Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
A splash of good weather created a wave of outstanding times and marks at the 57th Medford Rotary Relays track and field meet Saturday at North Medford High's Bowerman Field.
Eight individual and relay meet records fell, including one by Cascade Christian thrower Jo-Anne Jessee that stood since 2006 — the year the event was re-established. Originally dubbed the Rogue Relays, it debuted in 1939.
Temperatures in the 60s agreed with the 962 participants representing 14 southern Oregon high schools, making it the largest meet in the series. Most of the 15 events were scored on a relay basis, with the intermediate hurdles and mile run the only individual events.
Among those to claim records were the boy and girl athletes of the meet: South Medford senior Kodie Artner, who, said coach Mark Losinski, could be the best male track athlete in the state, and North Medford freshman Halley Folsom, who edged cousin Sarah Bennion of St. Mary's in the closest race of the day.
Artner scored 91/2 points and Folsom 13.
Grants Pass won the boys team title with 74.94 points, followed by North Medford (70.93) and South Medford (62.95). Henley captured the girls crown with 78.91 points, ahead of Crater (72.46) and South Medford (66.48).
Jessee produced the most stunning mark, bettering her previous best in the shot put by more than 31/2 feet and crashing through a barrier she'd faced since an indoor meet in mid-February.
The junior won with a put of 42 feet, 4 inches, breaking the mark of 39-01/2 set by Hidden Valley's Anja Crawford. All three of Jessee's throws shattered the former mark. She began her series with heaves of 41-9 and 40-3.
"I was stuck at 38 (feet) and started to get a little nervous about that," said Jessee, adding that she needed to reach 40 feet because that's when college coaches start getting interested. "I was kind of scared, so now at 42, it's a lot of relief."
She knew she was in for a good day when a warm-up throw went about 40 feet.
Jessee is coached by Scott Myers, a former North Medford thrower who won a national title in the shot while at Southern Oregon University.
"He was telling me that was going to happen," said Jessee, of obliterating her PR. "He was waiting for it."
Jessee was second in the javelin (119-5) and would have been a threat to win the discus had she not scratched on her three attempts.
"It was not my day in the disc," she said.
Artner's record came in the 300-meter hurdles. He clocked 39.85 seconds, bettering the 40.78 of Illinois Valley's Larry Ragsdale in 2008.
In the same event, Folsom clocked 46.99, breaking the standard of Taylor Vandehey of North Valley, who went 47.96 in 2008.
Other boys records were by the Ashland 4x800 team of Navarre Herrera, Benjamin and Sam Jackson and Isaac Schaaf, that ran 8:12.39, and by Mazama's Paul Adams, who did 4:29.97 in the mile to better the mark Rogue River's Cole Watson set in 2009 by 41/2 seconds.
On the girls side, other records were by South Medford's Kayla Parsons in the mile (5:36.22), Crater's distance medley relay of Jasmyn Andrews, Sarah Hastings, Shelby Owen and Gracie Tostenson (12:43.72) and Grants Pass in the shuttle relay (51.36).
Folsom had at least a share of three victories. In addition to her scintillating hurdles win, she captured the triple jump the first time she competed in it — she learned the steps the day before — and tied for first in the high jump, in part because she was tuckered out on her final height from having just finished the hurdles.
Her hurdles time was barely faster than the 47.00 of Bennion, Folsom's fourth cousin and a three-time state champion at last year's Class 3A/2A/1A state meet, including in the intermediate hurdles.
The two didn't engage in trash talk before the race.
"That's not really how our relationship is," said Folsom. "It was just kind of like, this is where we'll see who wins. I was just trying to use the warm weather to my advantage. It was a good race."
Immediately after, she wasn't sure she'd won.
"I just tried to dive as far as I could," she said.
North Medford coach Piet Voskes raised his eyebrows because Folsom's impressive mark came so early in the season and at such a young age, but her desire to win didn't surprise him. He likened her attitude to that of her older brother, Rob, one of the most successful athletes to come out of the school.
"She's extremely competitive," said Voskes, "and she's taken a lot of pride in that being one of her focus events."
No sooner did Folsom pick herself up from the track than she headed to the high jump pit. She was the only jumper remaining and was tied with Ashland's Joy Harpham, each having cleared 5-0.
Her legs clearly compromised from the race, she missed three times at 5-1.
"It was hard to get up," she said. "I could have cleared 5-1 if I wouldn't have been as tired. But I guess that's how meets go and you have to do what you've got to do."
Earlier, she won the triple jump with a hop, skip and jump of 34-81/2.
"I was surprised by the distance I covered," she said. "I'm just thankful for the coaches because they really helped me last night. I got one-on-one time with them. I'm glad it's the relays and that we all could contribute together."
Artner shared those sentiments, which is why he entered the long jump.
"We needed three," said Panthers coach Mark Losinski, "so we stuck him in there."
The coach, who said Artner could give Roseburg standout Korey Smith a run for the title of best athlete, couldn't go wrong.
South Medford jumpers finished first (Kyle Larson, 19-71/2), third (Artner, 18-111/2) and fourth (Hayden Saparto, 18-10) to win the team relay.
"I did it once last year," said Artner. "It's not really my main event. I was just the third guy and trying to get good marks for our team."
The relay format of the meet, he added, "makes it a lot more of a team sport, which is fun. It makes you feel a lot better because you're running for your team."
Artner only took up the long hurdles at the end of last year and admitted he "was not too good in them."
But offseason practice, particularly on the steps, made him very good and very fast.
"He's trained hard," said Losinski. "He's one of those kids you don't get very often, one who has talent and who likes to work hard and doesn't back down from workouts. Great kid."
Artner also anchored the winning 4x200 relay team that included Saparto, Sammy Elsdon and Christian Bowley, clocking 1:33.62, and was on the runner-up 4x100 unit.
TEAM SCORES — Grants Pass 74.94, North Medford 70.93, South Medford 62.95, Crater 56.44, Hidden Valley 54.91, Eagle Point 42.96, North Valley 40.94, Ashland 39.99, Mazama 27.47, Cascade Christian 15.97, Phoenix 15, Rogue River 15, Henley 12.97, St. Mary's 12.
1 MILE — 1, Paul Adams, Maz, 4:29.97 (meet record, old mark Cole Watson, RR, 4:34.22, 2009); 2, Garrison Iams, Hen, 4:31.62; 3, Hudson Eustace, CC, 4:32.79.
4X100-METER RELAY — 1, Grants Pass (Lawrence Potts, Logan Dean, Bracken Sharp, Enrique Mendez) 44.54; 2, South Medford 44.62; 3, Crater 44.75.
4X200-METER RELAY — 1, South Medford (Kodie Artner, Hayden Saparto, Sammy Elsdon, Christian Bowley) 1:33.62; 2, Grants Pass 1:34.11; 3, North Valley 1:34.87.
4X400-METER RELAY — 1, Ashland (Benjamin Jackson, Ben Mickey, Franklin LimeMa, Ian Wurfl) 3:30.07; 2, North Medford 3:30.67; 3, Harrison Leep 3:33.81.
4X800-METER RELAY — 1, Ashland (Navarre Herrera, Benjamin Jackson, Sam Jackson, Isaac Schaaf) 8:12.39 (meet record, old mark Hidden Valley, 8:14.49, '09); 2, Grants Pass 8:33.08; 3, South Medford 8:37.50.
DISTANCE MEDLEY RELAY — 1, Crater (Jason Braxton, Brently Sturm, Neil Seibert, Jon Obeso) 10:44.84; 2, North Medford 10:50.69; 3, Hidden Valley 11:02.97.