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Delays on the construction of Hayward Field, give Mt. Hood a second year for the big meet

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Sandy High graduate Jackson Staples goes over the high jump bar during last years state track meet, while fans stand on the grassy hill surrounding the end zone.

The OSAA will return the big-school state track and field championships to Mt. Hood Community College this year after construction delays on Hayward Field were announced earlier this month.

"Of course, we'd love to be at the new Hayward. There is a lot of excitement building up to that," Sandy High coach Anouxa Vixathep said. "It's disappointing, but Mt. Hood is not a bad facility. If it can't be at Hayward, then that would be my next pick, and it is right in our backyard."

Last season, Mt. Hood hosted the 3A/4A state meet on one weekend, followed by the 5A/6A meet the following weekend.

"Hosting last year brought over 20,000 people to our campus an our community," Mt. Hood CC Athletics Director Kim Hyatt said. "It had a positive economic impact on our community partners and provided our coaching staff with an excellent recruiting opportunity."

This year's OSAA schedule has top three divisions all scheduled for the same site on the same weekend — Friday and Saturday, May 29-30 — although that was planned with Hayward in mind.

"Brad Garrett with the OSAA has kept us updated on the entire process, and we have known that there was a chance we would be the back-up site," Hyatt said. "In the last two or three weeks that became more of a possibility."

The OSAA still has its championship events on the schedule, although it has suspended the regular season until at least April 28. A review of its spring-season status is expected in mid-April.

"We are excited about the opportunity to host, but our number one priority is the health and safety of everyone attending," Hyatt said. "With the extended closures and restrictions that are currently in place, it will be more challenging to get the facility ready, but we will do everything we can to make it a positive and safe experience."

PMG PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Sandys Tanner Brewster prepares to release a throw in the discus during last years state meet at Mt. Hood CC.

Helping to make it a top-notch experience are upgrades to Mt. Hood's shot put ring and to its long jump and triple jump pits.

"It's a good facility, I ran there in college, and it's hosted some bigger meets," Barlow coach Scott Jones said. "When you think about other places, Lewis & Clark or George Fox, they just don't have enough seating."

Seating proved to be a problem last year during a rain-soaked meet that had fans crowding the aisles in the main grandstands to stay under cover. Since then, Mt. Hood has completed a renovation of its east side (visitors) bleachers, which opens up seating along the backstretch of the track.

"Seating was the biggest issue last year. A big part of the competition was just holding a spot for our athletes to be," Vixathep said. "I expect they learned some things from last year's meet to help it run more smoothly."

The bonus year at a local site allows East County athletes to sleep in their own beds leading up to race day, saving area teams the costs of hotel stays and bus travel.

"The budget when you stay at home is next to nothing," Jones said.

The state meet is a regular part of the schedule for a Sandy program that had three state titles and a pair of runner-up finishes to its credit. The Pioneers last topped the podium with the 5A boys title two years ago.

Of course, the fate of this year's meet remains in question amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. If spring sports resume at the end of April, it would leave about a month for athletes to train and qualify for state.

"Obviously it's not ideal. Nobody has a training schedule to get their athletes ready for a district meet in three weeks," Vixathep said. "It's a matter of who is being the most diligent and creative in this down time. I'm trying to stay optimistic. I want to keep the kids' morale up until we hear a definite 'No'."

This story is scheduled for our April 1, print edition.

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