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Schaaf helps KU win crown

KLAMATH FALLS - Logic suggested that the girls 400-meter dash would be one for the ages at the Southern Oregon Conference district track meet Saturday at Moehl Stadium.

And it was.

Klamath Union senior Sara Schaaf and North Medford freshman Brittany Hodges both shattered the district meet record, with Schaaf running 55.73 seconds and Hodges 56.33.

The host Pelicans won the meet for the first time since 1985 with 141 points. Defending champion North Medford was second with 115 points, South Medford third with 110 and Roseburg fourth with 99.

"Ironically, my focus today was on the 800, not the 400," said Schaaf, who broke the previous record of 56.54 set by South Medford's Amois Gonzalez in 1997. "But I went out hard, finished strong and the record came."

Schaaf, the defending state champion in the 400, had to go out hard in order to hold off Hodges, a nationally-ranked middle school sprinter competing in her first high school district meet.

The race was bittersweet for Hodges, and not only because she failed to win. She also pulled the Achilles tendon in her right leg while warming up for the race, leaving her gimpy for the remainder of the meet.

"I was just doing a buildup during warmups when I felt a twinge," said Hodges, who injured the same foot in the same area during basketball season. "It made it hard for me to get up on my toes."

Hodges wouldn't retire from the meet, however. She came back later to win the 200 in 25.83 and anchored the Tornado's 4x400 relay team to victory in 4:01.78.

And earlier Saturday, Hodges was part of another district record. She teamed with Emily Dunn, Rosana Medina and Jennifer Abbott to win the 4x100 relay in 48.46. The time easily eclipsed the old record of 48.84 set last season by the Tornado.

"I'd say Brittany had a pretty fair day," said Mark Hodges, her father and North Medford's head coach. "I don't know if she's going to be able to go in all four events next week at the state meet because of her leg, but there was no way she was going to miss anything today."

Coach Hodges took a calculated gamble and added the sophomore Medina to the relay Saturday. Medina missed much of the season with a stress fracture in her leg but ran like a rabbit Saturday.

"That's the first time she (Medina) has ever run the short relay," Hodges said. "It was one of the tougher decisions I've ever had to make, but she came through like a champion."

Jennifer Abbott, who anchored the short relay, said the Tornado can run faster yet.

"All our handoffs were either run-ups or run-aways," she said. "If we can fix that for the state meet, we'll run under 48 seconds."

Abbott had a fine day of her own, competing on both relays and finishing second in the 100 and 200.

Sarah Rountree added to the Tornado cause with a winning time of 15.71 in the 100 hurdles.

South Medford crowned only one champion Saturday - shot putter Hope Berkey launched a winning throw of 38-4 - but the Panther girls still made plenty of noise.

Sophomore Teri Silva broke her school record in the triple jump with a mark of 36-11/2, finishing second to Roseburg's Jennifer Lint, who went 37-4. Silva also qualified for state in the high jump, taking second to Klamath Union's Katrina Bott. Bott cleared 5-4, Silva 5-3.

Two other sophomores - Noi Hilgendorf and Natasha Wright - also punched their tickets to the state meet. Hilgendorf finished second to Schaaf in the 800 in 2:23.2, while Wright nabbed third in the 400 in 57.56, a time that met the state qualifying standard of 58.79.

Wright's time would have won the district meet a year ago.

"All of our top point-getters on the girls side are underclassmen, so we're real excited about the future," South Medford coach Bill Rowan said. "Today was a matter of setting the table for next year."

Klamath Union's Sam Gilbert was a double winner as she hit the finish line ahead of the pack in the 100 (12.72) and 300 hurdles (44.19).

Ashland's Paris Edwards, who has rarely been challenged this season, got a stiff test from Klamath Union's Liz Lindgren in the 1,500 Saturday. Lindgren stayed just behind the Grizzly standout until the final half-lap, when Edwards created a bit of breathing room to win in 4:48.3. Lindgren was clocked in 4:50.58.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail dhunt@mailtribune.com