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...
Each of the past four years, a Medford school has returned from the small-school track and field state championships with a first-place trophy.
The St. Mary's girls team has been a juggernaut during that span, accounting for the hardware.
But if it happens this year, it figures to be a school in another part of town that takes the Class 3A meet by storm today and Friday at the University of Oregon's Hayward Field in Eugene.
The Cascade Christian boys not only have entrants in 13 of the 17 events, but they have some of the top kids in a number of them.
"Every year as a team, you hope to bring it home in some way," says Challengers sixth-year head coach Chris George. "If we can carry on that tradition and bring it home to Medford, I'm all for it. It would be nice to keep the championship in southern Oregon. If we can represent southern Oregon the way they have, we're doing well."
Cascade Christian's best finish at state came in 2007, when it placed second.
But if last week's District 1 regional championship meet was an indication, the Challengers are in position to top that. They scored a whopping 197 points to win by 101.
By comparison, during their state-title run, the St. Mary's girls scored 189 at district one year and no more than 164 in any of the other three.
Numbers on paper, however, are just that.
Asked about his team's chances to win state, George was reluctant.
"It's one of those things you always hate to say out loud," he says. "Like most coaches, looking through the numbers, looking at how people qualified and what their best marks on the season compared to what we have, and you start counting "¦ our guys, at least on paper, have a good chance of getting that top spot.
"If everyone goes in and does what they've been doing all year in the events they've been doing it in, we should come out on top. But there's a reason they don't just tally the numbers and hand out the trophy."
Among those vying for the trophies that go to the top four teams will be Nyssa, the reigning two-time champion. Other schools expected to be in the mix are Westside Christian of Portland, Scio and Rainier.
It's not feasible to say one or two boys lead this Cascade Christian squad. There are nine athletes constituting 15 entries.
"It'd be nice if we had a couple more bodies represented, but these guys have been doing it all season," says George. "It can be rough at the end of Day 2. You go through prelims, then you're looking at finals in three more events."
Brandon Williams, Aric Alcantara and Levi Girardot qualified in four of them, including relays.
Aaron Cesaro has a couple of throwing events covered
Williams has the No. 2 times in the state this spring in the 100 meters (11.04) and 200 (22.72) behind Scio's Brady Smith.
Alcantara is first in the triple jump (42-11) and second in the long jump (21-0).
Girardot is second in the javelin (178-10) and triple jump (42-93/4) and fifth in the long jump (20-91/2).
Cesaro is No. 1 in the discus (157-7) and fourth in the shot put (48-101/2).
The Challengers' 4x100 relay has the No. 3 time, and the 4x400 has the No. 4 clocking.
"When it comes to bringing home a trophy as a team, it really is everybody," says George. "You've got to work together on the relays. If everyone does their thing, it gives you the best chance. It's hard to say it falls heavier on this person or that person."
Among other top boys marks, Seth Gretz of Rogue River is first in the state in the 110 hurdles (14.93) and second in the 300 hurdles (39.41), high jump (6-1) and pole vault (13-6).
Illinois Valley's Mack Epple tops the state in the high jump at 6-3.
St. Mary's Tracy Salgado is No. 3 in the 800 (1:58.96).
While the boys look strong, the Cascade Christian girls could also be in the hunt for a trophy, says George. Stephanie Croy has the No. 2 times in the 3,000 (10:48.90) and the 1,500 (5:01.00), trailing Creswell's Olivia Powell in both, and the Challengers' Michelle Kinney is No. 3 in the discus (120-6).
St. Mary's girls have two of the top three pole vaulters. Hannah Graunke ranks first with a vault of 10-3, and Mia Harrie is third at just over 10 feet.
Prospect's Kaylee Biando ranks second in Class 1A in the shot put (37-10) and will also throw the javelin.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com