North Medford High wrestling coach Phillip Lopez isn't the type to get carried away.
CENTRAL POINT — North Medford coach Piet Voskes wanted to invigorate his top pole vaulter.
In the couple weeks leading up to the Southwest Conference district track and field meet at Crater High on Thursday, Voskes changed the routine for junior L.T. Hoak.
And it paid off nicely on the first day of the two-day meet.
Hoak accomplished a personal best by a foot and placed second in the event, earning a trip to the Class 6A state championships next week at Hayward Field in Eugene.
"This definitely makes me confident going into the state meet," said Hoak, who also high jumps and runs hurdles. "My last meet was the Grants Pass Rotary, and I didn't do so well there, so I kind of a had a bitter taste in my mouth. I just wanted to get after it for districts."
While no Rogue Valley athletes won an event final Thursday, Hoak was one of four who earned their way to state. The top two in each event or those meeting a qualifying standard advance.
South Medford boys long jumper Hayden Saparto and Crater boys 3,000-meter runner Neil Seibert each placed second. Crater's Sarah Hastings was fourth in a fast girls 3,000 — the top four runners eclipsed the former meet record — and advanced with her time.
Finals were contested in those three events for boys and girls, as well as in the discus.
Sheldon of Eugene leads the boys and girls team races, and South Eugene is second in each.
Day 2 is Saturday, beginning with field events at 12:30 p.m. and running events at 2 p.m.
Hoak came in behind Roseburg's Jason Bergold, who cleared 13 feet, 3 inches. The Black Tornado vaulter didn't fare well in the Grants Pass meet nearly two weeks earlier, in part because he was "messing with stuff," he said, like his hand placement and steps.
Voskes messed with him more in ensuing practices, forcing him to make heights in two attempts, rather than the three allotted in meets.
If he didn't make a height, said Voskes, "He had to walk away and the bar came back down. He tends to get frustrated at times, and we just reduced that frustration and created a routine. It seemed to work today.
"I wanted him to walk away on the third thinking, 'I could have made it if Voskes would have let me.' It was a change, something different from anything we've done all year. We wanted something to just kind of kick-start him because, physically, he's a talented kid."
In seven previous meets in which Hoak made a height, he went out five times at 11-0. His best was 12-0 in a meet in Klamath Falls in late April.
On Thursday, he started at 11-0, passed to 11-9, then easily progressed, making his first five heights on his first attempts.
He had worked with a longer, heavier pole prior to the meet and went to it late in the series.
He missed once at 13-0, then went out at 13-3.
"I think I could have hit that next height," said Hoak. "A little more effort on my part and I could have made it. Going up, I hit my hips. That's always been my weak spot, getting my hips up and out of the way. And my turn was kind of slow trying to get over and around. I think if I can speed that up, I can definitely get it by state."
Saparto produced a season's best by 23/4 inches with a long jump of 21-2. Sheldon's Darby White won at 22-13/4.
Saparto, a sophomore, has improved nearly 3 feet over his best jump last season of 18-6.
"I'm excited," he said. "I felt pretty good. All my jumps were over 20 feet, which is pretty different. Today was the best long jumping day I've ever had. They weren't just over 20 feet, they were like 20 and a half.
"I was trying a little harder because I wanted to go to state as a sophomore."
Seibert, a senior, was in only his second varsity 3,000 race of the season, but he challenged South Eugene's Brian Eimstad, who has the second best time in the state among Class 6A runners. Eimstad triumphed in 8:53.66 to Seibert's 8:54.99.
Seibert entered with the No. 3 seed time behind South Eugene's Jack Wilson.
"He's a little raw," said Comets coach Justin Loftus of Seibert. "He had a solid race, for sure. He's always been a good runner."
So, too, the senior Hastings. Her time was 10:08.89, beating her previous best, set last year, by more than 10 seconds.
The former SWC meet record was 10:10.74, registered last year by South Eugene's Erin Clark, who went on to win state.
However, she was third Thursday behind victorious Sheldon junior Maggie Schmaedick (10:05.85) and runner-up and teammate Paige Kouba.
"I was surprised they all didn't go under 10-flat," said Loftus. "They were flying at three laps. It was a good race."
TEAM SCORES — Sheldon 34, South Eugene 23, Roseburg 22, North Medford 18, Crater 17, Grants Pass 16, South Medford 13, Thurston 13.
3,000 — 1, Brian Eimstad, SE, 8:53.66; 2, Neil Seibert, C, 8:54.99; 3, Jack Wilson, SE, 9:00.47. DISCUS — 1, Jacob Foutz, She, 179-7; 2, Nicholas Rea, She, 151-8; 3, Dillon Henke, NM, 147-4. POLE VAULT — 1, Jason Bergold, Ros, 13-3; 2, L.T. Hoak, NM, 13-0; 3, Cole VanAnrooy, Ros, 12-9. LONG JUMP — 1, Darby Wright, She, 22-1.75; 2, Hayden Saparto, SM, 21-2; 3, Dylan Stremple, GP, 21-1.
TEAM SCORES — Sheldon 41, South Eugene 39, Crater 21, Thurston 17, Roseburg 16, South Medford 15, North Medford 5, Grants Pass 2.
3,000 — 1, Maggie Schmaedick, She, 10:05.85; 2, Paige Kouba, SE, 10:07.67; *3, Erin Clark, SE, 10:07.97; *4, Sarah Hastings, Cra, 10:08.89. DISCUS — 1, Rachel Picknell, Ros, 129-6; 2, Ali Wick, She, 106-8; 3, Emily Cutting, SM, 105-5. POLE VAULT — 1, Julianne Quinn, SE, 9-6; 2, Marialice Rowland, SE, 9-6; 3, Svea Bahre, C, 9-3. LONG JUMP — 1, Aliyah Gallup, T, 17-5.5; 2, Kristin Clark, She, 17-5.25; 3, Lauren Clay, She, 16-7.5.
* met state qualifying standard
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org