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Watson runs away from field to win 800

EUGENE — On an otherwise slow day for Southern Oregon competitors, Rogue River sophomore Cole Watson was blazingly fast in earning a Class 4A 800-meter state title Friday in the state track and field meet at Hayward Field.

Watson distanced the rest of the field nearly from the gun and overcame tired legs in the final 200 meters for his first state championship, running 1 minute, 54.71 seconds — breaking his own school record and personal best of 1:55.30 and narrowly missing the Class 4A state-meet record of 1:54.08 set by Astoria's Phil Thompson in 1986.

"I've dreamed of something like this forever," Watson said. "I used to think maybe it wouldn't come true because I've had cruddy cross country seasons, but finally the hard work paid off."

Watson finished two seconds ahead of Ryan Soberanis of La Salle and in front of a talented field, which included Marist's Matt Hollander, whose lifetime best is 1:54:66.

"I was scared of him," Watson said of Hollander. "I definitely respect him for what he's done. I'm confident in my abilities but I didn't expect this."

Watson slowed considerably in the final 200 meters of the race but not enough for the pack to catch him.

"I thought I was done for," Watson said. "I thought, 'Oh man, I messed up.' But I guess everyone was hurting just as bad."

It was all part of the plan though as Rogue River distance coach J.J. Moses encouraged Watson to run "wire-to-wire."

"That's the point— to get out to a big lead," Moses said. "He was dead tired but I don't care how fast you are, it's demoralizing to be that far behind."

Seven local area athletes, including Watson, placed on Friday in day two of three of the state meet and seven others advanced beyond preliminaries and into today's finals.

Crater junior Kayleigh Tyerman helped the Comets keep pace with Summit in the Class 5A girls team-title race. Crater is in second, just two back, with 35 points.

Tyerman earned her second runner-up finish by running 2:16.31 in the 800, a personal record by one second. She took second in the 3,000 on Thursday.

Tyerman was the top seed entering the 800 and led until the bell lap when Summit junior Alyssa O'Connor took over with an aggressive push. O'Connor, a remarkable story, won with a time of 2:12, a new state record.

"My goal was to get out hard and give whatever I had at the end," Tyerman said. "I couldn't really stay with her (O'Connor)."

O'Connor missed her entire sophomore season after fracturing her right femur in three places in the fall of 2006. After recovering, she then fractured her left femur in the fall of 2007 and has two permanent screws.

"I can't believe how easily she's recovering," Tyerman said. "She's the nicest girl. If you've got to lose to someone, she's the one."

Crater senior Cheree Clark took third in the javelin with a mark of 126-4. The Crater boys placed senior Marcus Haviear in the javelin with a mark of 162-10 for sixth place and sophomore Kelley Beck advanced to finals in the 400 with a seventh-place finish.

Also in Class 5A, Ashland had two competitors place. Senior Aria Hemphill took fourth in the 800 in 2:19.19, a personal best, and senior Paulina Belsky took eighth in the pole vault by clearing nine feet.

Eagle Point senior Jacob Ringrose advanced in both the 110 and 300 hurdles. He is the top seed in both events going into today's finals.

"It's always good to get into finals," Ringrose said. "I always say, everybody's got a chance to win."

Eagle Point senior Robby Mannenbach closed his career with a fifth-place finish by clearing 13 feet in the pole vault.

Among Class 6A competitors, North Medford sophomore sprinter Baylee Hearns earned berths into the 100 and 200 finals today with a second-place finish in the 100 (12.45) and fourth-place finish in the 200 (25.50).

"I'm definitely more comfortable in the 100," Hearns said. "I prayed a lot in the 200."

Black Tornado senior Almeir Barlow advanced in the 100 prelims with a time of 11.68, good for the eighth and final spot into the finals.

South Medford did not have any competitors place or qualify for finals on Friday.

In Class 4A, senior Joe Christie advanced to the finals by placing fourth in the 100 with a time of 11.31 and teammate Chris Burman, a senior, advanced in the 300 hurdles with a fifth-place finish in 41.26.

Phoenix's Elliott Jantzer finished first in the 400 prelims, a day after winning the 3,000 state title. He ran 49.46 on Friday.

Other notable finishers included Hidden Valley's Ashley Seal, who took second in the triple jump with a mark of 36-0 1/2; and Illinois Valley's Robert Parson's third-place finish in the discus with a mark of 143-4.

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