Track: Buckaroos shine in season-opening meet
The first step in the St. Paul track and field team's quest to return to Eugene began last week at Jefferson High School after the Buckaroos nearly swept the top two spots in the boys and girls competitions at the J-Town Small School Invite on Saturday.
Led by a strong showing from the team's distance runners and sophomore thrower Alex Dela Cerda, the St. Paul boys dominated the meet, placing first with 118.32 points to easily beat out runner-up Crow at 83.66 points.
The girls nearly matched, but finished second to the Monroe Dragons, who scored 94.50 points to beat out the Buckaroos at 89.83.
Coming off a strong freshman season in which he qualified for the state meet at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Dela Cerda opened this year with a trio of top-three finishes in the throwing events, setting a new personal record in the discus with a throw of 109.10 to beat his previous mark by more than six feet and finish second in the competition.
Dela Cerda made it to state last year in the javelin and was going up against a pair of state-caliber throwers in Monroe's Zach Young and Camas Valley's Jared Hunt. The St. Paul sophomore nearly matched the mark he set at the state meet, throwing for a distance of 132-6.5 to finish behind both Young and Hunt. In the final throwing event, Dela Cerda ripped off a throw of 37-10 to place second.
While Dela Cerda was doing work in the field, his teammates on the track were also hard at work.
St. Paul senior Holden Smith and freshman Adam Cook gave the Buckaroos a pair of first place finishes, in the 1500-meter and 110 hurdles, respectively.
Smith's time of 4:30.02 was on par with his previous times last year and gave him the victory in the race by a six-second margin. He added a second-place finish in the 800 with a time of 2:14.33. Smith also teamed with Jaidyn Jackson, Justin Herberger and Saul Martinez to take first place in the 4x400 relay with a time of 3:52.30 to win by a comfortable five-second margin.
The 4x100 relay team of Jackson, Herberger, Martinez and Gianni Grasso took third in 47.52.
Cook's win in the 110 hurdles narrowly beat out freshman teammate Jaden Thompson, who finished in second place. The two put up times of 20.30 and 20.92, respectively. They traded places in the 300 hurdles, with Thompson taking second place in 49.02, followed by Cook in third at 50.96. The two freshmen wrapped up their season opener by tying for fifth place in the high jump at 5-00.
Fellow freshman Broden Lear took home second place in the 3000 with a time of 11:04.64 and added a fifth-place finish in the 1500 (5:01.65).
Rounding out the team's top finishers, Martinez led the Bucks in the 200 with a fifth-place time of 26.61 and added a sixth-place time of 1:01.09 in the 400.
On the girls side, the Buckaroos are seeking to continue the team's legacy of strong relay teams and looked to be right on track this season after sweeping both the 4x100 and 4x400 races.
The Bucks bring back junior Rachel Vela and sophomore Isabelle Wyss from last year's 4x400 team that placed second at the state meet.
Senior Logan Robinson joins the team, one year after being a member of the 2016 relay team that took seventh at state, while junior Taysha Veeman rounds out the other spot. Together, the Bucks had no problem against the field at Jefferson, placing first in 4:38.92 to win by a 23-second margin over second-place Crow. The time was on par with last year's team, which opened the season with 4:43.62 and shaved off more than 30 seconds by the time they placed second at state.
The short relay was a much closer competition, with Diana Hernandez replacing Veeman to join the other three and post a time of 54.25, beating Monroe by a half second.
In the individual events, junior Emma Connor led with a pair of strong performances in the distance events. Connor took first in the 1,500 with a time of 5:49.01 and placed second in the 3,000 in 13:26.18.
Robinson placed second in the long jump with a mark of 15-02 and added a fourth-place finish in the 100 (13.98), placing just behind Wyss, who took third in 13.58.
Veeman added a third-place finish in the 400 in 1:11.18, while sophomore Stephanie Morales placed fourth in the 300 in 1:05.23.
The St. Paul track and field team continues its season this week with a trip to Heckard Field in Molalla for the Mid-Valley Matchup on Thursday, followed by the annual Canby All-Comers meet during spring break on March 28.