It's Leep's year

    St. Mary's senior finally cracks the 50-second barrier to win 400 at GP Rotary Invitational
  • GRANTS PASS — What's a little competition amongst friends?

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  • GRANTS PASS — What's a little competition amongst friends?
    St. Mary's Harrison Leep and South Medford's Kodie Artner — good buddies since kindergarten along with North Medford sprinter Darren Cossette — were hoping they'd go head-to-head in the 400 meters at the 63rd Rotary Invitational Saturday at Grants Pass High.
    Leep and Artner entered the meet with the fastest times in the region, the former a mere quarter-second faster.
    But their coaches had other plans, with the versatile Artner skipping that event and powering the Panthers elsewhere. He won both hurdle events and ran legs on the runner-up 4x100 relay and the 4x400 relay.
    "I wanted to race him," Artner said with a grin.
    As it was, Leep had a breakout day, winning the 400 with a sub-50-second time that has been his goal since he ran 50 flat here a year ago.
    His time was 49.69, just ahead of Austin Baker of Douglas, who had a better mark (50.0) entering the race. Baker clocked 49.91.
    Leep's was one of only a few victories by Rogue Valley area athletes in the 36-school meet.
    In addition, Eagle Point's Garrett Snow captured the javelin, defeating nemesis Selmar Hutchins III of Roseburg, and Sam Jackson of Ashland prevailed in perhaps the best race of the day, the boys 800.
    On the girls side, St. Mary's Alexi Provost-Shean took the high jump.
    Last week, Leep tied the 200 school record that has been around since 1981, when Clinton Armstrong did 22.64 seconds.
    With that as momentum and the prospect of a talented 400 field to run against, he set his sights on breaking 50. It wouldn't be another school mark, as Mike Wisnovsky set it at 48.44 in 1986.
    But it was a milestone Leep yearned for.
    "I was waiting for something like today because I knew I was going to have to be pushed to get that," said Leep, who claimed state championships last season in the 200 and 400 at the Class 3A meet. "I knew it was going to be a battle to get that 49."
    He didn't know how much of one.
    Crusaders coach Joe Volk put in place a taxing plan.
    "He had to go out fast," said Volk. "We've been trying to get him to do that. He was at 23 (seconds) coming through the 200, and that was a good sign. He's got great strength from his soccer background and was able to hold on."
    Leep's version?
    "That last 50 meters was the hardest 400 I've ever had to run," he gasped shortly afterward.
    "I could hear the crowd, I could hear footsteps behind me, I heard people cheering for (Baker), so I thought he was going to come up on my left," said Leep. "But then the finish line came and I just didn't want him to pass me."
    Leep, who hopes to run track for Western Oregon University, chased after the record in the 200 again but came up short. He was third in 23.16.
    There was no question Artner would be busy. It was just a matter of in which events.
    The 110 high hurdles aren't his best race, but he triumphed in 15.40 seconds.
    "It was a good race," said Artner, who has gone 15.21 this year. "I hit a couple hurdles but was able to adjust and keep going. There's good competition in this meet. I was placed in here to see if I could get a good time."
    Artner continued to shine in the 300 intermediates, again banging hurdles along the way but managing a hand-timed 38.80. Converted to automatic time, it's a personal-best 38.94, ranking him second in Class 6A.
    Snow, a senior, jumped from No. 2 in the 5A ranks to No. 1 with his winning javelin throw of 187 feet, 3 inches.
    "I've been to this meet a lot, but it's nice to win it for the first time," he said. "My timing was just on today and it clicked and it went out there pretty far."
    His previous best was 184-8.
    Snow outdueled Hutchins III, whose second-place throw was 183-9. The Roseburg senior has a season best of 207-7.
    Going against Hutchins III "definitely adds more competition and drive to win," said Snow, who had beaten his rival once before in a dual meet.
    Jackson seemed to come out of nowhere to win the 800.
    North Medford's Blake Spencer, who has one of the top three times in the state, surged to the lead with about 300 meters to go. But coming out of the last turn, Jackson took command, finishing in 1:56.36.
    "I was hoping to stay back in the first lap and give it what I have in the last lap," said the Grizzlies senior, whose time is the 5A state best and within a half second of his lifetime best. "I started moving up at the 300, then kind of got trapped on the inside. Then, just to my luck, they all opened up in Lane 1 with about 100 to go."
    When the leaders got wide, he took the inside track and brought home the victory. Spencer was second in 1:56.58.
