St. Helens coach Megan Cox says this weekend's state meet is more than just potential gravy on top of the Lions' successful district meet performance.
"The goal is always to get points at state," Cox says.
Just as it was last week "to perform well" in the Northwest Oregon Conference district meet, which the Lions did.
St. Helens placed fourth in both boys and girls at the NWOC championships, held at Putnam on May 16-17.
The Lions got their star sprinters through — as junior Logan Page, sophomore Savannah Moore, freshman Hannah Hayduk and both girls relay teams were among those advancing to state.
Others who finished high enough in the district meet to earn a trip state: junior Waylon Nichols in the boys 1,500 meters, junior Gabe Hughes in the boys discus, junior Tanner McTeigue in the boys high jump, junior Jeremy O'Meara in the boys pole vault and junior Savannah Hoffmann in the girls high jump.
The Class 5A championships, sponsored by the Oregon School Activities Association, are Friday and Saturday — and this year they are at a new venue, Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham, due to construction of the new Hayward Field in Eugene.
Cox says having the site closer should help the Lions, who won't have to go on the road or live out of a hotel during the competition.
"I think that's the most ideal," Cox says. "Kids sleep better when they're at home.
"They're not up making relay T-shirts," she adds. "They're a little more focused. I'm looking forward to this year to see if it's any different."
It's still two long days at the track, but Cox notes that the Lions' first events will be at 2:30 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday, "so the kids will be able to get some good sleep and eat their own food" beforehand.
Also, the weather is expected to be good, especially on Saturday, with at least some sunshine.
"Very good for sprinting, it looks like," Cox says.
The sprints are, on paper, the Lions' best bets for points. Page will go to state with the fourth-fastest 5A 200 time this season and the seventh-best 100. Moore ranks ninth in the 200, Hayduk seventh in the 400.
And the Lions' 4x100 girls relay is ranked at No. 7, with the 4x400 at No. 5.
Moore, Hayduk and junior Isabelle Wallace have been mainstays on both relays, with the fourth spot in flux during the season. Sophomore Kasten Warner led off the 4x100 at district. Senior Mackenzie Trainer and sophomore Isabella Nelson have been involved in the 4x400.
Both relay teams took first place in the NWOC, while Moore swept the 100 and 200, and Hayduk ran second in the 200 and won the 400.
With Hoffmann winning the high jump, the St. Helens girls captured six district titles — double that of any other team, as league champion Wilsonville and La Salle Prep each had three winners.
Both girls relays set season bests at district, too. The short relay finished in 50.80 seconds in the finals; the Lions' previous 2019 best was 51.39. The long relay lowered its season best by nearly two seconds, clocking 4:13.16.
"Both relays ran really well," Cox says.
They've been doing that pretty much all season.
"They practice, practice, practice," Cox says. "Izzy Wallace is definitely the captain, and she pushes the girls, and the girls listen to her."
The Lions also have Nelson as a candidate to run on the 4x100 team. She posted a PR of 13.14 in placing fourth in the 100 at district.
"I'm excited about our relays," Cox says. "They've had a couple of meets this year with bigger schools and seen the fast competition."
A year ago, the Lions' 4x100 girls place eighth at state.
"I think we're more prepared than we were last year," Cox says.
The 4x400 for state this year looks like it will be a battle between Silverton and North Salem for first place, but most of the other qualifiers, St. Helens included, are close in time.
"From about third to 10th, it's anybody's game and whoever wants it," Cox says.
Moore's winning 100 time in the district meet was a PR (12.80), and she came back to lead Hayduk to the line in the 200 as the Lions nabbed both automatic state berths in that race.
"They push each other, encourage each other, work really hard, and it shows," Cox says of Moore and Hayduk.
Hoffmann added a fifth in the triple jump and sixth in the long jump to the district high jump crown that will give her state meet experience for the first time.
"I'm really proud of her," Cox says. "She's been the queen of the PRs in the field this season."
On the boys side, Page handled being a target in the sprints with his double at district.
