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...
EUGENE — Tyrone Holmes took a deep breath, bent over and stretched nervously, then popped up.
For the first time, there was concern on his face, the look of a storm watcher catching the first glimpse of dark clouds on the horizon.
Holmes had led for the better part of the Class 5A shot put competition in the state championships at Hayward Field Friday. But the behemoth that is his good friend and rival, Isaac Seumalo of Corvallis, had just changed the complexion of the event and the countenance on Holmes' face.
Seumalo took the lead. By one inch. On his final throw.
Holmes, too, had one last throw, his earlier chuck of 53 feet, 7 inches, no longer useful for a successful defense of the title he won the year before.
"I just love getting that jittery feeling," Holmes would later say. "I had the same feeling last year."
Fueled by the pressure, the 6-foor-4, 235-pound senior crouched with his back to the landing area, bobbing evenly to get his rhythm, then charged into a spin and a heave.
There was no doubt.
He retook the lead. For good. By a lot.
Holmes finished his prep career with a throw of 55-41/4, making it two in a row in that event and capping a wonderfully gratifying afternoon.
Earlier, he placed second in the discus, a vast improvement on ninth place as a junior. He did it with a personal best that eclipsed his previous high mark by nearly 8 feet.
He also won his 110-meter hurdle preliminary heat and will be favored in today's finals.
Three other local athletes placed in finals on the opening day of the meet for the 6A, 5A and 4A ranks, and several who figure to contend for gold medals today looked strong in preliminary races.
Phoenix freshman Nevina DeLuca was fourth in the 4A girls 3,000 meters, and sixth-place finishes went to Crater's Sarah Hastings in the 6A girls 3,000 and Eagle Point's Hannah Morris in the 5A girls javelin.
In prelims, South Medford's Kodie Artner won his 6A heats in the 300 hurdles and 400 and anchored the Panthers' 4x400 relay team that just slipped into the finals.
North Medford freshman Halley Folsom also won her heat in the 6A girls 300 hurdles with a PR of 44.93 seconds, and Max Hamilton of Phoenix positioned himself for a run at the title in the 4A boys 800, in which he was third a year ago.
Holmes' day started positively in the discus when he recorded a throw of 152-9 on his final prelim attempt. His previous career best was 145-0, set last week at the district meet.
"I'd been throwing well in practice and finally got one out in a meet," said Holmes, who will attend the University of Montana on a football scholarship.
With that out of the way, he next negotiated the shot put and prelim in the 110 hurdles, which started within five minutes of each other.
He took a quick throw in the shot, then hustled to the track starting line.
"It made me so nervous," said Holmes. "The guy told me, 'Well, if you're not back in time, I'm gonna have to scratch you.'"
No such worries.
He ran the race, returned to the shot put, fouled on his second attempt, then hit a couple 53-footers to establish himself.
Until, that is, Seumalo crashed the party with his put of 53-8.
"Isaac is one of my best friends," said Holmes. "I was thinking, 'Dang, I've got to beat him. Otherwise, I'm going to be hearing about it for a long time.'"
Holmes didn't think a throw in the 53s would do it, and sure enough.
"I wouldn't have been happy winning with that," he said. "That wasn't a good throw. I never was able to get it all flowing today. Even my last throw could have been a lot further. But you have these days sometimes."
As soon as his final throw hit the sand with a thud, the nearby Eagles' cheering section erupted. Holmes peered on as the measurement was taken, then raised his arms and went to Seumalo for a quick handshake and hug.
Holmes' nerves and adrenaline were in overdrive at the end.
"I guess some people are able to channel it better than others," said Holmes. "I think I can do that. You have to be able to control your nerves, use them to your advantage and not let them overpower you."
His only regret was that he didn't establish a school record.
Jake Olson set it at 57-21/2; in 2005.
Holmes' career best is 56-31/2; — his winning throw here last year.
While Holmes is enjoying his swan song, DeLuca is on the first verse.
Barely removed from middle school, she placed seventh at the state cross country meet in the fall and proved it was no fluke here.
She set a personal best by about a quarter of a second, 10:45.02, and her fourth place matched her seeding.
DeLuca carries a feistiness that belies her slight stature. She's been a competitive wrestler for years and doesn't back down.
"She's very physical and loves a challenge," said coach Marius Boone. "Even in practice, I have to tell her to slow down sometimes."
On Friday, she sped up, as evidenced by her finishing move over the last couple hundred meters.
"I think I was sitting sixth and at the 200, I kicked it," said DeLuca. "I ended up passing a couple girls. That was pretty cool. We were all pretty close."
Skyline Conference rival Alisha Luna won in 10:22.23.