    Provost-Shean, a senior who recently committed to Lewis and Clark College in Portland, where she'll compete in volleyball and track, outdueled North Medford freshman Halley Folsom in the high jump.
    Provost-Shean cleared 5-2, matching her season best.
    Another Crusader girl, Liz Pentland, thought she came up a quarter-inch shy of the school record in the shot put. But she was unaware she had a preliminary put of 37-71/4, breaking the 2007 St. Mary's mark of Melissa Lass by more than 2 feet.
    Jo-Anne Jessee, No. 2 in state among 3A throwers, won the event at 40-1.
    St. Mary's Sarah Bennion fought through the girls 800 pack to place second in a 3A-best 2:21.31.
    TEAM SCORES — Marshfield 66, North Valley 53, South Medford 50, Roseburg 46, North Medford 38, Hidden Valley 35, Ashland 33, Grants Pass 32, Crater 31.5, Eagle Point 30.5, Triad Christian 27, Yreka 26, St. Mary's 22, Cascade Christian 21, Mazama 19.5, Siuslaw 17, West Valley 17, Douglas 16, Churchill 14, Thurston 12, Central Valley 12, Henley 11, Rogue River 9, Etna 6.5, Klamath Union 6, Bandon 5, Phoenix 4, Reedsport 3.
    4X100-METER RELAY — 1, Grants Pass (Lawrence Potts, Logan Dean, Bracken Sharp, Enrique Mendez), 44.04; 2, South Medford, 44.17; 3, Crater, 44.40; 4, Churchill, 44.49; 5, North Medford, 44.61; 6, Roseburg, 44.74.
    100 METERS — 1, Gabe Ovgard Triad Christian, 11.28a; 2, Austin Neill, North Valley, 11.37a; 3, Kawan Gaidowsky, Central Valley, 11.38a; 4, Dan Wood, Crater, 11.42a; 5, Josh Han, Churchill, 11.43a; 6, Enrique Mendez, Grants Pass, 11.48.
    200 METERS — 1, Gabe Ovgard, Triad Christian, 22.93; 2, Austin Baker, Douglas, 23.13; 3, Harrison Leep, St. Mary's, 23.16; 4, Dan Wood, Crater, 23.19; 5, Austin Neill, North Valley, 23.24; 6, Jason Thomas, Roseburg, 23.47.
    400 METERS — 1, Harrison Leep, St. Mary's, 49.69; 2, Austin Baker, Douglas, 49.91; 3, Mason Pugsley, South Medford, 51.43; 4, Trevor Garrard, Mazama, 51.46; 5, Darren Cossette, North Medford, 51.64; 6, Brently Sturm, Crater, 51.67.
    800 METERS — 1, Sam Jackson, Ashland, 1:56.36; 2, Blake Spencer, North Medford, 1:56.58; 3, Eric Neill, Yreka, 1:57.08; 4, Benjamin Jackson, Ashland, 1:57.25; 5, Max Hamilton, Phoenix, 1:57.45; 6, Neil Seibert, Crater, 1:58.35.
    1,500 METERS — 1, Eric Neill, Yreka, 4:00.64; 2, Kenny Freeman, Roseburg, 4:02.15; 3, Matthew Campbell, Siuslaw, 4:02.62; 4, Dakotah Webb, Hidden Valley, 4:04.16; 5, Blake Spencer, North Medford, 4:05.41; 6, Garrison Iams, Henley, 4:05.77.
    3,000 METERS — 1, Paul Adams, Mazama, 8:51.85; 2, Zorg Loustalet, Henley, 8:54.68; 3, John Whelan, Etna, 8:59.59; 4, Mack Marbas, Siuslaw, 9:05.09; 5, Mitchell Butler, Siuslaw, 9:06.08; 6, Jonathan Cornish, North Valley, 9:09.28.
    110-METER HURDLES — 1, Kodie Artner, South Medford, 15.40; 2, Colton Thurman, Marshfield, 15.41; 3, Luke Wright, West Valley, 15.47; 4, Seth Gretz, Rogue River, 15.62; 5, Isaiah McLittle, North Valley, 15.82; 6, Gavin Cowles, Churchill, 15.91.
    300-METER HURDLES — 1, Kodie Artner, South Medford, 38.80; 2, Ian Wurfl, Ashland, 40.10; 3, Noah Kotler, St. Mary's, 40.20; 4, Justin Angove, Bandon, 40.40; 5, Seth Gretz, Rogue River, 40.70; 6, Charles Chavtur, Reedsport, 40.90.
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