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Holland breaks state meet record in 3k win

GRESHAM — EJ Holland didn’t run a perfect race.

But he was close.

The seemingly indomitable Ashland junior broke the Class 5A state championship meet record in the 3,000 meters for the second straight year and, as he did in the 1,500 last weekend, established one of the top times in the nation Saturday at Mt. Hood Community College.

Even the unflappable Holland was taken aback.

“I looked at the clock and I was like, no way,” he exclaimed.

The meet, typically held at Hayward Field, was moved as that fabled venue is rebuilt.

The setting didn’t seem to matter much to Holland, whose time of 8 minutes, 13.10 seconds bettered his personal record by 8 seconds and the meet record by more than 13.

As has been the case the past three years, Crater senior Jantz Tostenson was right there, helping drive the pace and threatening to steal Holland’s thunder — appropriate since a light rain graduated to a downpour as they splashed around the track.

It wasn’t until the final 200 meters that Holland beat back Tostenson’s do-or-die surge and charged up the final straight to the eye-popping time.

On the girls side, Ashland’s Alexa Hague made it to the medals podium with a final-lap surge that earned her fifth place.

The 6A and 5A meets are running simultaneously and end today.

Last year, Holland and Tostenson both bettered the previous meet record, with the former crossing the finish line first in 8:26.44.

Holland lowered that PR to 8:21.17 in a competition in early spring in Arcadia.

“I knew I could go faster, for sure,” he said. “I ran a poor race that day.”

And go faster he did.

Holland’s time Saturday ranks third for the prep outdoor season in the U.S., according to popular website athletic.net. Not every state uses the site.

Cole Sprout of Colorado has the fastest time of 8:10.31. Californian Nico Young is second at 8:11.02. Holland and Tostenson rank Nos. 3 and 4.

“I think we both push each other pretty hard every race,” said Tostenson, who didn’t fret too much about coming in second.

“That’s a 14-second PR, so I’m not going to hang my head,” said the Georgetown-bound Comet.

Familiarity with each other played a role in how the race evolved.

Holland enjoys going hard at the start. Check.

He was in front for the first two 66-second laps.

“I like to front-run and put people through the hurt locker early on,” said Holland. “Sixty-five, 66 the first couple laps. It’s gonna hurt.”

With three laps left, it was down to the two Rogue Valley runners.

“With about 450 (meters) to go,” said Holland, “I’m like, fresh. I can do this. You know the speed is there. I’ve done some great shorter workouts preparing, and I knew I was ready.”

He also knew his Midwestern League rival would be lurking. Check.

As the bell sounded for the final lap, Holland peeked at the clock.

“It was going to be a fast one,” he noted.

Tostenson was crafting his own plan. He couldn’t try to take Holland on a turn, so he waited until the back straight. With 250 meters to go, just like he did a week earlier when he overtook Holland in the MWL meet for a rare victory, Tostenson nudged ever so slightly in front. Check.

“That took a lot,” said Tostenson, “because when you match somebody, they’re doing everything not to let you get around. So we’re sprinting. EJ, he responded well. I give him props for that.”

Holland knew the move was coming.

“Jantz, man, he’s crazy,” said the Grizzly.

“He came on me, and I said, ‘No, not today.’”

“Today I was determined,” said Holland. “It’s my day. I’m gonna defend my title.”

Not even the rain could spoil his day.

In fact, he rather enjoyed the elements.

“I could barely see,” said Holland. “I needed to have my glasses and get little windshield wipers on them, you know? I was just getting soaked. But I like running in the rain. It’s fun. It’s Oregon. You’ve got to run in the rain sometimes.”

Holland and Tostenson will hook up one last time in the 1,500 finals today. Holland is the defending champion, and his time of 3:50.42 at last week’s MWL meet — when Tostenson went out fast the first three laps before fading — tops athletic.net’s 1,500 national list.

Hague was running in 10th place with a lap to go.

She quickly formulated a strategy:

“I was like, last lap, ‘Go!’” she said. “Just take off. This is my opportunity, my last chance. I have to make the podium. With that, I got the podium and also got a PR.”

Hague’s time of 10:30.83 shattered her previous best of 10:47.30, set last week at the district meet.

Her late burst picked off four girls, and very nearly caught Hood River Valley’s Lottie Bromham, who was fourth in 10:30.05.

“I almost got her, but I just died,” said Hague.

Frances Dickinson, also of Hood River Valley, won in 10:12.83.

Reach Mail Tribune sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4489 or ttrower@rosebudmedia.com.

Andy Atkinson / Ashland TidingsAshland's Evan Holland raises his arms in the final meters from the finish line winning the 5A 3,000-meter run on Friday.
Andy Atkinson / Ashland TidingsAshland's Evan Holland leads Crater's Jantz Tostenson heading into the final lap of the 5A 3,000-meter run.