St. Paul track posts Swan song at state
With the announcement that St. Paul track and field assistant coach Todd Swan was stepping down following the 2019 season, last weekend's 1A State Championship was as much a farewell to the Buckaroos' former head coach and current assistant over the past four years as it was an exclamation point to the team's return to the 1A ranks.
And as far as parting gifts go, the Bucks could hardly have given Swan a better send off.
Led by state championship performances by the short and long relay teams, the St. Paul girls finished second overall in the team standings with 54 points — just three points shy of the 2019 state champion Adrian Antlers.
The boys team added a top-10 finish of their own, netting 26 points to finish tied with Falls City for eighth. In total, the Bucks scored 13 podium finishes between both its boys and girls teams, earning medals in all but four events in the team's first Class 1A appearance since the 2015 season.
For the girls team, it was a referendum on Bucks' relay teams, which had ranked among the best in the school's four-year stint at the 2A level, but never could capture a coveted state championship.
From 2015 to 2018, the girls' 4x400 relay team earned a spot on the podium all four years, placing fifth and seventh before back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018. The short relay team saw success too, finishing second at state in 2016 and fourth in 2018.
But on the team's return to the 1A level this year, the Bucks made their mark as the top relay squad in the state. With the graduation of Logan Robinson from last year's relay teams, the Bucks tagged senior Sadie Smith to join returners Taysha Veeman, Rachel Vela and Isabelle Wyss.
Together, the quartet was practically unbeatable. Beginning with a first-place finish in the J-Town Small School Classic hosted by Jefferson High School on March 16, the 4x400 relay team won every single race this season. The Buckaroos went 6-0 in long relay races over the two-month season, beating its season best time in every single race down to the state championship meet where they clocked in at 4:14.91 to claim a victory by nearly four seconds over the runner-up Joseph Eagles, who finished in 4:18.52.
In the 4x100 races, the team was nearly as dominant. After a second-place finish without Wyss in the season-opening race at Jefferson, the Bucks went undefeated the rest of the way, once again shaving time off their season best in every single race. The Bucks' state championship-winning time of 51.05 was more than a second and a half better than runner-up Cove (52.60).
Overall, the St. Paul girls put together one of the best performances in school history at the state meet. Wyss, Vela and Smith each added individual placements to their relay performances.
Due to the slick conditions on Saturday, Wyss was unable to repeat the prodigious distance she marked to win last year's 2A triple jump event, but she came close enough, putting up a leap of 34-06 to claim second place behind Perrydale junior Amity Deters.
With a dry runway on Friday, Wyss was able to put up a personal record-jump of 16-05.25 in the long jump, placing third behind Deters (17-05.50) and Moriah Michaels of Days Creek (16-09.25).
Vela matched Wyss's placements on the track, placing third in the 100-meter dash and second in the 400.
After qualifying for the finals in the 100 with a fourth-place time of 13.20 on Friday, Vela one-upped herself in the finals, posting the first time under 13 seconds of her career. In a photo finish with Michaels and Elgin sophomore Aaliyah Burton, the three sprinters were each clocked at 12.97. Upon review, Vela's time of 12.691 was just a fraction of a second ahead of Michaels and Burton, who finished tied for fourth place at 12.968.
Vela had slightly more breathing room in the 400, posting a PR of 1:00.57 to finish runner up to state champion Roby Young of Adrian (59.35).
Smith joined Vela on the 400 podium, posting her own PR of 1:02.96 to place fifth overall. She barely missed the cut in the prelims of the 200, placing ninth in 28.54.
In the distance events, senior Emma Connor set added a seventh-place finish in the 3,000 with a PR-time of 12:02.15 and took ninth with a PR of 2:39.31 in the 800.
Junior Stephanie Morales rounded out the girls with an appearance in the high jump, but was unable to clear the starting height of 4-08.
The boys team's eighth-place finish largely came on the back of junior Gianni Grasso, who took the podium in the 100, 200 and 400, and was part of the team's third-place 4x100 relay squad.
In the 100, Grasso picked up a third-place finish with a PR-time of 11.34, but was edged out by the Dufur duo of Asa Farrell (11.07) and Tanner Masterson (11.33).
Grasso beat out Farrell in the 200, notching a time of 23.28 to place just behind Masterson (23.13). Not far behind was teammate Jaden Thompson, who clocked in at 23.77 to finish fifth in the event.
Grasso placed seventh in his final individual event of the day, putting up a time of 52.92 in the 400, slightly more than a second behind state champion Austin Burgess of Falls City (51.74).
In the relay events, Grasso and Thompson teamed with Adam Cook and Francisco Vargas-Ayala to post a third-place time of 44.62 in the 4x100, placing behind Elgin (44.51) and Dufur (43.83).
Rounding out the day, Thompson and Vargas-Ayala were joined by Wyatt Bean and Broden Lear in the 4x400, placing 11th overall in 3:45.27.