Local standouts headed to Boise State
Southern Oregon's newest track and field pipeline appears to be Boise State University.
Three current seniors from the Rogue Valley — South Medford's Piper Delaney, Crater's Zach Elliott and Cascade Christian's Rachelle Buck — have committed to join the Division I Broncos next season. Delaney and Elliott will also compete on Boise State's cross country team in the fall.
"It was a coincidence," said Boise State distance coach Brad Wick of landing three area athletes. "They were the top people from Oregon. I hope it is a pipeline. I'm pretty certain they'll come here and have a good experience, and we'll keep recruiting that area."
Delaney, Elliott and Buck will conclude their distinguished prep careers this spring. Delaney, who made her official announcement on Tuesday, was the girls Southwest Conference cross country athlete of the year in 2008 after winning the district meet and placing seventh at state.
She finished third in the 3,000 and sixth in the 1,500 at the Class 6A state track meet last year.
"She rises to the occasion, and she's matured as a competitor over the years," South Medford coach Bill Rowan said. "Piper is a terrific young lady. Boise State has got a gem. She's got a lot of potential, and I'm sure she'll blossom at the collegiate level."
Delaney said she chose Boise State, a member of the Western Athletic Conference, because of coach Wick.
"I just liked his philosophies on running — not too high of mileage," said Delaney, who received a full scholarship. "I'm really excited to move on to something bigger and better."
Delaney hopes to compete for a state title in the 3,000 and finish among the state's top five in the 1,500 this spring. Already the school-record holder in the 3,000 with a time of 10 minutes, 7.78 seconds, Delaney is also seeking to break the school's 1,500 mark of 4:42.
She took her official visit to Boise State in October.
"A lot of time when recruits come in, we know they can run fast, but we don't know what kind of person they are and if you want to recruit them more or less," Wick said. "Definitely with Piper, we wanted to keep pursuing her. She has a good personality and is very sweet. She's someone you want on your team."
Buck and Elliott have yet to make their intentions official — Buck is expected to make her announcement today — and collegiate coaches are prohibited from commenting on verbal commitments.
Buck is a two-time state placer in the discus for Cascade Christian. She won a Class 2A state title as a sophomore and finished third at the Class 3A state meet as a junior.
She expects to compete in the weight throw on the Broncos' indoor team and the hammer throw for the outdoor team.
She received a partial scholarship with the potential for a full scholarship.
"I've always wanted to go Division I," Buck said. "(Boise State) has a great program and great coaches. And the environment is very competitive. It will push me to become a better athlete.
"I'm just really excited. It's been something I've been working hard for, and it's nice to see it pay off."
Elliott was a major part of Crater's run to three consecutive state Class 5A cross country championships.
He held the top time in the state for the majority of the year and finished third at the Class 5A state meet.
He's eyeing his first trip to the state track and field meet this year.
"I think he'll be very successful at the next level," Crater coach Justin Loftus said. "He'll work as hard as it takes. I'm going to hate to see him go, but he's going to bring up any team because he's a great personality."
Elliott says he expects to immediately compete for a varsity spot on Boise State's cross country team. He picked Boise State over the University of Portland, Eastern Washington University and Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn.
"I just looked for a bigger school," Elliott said. "That's what really got me. Everything was amazing. The facilities are really nice. Their team is really young, and the freshman class is really good."
Boise State's men's cross country team had no seniors and one junior last season. The women's team had four seniors and no juniors.
The Broncos' track and field team has won five Western Athletic Conference team titles in the eight seasons under head coach Mike Maynard, including a men's title in 2008.
Boise State has been ranked in the top 20 among indoor teams this season.
Oregonians have a heavy influence on the Boise State cross country and track and field teams. There are currently a combined 11 athletes from Oregon between the two teams, though none from Southern Oregon.
"The Northwest is a region with a lot of deep talent," Maynard said. "We've got a ton of student athletes from the state of Oregon, and now we've finally broken into Southern Oregon."
Wick said Oregon and Washington are typically Boise State's top recruiting spots.
"They have a good population and are good running states," Wick said. "It's a little bit of a culture thing. Having more people and programs into athletics breeds better programs and athletes. Medford is definitely one of those communities."
In-state athletes may also consider Boise State and other out-of-state schools as viable options because of the limited Division I opportunities closer to home, Wick said.
"If you want to run at a competitive Division I school, there's the University of Oregon, but they are quite elite," Wick said. "They recruit out of Oregon, but also the top of the top from anywhere. The next best schools are University of Washington and Boise State. We can give them opportunities to run the best meets and put them on teams that can go to nationals. Definitely, we'll be turning some heads in the coming years."
Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail email@example.com