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...
The record, the top step on the awards podium and the headline in the newspaper the next morning all belonged to someone else.
But Crater junior Gracie Tostenson had little trouble reconciling her role in perhaps the greatest 3,000-meter race in Oregon high school girls track and field history.
"I'm more than excited to know that I was there when she broke that record," Tostenson said of South Eugene distance rival Erin Clark. "It's something I'm always going to remember."
Tostenson was more than just "there" when Clark took ownership of the state record during the Southwest Conference championships at Roseburg High on Thursday.
Tostenson set the early pace, leading for the first three laps of the eight-lap race, then gave way and gave chase to a couple NCAA Division I recruits. She knew it was unlikely she'd place in the top two and earn an automatic berth to this week's state championships, so she zeroed in on meeting the qualifying standard.
That's exactly what happened.
Clark, who is headed to Colorado, broke the state record that had lasted more than three decades, running 9 minutes, 37.91 seconds. It bettered Kim Roth's time of 9:39.0 in 1982. Roth ran for Sprague in Salem and later for Oregon.
Sheldon senior Maggie Schmaedick, who will run for the Ducks, was second in 9:44.20, and her Irish teammate, sophomore Gracie Todd, was third in 10:09.12.
They and Tostenson, who clocked a personal-best 10:11.76, easily met the Class 6A qualifying time of 10:18.09.
The state meet is Thursday through Saturday at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field. For the first time since 1971 — when there were only three classifications — all Oregon divisions will compete at the same time at the same venue.
In previous years, the 3A, 2A and 1A meets were held jointly at Western Oregon University in Monmouth a week before the larger schools converged on Eugene.
The girls 3,000 final is Friday afternoon.
Clark and Schmaedick are first and third in national rankings on www.athletic.net. They are separated by another Oregon 6A runner, Grant's Ella Donaghu.
Five of the nation's top 10 will be in the 6A state meet, and that doesn't count Todd (ranked 15th) and Tostenson (20th).
Justin Loftus, the Crater distance coach, likened it to a college meet.
South Eugene coach Steve Hess, in an article on USA Today's high school site, called Oregon's prep distance runners "a phenomenal group" and compared them to those of the mid-1980s who "all went on to do great things."
Tostenson made state as a freshman but missed out last year. Her goal was to return, and the best way to do so, she figured, was to stay with Clark and Schmaedick as best she could.
"From the start," said Tostenson, "I thought the two girls would take it out really fast, but they were sort of letting me take over. They were waiting on someone to push it other than them. I decided to take it out the first three laps."
When she heard her first-lap time of 1:13, she got concerned at the fast pace.
"But I knew I had to run a fast time to make it to state and just kept pushing," said Tostenson.
She, in turn, got help. Schmaedick broke what had been a routine pace with 1,000 meters left, and Clark followed. They ran the last third in a mind-boggling 3:01, or about a 5-minute mile pace, said Loftus.
Loftus, timing the race, began telling Hess the record was going to fall. He said it over and over until he was virtually screaming it.
"It was a big deal to me," he said.
He turned out to be right.
Tostenson had accomplished her previous best of 10:13.74 a month earlier in a twilight meet, also at Roseburg.
"It gave me a good amount of confidence to know that I had beaten the qualifying time," she said. "But it was also a different day and a different race so it was nerve-racking. You don't know what you're going to do that day.
"I was really proud of myself at the end of the race. I think I can run faster and I hope I will at state."
Her goal is to finish in the top eight.
"I want to be able to run with those girls and see what I can do," she said. "I'm just really excited to come back and race against the top runners in Oregon."
And the nation.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com