CENTRAL POINT — Rogue River's Cole Watson was scratched from the Crater Rotary Classic's premier event on Saturday afternoon.

CENTRAL POINT — Rogue River's Cole Watson was scratched from the Crater Rotary Classic's premier event on Saturday afternoon.

Then he went out and stole the spotlight.

Watson, only a sophomore, broke a 22-year-old Rogue River school record by running 1 minute, 55.21 seconds to win easily in the 800-meter race.

Earlier, Watson opted out of the 1,500-meter race — considered the marquee event of the day — to focus on the 800.

"I wanted it," Watson said of the record. "I've wanted it for a long time."

His time broke Rogue River's previous top mark of 1:56.09, set by Jim Howarth in 1986. Watson already held the Class 4A top mark at 1:58.40.

"It's impressive when you can break the school record and you haven't even gotten to quality speed training yet," said Rogue River distance coach J.J. Moses, who said Watson will start doing more intense training for the district meet in the coming weeks. "He ran by himself, in the wind, and broke the school record by over a second — that's pretty good work."

Watson won convincingly as he pulled away from an impressive pack with about 250 meters to go.

He finished ahead of second-place Elliot Jantzer of Phoenix, who finished in 1:58.04.

"With 50 (meters) left, I always have a problem with not getting my knees up and not pumping my arms and dying at the end of the race," Watson said. "I just seemed to pull away, and I felt like I blew through the (finish) line."

Watson set a then-personal best at the same meet last season. But he beat that time by four seconds on Saturday.

"A four-second improvement over a year is pretty phenomenal," Moses said. "Cole Watson is a beast. I'm stunned."

Jantzer, a three-time state champion in track and cross country, won the 1,500.

The loaded race certainly lived up to its billing. Jantzer jockeyed for the top spot with Marist's Matt Hollander early before Ashland's Matt Miner made a push.

Miner and Jantzer separated from the pack, and Miner momentarily pulled in front of Jantzer in the first quarter of the final lap.

But Jantzer regrouped and recorded the victory in 4:01.07. Miner took second in 4:01.60.

It wasn't exactly what Jantzer was hoping for — he was looking to run under 4 minutes — but he appreciated the push from Miner.

"I like that challenge," Jantzer said.

Said Miner: "He just had more. If I had to lose to anyone, it'd be Jantzer."

Jantzer holds the top 1,500 mark in Class 4A and Miner in Class 5A. The two have developed a close friendship off the track but an intense rivalry on it.

"It's a love-hate relationship," Jantzer said. "We really like each other. But on the track, I've got to win."

North Medford earned the combined team title with 124.50 points, edging South Eugene (115.38) in the 30-team meet that featured an erratic mix of weather. South Medford took fourth at 85.50.

The North boys also earned a team title with 73 points despite missing Jordan Ellis, who is currently traveling with the Oregon Rebels basketball team, and Josh Pecktol, who is still recovering from an ankle injury.

"Once we get all together," North coach Pete Voskes said, "this is going to be a pretty good group."

The South Medford boys took second with 55 points while South Eugene (76 points) edged Crater (54 points) to take the girls team title.

North received a strong showing from sprinter Almeir Barlow. He took second in the 100 and 200, behind Klamath Union's Mark Brooks in both races, and ran a leg in the Black Tornado's winning 4x100 relay team, which ran a Southwest Conference best 43.92.

Brock Bennett also set an SWC season best with a throw of 179 feet, 1 inch in the javelin, and Dane Arispe, who recently set the school record with a jump of 22-1, took first with a mark of 21-91/2.

Sophomore Drew Jordan placed second in the 3,000 meters and set the top SWC mark in

8:57.81.

Mitch Singler took second in the 400 (51.34) for the South Medford boys and was part of the Panthers' second-place 4x400 relay team.

South Medford's Stephen Lankford took second in the discuss with a mark of 155-1.

Baylee Hearns led the North Medford girls with a pair of victories in the 100 and 200 and joined Andrea Egge, Kate Folsom and Samantha Mount on the Tornado's winning 4x100 relay.

Folsom took second in the 100 hurdles and third in the 300 hurdles.

Other area standouts included Crater's Kayleigh Tyerman, who finished first in the 1,500 in 4:54.08, and Holly Haga, who took second in the discus in 114-7.

Cascade Christian's Rachelle Buck took first in the discus with a throw of 117-6, Ashland's Jordan Kling took second in the long jump (16-11/4), and Eagle Point's Jacob Ringrose took second in the 110 hurdles (15.35).

Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail landrews@mailtribune.com