"Logan has been ranked No. 1 in league the whole season," Cox notes.
The boys team had to battle some injuries at district. That left the Lions shorthanded and unable to go in the 4x400, and affected St. Helens' hopes in the 4x100. Senior Anthony Navarro managed to run in the short relay and take fifth in the 200, but "he was in a lot of pain," Cox says, "and has been battling a hamstring really since the beginning of the season. He really prepared this winter, but it just wasn't in the cards for him."
Another junior, Kyle Parnell, was banged up, too, with a limp from a lower-leg injury, as he took fifth in the 110 hurdles and seventh in the 30 hurdles. "He showed a lot of heart," Cox says. "He pushed through. He's a tough kid."
Nichols took third in the 3,000 on day one of district then ran a smart and determined 1,500 in the day two finals to advance to state as the NWOC runner-up to Parkrose's Abdi Ibrahim (who was second to teammate Ahmed Ibrahim in the 3,000).
Nichols got a PR (9:17.30) in the 3,000, "but the Parkrose boys are fast and ran a really smart race," Cox says. "In the 1,500, Waylon did really well. I think he had a little bit of a bitter taste in his mouth and just went out and went for it."
The top two finishers in each event at district automatically qualified for this week's 5A meet.
A handful of other top finishers got spots, too, via the wild-card process, and the Lions had three boys earn those berths: O'Meara with his pole vault PR of 12-3 and third-place showing; McTeigue in the high jump; and Hughes after he PR'd (130-11) to take third in the discus.
"Jeremy has been really impressive in the pole vault, going higher," Cox says. "Tanner has come on the field and gotten a lot of points this season — our boys didn't lose in the field to anyone all year. And Gabe has worked really hard and been PR'ing consistently."
Among other notable performances at district, sophomore Jakob Robbins added nearly 10 feet to his PR in the javelin, placing fourth with a throw of 146-4.
"He got some points we weren't anticipating," Cox says.
In the NWOC team standings, the St. Helens boys tallied 84 points, trailing only Wilsonville (131), Scappoose (104) and Milwaukie (91). La Salle Prep and Hillsboro tied for fifth with 68 points.
"I thought our boys could have done a little better, but with our injuries, that wasn't going to happen," Cox says.
The St. Helens girls finished the district meet with 83 points. Scappoose was fifth with 68, and Putnam was sixth with 66.5. The top three were Wilsonville (131), La Salle Prep (120) and Hillsboro (117.5).
"The girls were about where I thought we'd be," Cox says. "Hoffmann getting first in the high jump was a terrific surprise."
Also a big surprise to Cox, a long-time Lions assistant coach in her first year as the head coach, was when she was named the NWOC girls track and field coach of the year.
The results of the voting by her league peers was revealed moments after the final event at the district meet. And it caught the winner by surprise.
"When they announced it (over the speaker system at Putnam), I had no idea," she says.
Rival head coach Dennis Olstedt from Scappoose was among those singing her praises.
"The award is so well-deserved — she's a great coach, a great person to work with," Olstedt says.
The NWOC boys coach of the year, Parkrose's Keanon Lowe, wasn't able to attend the finals because the former Jesuit High and University of Oregon football standout had made national headlines in tackling and subduing a student who entered school with a shotgun.
"I was extremely proud and honored to win the girls coach of the year award, and especially with Keanon getting it on the boys side — he's hero material," Cox says.
St. Helens to state
(May 24-25, Mt. Hood Community College)
100 — Logan Page
200 — Logan Page
1,500 — Waylon Nichols
Discus — Gabe Hughes
High jump — Tanner McTeigue
Pole vault — Jeremy O'Meara
100 — Savannah Moore
200 — Savannah Moore, Hannah Hayduk
400 — Hannah Hayduk
High jump — Savannah Hoffmann
Lions in 5A top 10
100 — Logan Page, 7th
200 — Logan Page, 4th
200 — Savannah Moore, 9th
400 — Hannah Hayduk, 7th
4x100 relay — 7th
4x400 relay — 5th