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Running away with it

Hodges leads Tornado to district title

ASHLAND ' When Brittany Hodges pulled the hamstring muscle in her right leg during a qualifying heat of the 400 meters Thursday at the Southern Oregon Conference girls district track meet, it was as if the main wheel of North Medford's multifaceted machine had gone bad.

Hodges was favored to win the 200 and 400 and she was a vital member of the Black Tornado's 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams that were also favored.

North Medford was a prohibitive favorite heading into the meet, but without its most valuable runner the Tornado would be like a race car sputtering along with a flat tire.

— Hodges spent Thursday night and Friday icing her injury and getting electric stimulation and massage treatments.

She was still a bit gimpy Saturday, but the gutsy junior took on her normal workload and emerged with three victories and a second to fuel the Tornado to its second district title in the last four years.

Hodges won the 400 in 58.77 seconds, the 200 in 25.81 and ran a leg on North Medford's 4x100 relay that triumphed in 49.16.

And then in the last event of the day, Hodges ran a zippy 57-second anchor split in the 4x400 relay that pulled her team within a half-second of Grants Pass.

The Tornado totaled 164&

189; points on the day to finish well ahead of its rivals. South Medford was second with 113, followed by Klamath Union (87&

189; ), Roseburg (71), Grants Pass (69), Crater (52), Eagle Point (44&

189; ) and Ashland (20&

189; ).

I just took it one race at a time, said Hodges, who now has eight district titles in three years. It was still sore, but I was able to get through the meet.

North Medford coach Mark Hodges ' Brittany's father ' cringed as his daughter hobbled across the finish line of the 200. He suggested that she skip the 4x400 relay and not worsen her woes, but Brittany insisted on running all four events.

I told her that if I saw any limp while she was warming up for the relay, I was going to pull her out, Mark Hodges said. But she looked OK and so I let her run.

She's a very gutsy girl.

Senior sprinter Emily Dunn jump-started the Tornado early Saturday when she overtook South Medford's Kaylyn Knutson and Amber Stevens to win the 100 in 12.54.

The district title was Dunn's first in an individual event.

I've been feeling a lot stronger in practice lately, said Dunn, who also anchored North Medford's 4x100 relay team to victory and finished third in the 200. I closed hard and that really felt good, because in my younger days I would fade at the end.

North Medford's other victory Saturday came from Rosana Medina, who clocked 46.73 in the 300 hurdles.

The only meet record to fall Saturday came in the pole vault, where Eagle Point senior Aubrey Harrington cleared 11 feet, 9 inches. The old mark of 11-4 was set by South Medford's Kristin Russell in 1999.

Harrington moved the bar to 12 feet and just missed on her second attempt.

I just needed to finish a little better at the top, said Harrington, wearing her ever-present grin. I'll get it (12 feet) at the state meet next week.

Harrington's teammate, Jackie Shelton, was a surprising second at 10-9, and three other competitors ' South Medford's Stephanie Anderberg, Roseburg's Katie Stevens and Klamath Union's Jenna Fay ' earned trips to state by making the state-qualifying height of 10-6.

Shelton, a junior, reached a lifetime best by a whopping 2 feet.

I wasn't even going to show up today because I've been doing so bad in practice, Shelton admitted. Yesterday, I couldn't even make 9 feet.

The closest competition came in the high jump, where Crater's Erin Kinney, South Medford's Teri Silva and Roseburg's Kristen Bitter all cleared 5-5.

Kinney and defending champion Silva tied for first place on fewer misses, and then Kinney won in a jump-off.

With state qualifying being 5-3, all three earned trips to the state meet.

It was so close and so exciting, said Kinney, a three-sport athlete who is headed to Warner Pacific College on a basketball scholarship. It isn't often that you see three high jumpers go 5-5 at the same (district) meet.

I'm looking forward to next week (at state) because I think all three of us can do even better.

Kinney later won the 100 hurdles in 15.62 and Bitter outdueled Silva to win the triple jump at 35-6.

In other events, Katelyn VanBrunt of Grants Pass won the 800 in 2:21.93; Alisa Lee of Eagle Point won the discus at 125-3; and Katie Leary of Klamath Union outdueled North Medford's Danielle Jordan to win the 1,500 in 4:45.94.

North Medford?s Brittany Hodges grabs the baton from teammate Rosana Medina during the 4x100 relay at Saturday?s SOC district meet. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman