first jump really helped," Camberg said.

The ease with which he negotiated those heights was encouraging, too. Camberg said he was hungry to recapture some of the spark he had earlier this season, and doing so made everything feel even better.

"I was really ready because I haven't been doing too well," he said. "I didn't get a PR, but I got back into my old groove of feeling well and jumping well.

With first place already assured, Camberg took three stabs at 6-6. He didn't make that height, but that wasn't a big surprise, given the circumstances.

"After he'd won, there was a little letdown, and he didn't jump so well. Same thing happened last year," Tinkle said. "But he was prepared to go 6-7 or 6-8, if he had to."

"If I'd had one more jump, I would have got it (6-6)," Camberg said.

A week earlier, Camberg had barely made it through the Northwest Oregon Conference district meet. He advanced to state with a 6-2 clearance, then called it quits because of the pain from patellar tendinitis.

Tinkle said choosing to have Camberg mostly rest in the days leading up to state, while necessary, probably made the odds longer for a PR last Saturday.

"We sacrificed some technique work and didn't do some drills we would have. But he had good legs and was jumping well," Tinkle said.

Camberg appeared cool and calm was he waited out and rose above his 5A competitors.

"Last year was his third time down here at state," Tinkle explained, "so when things got really tight, he'd been here before, he knew how to concentrate, he knew what to do. When misses started to count, he was able to work through that — let the nerves and stress all go away and focus on what he was supposed to do.

"This year, same thing. And that was huge."

Camberg impressed others with his demeanor, and Tinkle said that was no surprise, either.

"Out there in competition, he's talking to the other guys, and when they miss, he goes up to them and shakes their hand. He's a really good kid," Tinkle said. "And he's the old cliche — a hard worker, the first one on the track and the last one to leave. He's always been that way."

In capturing two state titles in a row, Camberg matched the feat of St. Helens' Ryan Waite, who won Class 4A (then big-school) 800-meter championships in 2005 and 2006.

"Last year at state, there was more pressure (on me), because another kid went up to 6-6," Camberg said. "This year, some of the guys I thought would do better didn't. But then again, I thought I was going to do better and didn't, so I can't bash on them."

Camberg said he enjoyed the competition this year.

"It was fun, because I know a lot of these guys," he said.

The meet brought out some sentimental feelings for him, not only because he is a senior but also because he isn't planning on competing for at least another year.

"I have a job waiting for me as a longshoreman at the Port of Portland," he said. "I'm going to take that up and work for a year, and then I'll go find a college, and probably do track, because I want to continue. But I want to take at least a year off from school."

He's thinking of going to Clark College eventually, and competing for the community college in Vancouver, Washington.

"My dad went there, and my coach's best friend coaches there, so I think that would be a good fit and would be fun," he said.

Tinkle said taking a year off "probably will be good for Dakotah. And if he wants to come back, he's a good athlete, he could do it. He could do a lot of events. He could be a decathlete in college. He can sprint and is a good cross-country runner. A couple of schools are interested in him, and they'll still be interested a year from now."

Camberg said he would consider doing the 10-event decathlon, which includes the high jump but requires athletes to sprint, run longer distances, hurdle and do some throws.

"That's what my dad did, and I'm very versatile," Camberg said. "I feel like that would fit me well, because I can run distances and do sprints. The only thing I would have to get into is the throwing, but that's just a little technique work and gym work."

Elsewhere at Hayward Field

• Two other Lions scored in the 2018 state meet.

Senior Daniel Lujano placed sixth in the 110 hurdles, clocking 15.48.

• The St. Helens girls took eighth in the 4 x 100 relay, with freshman Kasten Warner followed by freshman Savannah Moore, senior Kendra Vandercook and sophomore Isabelle Wallace in 50.89 (faster than their previous season-best of 51.28).

"I'm really proud of my team," Vandercook said. "I think our hand-offs were really good, and that's what got us to state, along with training all season and having faith. We really wanted to stand on that podium with the other (medaling) teams."

Vandercook ran relays all four years at St. Helens and was a team captain the past two years. Saturday was her first time at state, though.

"When we were coming on the bus and sitting on the field, I was a little nervous, but it didn't really hit me until I was on the track," she said, "and thinking it's my last time."

• The Lions' 4 x 400 girls relay quartet of sophomore Mackenzie Carlson, Warner, junior Cheyenne Trainer and Wallace ran 4:14.45 to place ninth.

• Moore also was entered in the girls 100, but she didn't advance to the finals.

• The St. Helens boys 4 x 100 relay crew of senior Sam Estep, senior Hans Hughes, junior Kruze Katzenmeyer and sophomore Logan Page was 11th out of 12 teams.

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