Track: Kennedy ready for state as season winds down
With just a little more than one week left before Tri-River District Championships, the Kennedy track and field team is rounding into shape.
Kennedy is coming off a recent trip to St. Paul High School on April 26 for a PacWest/Tri-River meet and will travel to Regis this Friday before returning home on May 10-11 for the two-day state qualifier hosted at Kennedy High School.
The Trojans feature a number of state championship contenders on the boys side this year, but will be going up against fierce competition in the Tri-River Conference by the likes of usual rivals like St. Paul and Regis — both of whom were at last week's track meet in St. Paul.
As usual, the Kennedy boys are led by the team's stable of distance runners, paced by sophomores Luke Hall, Jannick Schneider and Nick Riedman.
Hall was the program's top performer in the fall during the cross country season, but Schneider — a mid-tier runner in the 5k — has proven himself to be a much stronger runner in the shorter distance events in the spring.
"The longer distance wasn't really his forte, but he seems to do really well running the 400 and 800 lengths," head coach Steve Ritchie said. "He's doing fantastic."
Schneider is currently ranked second in the conference in the 800 with a personal-best time of 2:06.01, but the top of the standings is separated by a razor thin margin, with less than three seconds separating the best times of East Linn Christian's Jedaiah Wasson (2:04.74), Schneider, East Linn's Christian Strawn (2:06.43) and Hall (2:07.43).
All four runners also happen to be ranked among the top 10 times in the state at the 2A level, meaning that there could be a chance that more than just the top two make the cut for the state meet in Eugene later this month.
But the best bet for Schneider and Hall to make it to state may be as one half of the Trojans' 4x400 relay team.
The pair have put up the best long relay time in the district this season, along with teammates Micah Parker and track and field newcomer Emorej Lynk, who didn't come out last season due to basketball commitments.
Lynk is coming off a stellar basketball season for the Trojans, earning all-state honors as a sophomore in the winter season. Although he'll continue to play tournament basketball during the spring season, he's splitting time with the track and field schedule, giving the Trojans a top-tier athlete in the sprints.
"He's so talented," Ritchie said. "He has good speed, good strength, just all around a strong athlete."
Kennedy also boasts Riedman, Brandon Salazar and even freshman Gianni Velazquez as potential runners to plug into the relay team, giving the team plenty of depth to throw at opponents at the district championships.
Elsewhere on the field, junior Nick Suing leads the Kennedy throwers after posting a personal-best mark of 41-06.5 at the St. Paul meet, moving him further ahead of a stable of throwers eager to join Regis' Kirkland Scott (47-07) at the state meet.
Among the jumpers, senior Anthony Garcia is looking to make his first trip to state as an individual after competing last year as part of the Trojans' sixth-place 4x100 relay team. Garcia is near the top of the league standings in the long jump with a PR of 18-09.5 and is a dark horse contender to advance in the triple jump with a mark of 37-01.
Another state contender — junior Carlos Saravia — has shown flashes of being one of the top hurdles in the state at the 2A level after setting personal bests in the 110 (17.24) and 300 (44.50) earlier in the month that put him in the top 10. But Saravia's season was put in doubt on April 14 at the Meet of Champions in Salem when he fell on the second hurdle, dislocating his shoulder on the impact. Saravia managed to complete the race, but has yet to compete since and is questionable to compete in next week's state qualifier.
"We're not quite sure yet when he'd be able to come back," Ritchie said shortly after the injury. "It doesn't appear that anything's fractured, but he needs to be checked out and given clearance."
But before districts, the Trojans have one last chance to fine tune things when they head south to the Regis Community Twilight Invitational on Friday in Stayton.