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Crusader girls set sights on title

The St. Mary's girls track team is entertaining grand thoughts at the Class 2A state meet, beginning today at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.

The Crusaders will send nine competitors into 11 events. Each is seeded in the top five, with five holding top seeds.

"This is pretty much the biggest and best we've taken (to state)," St. Mary's coach Joe Volk says. "I definitely think we've got the targets on our backs. The girls know that. They're ready to deal with that reality.

"If everything comes together, we can definitely win a title and do so in a pretty spectacular way. They are pretty pumped."

It would be the first girls state track team title in school history. The Crusaders finished fourth last season, just 10 points back of first-place Oakridge.

"Everyone has seen how much it means to us and the school to win a championship," says junior Morgan Martin, who helped St. Mary's win a cross country title in the fall and will look to defend her 800-meter title on Saturday. "It's inspiring to the whole school. To have that hanging on the gym wall for as long as the school exists is an awesome thing. We're all excited."

Martin holds the No. 1 seed and overall top time in Class 2A in the 800, and she is a versatile member of St. Mary's top-seeded 4x400 relay team. She's also a member of the 4x100 relay, seeded second behind league-foe Bonanza.

Martin opted out of the 400, despite a district title in that event, to focus on the 800 and help the 4x400 relay team take care of unfinished business.

The squad returns three of four members from last season, when it ran a state-best 4:06.86 in the prelims but suffered through tired legs in the finals to place second in 4:10.08.

The other 4x400 members are senior Rebecca Tribelhorn, sophomore Mackenzie Krieser and sophomore Abby Steinsiek, who replaces her injured sister Nikki Steinsiek in the lineup.

The team holds the top time in Class 2A by a full nine seconds.

"I think that it's probably an OK thing that we lost last year," Krieser says. "It gave us a ton of motivation this year that no one was going to beat us. We've been really consistent and no one is really that close to us."

In addition to running the 4x400 and 4x100, Krieser is entered in the 200 and the long jump.

She's the Class 2A state leader in the long jump at 17 feet, 33/4 inches and is seeded fifth in the 200 (27.14).

Other top seeds for St. Mary's include freshman Alexi Provost in the high jump (5-2) and junior Mary Bennion in the 3,000 (11:11.84).

Freshman Sarah Bennion is the second seed in the pole vault (8-9) and third seed in the 100 hurdles (17.51).

Abby Steinsiek in the 400 (1:01.07) and Tribelhorn in the 800 (2:27.90) are also seeded third. Junior Danielle Shubat is seeded fifth in the pole vault (8-5).

"On paper, it looks like we are supposed to win by a huge margin," Krieser says. "If other teams know that, they are going to come after us. But we are going to fight back."

The St. Mary's boys are led by top seeds in junior pole vaulter Sean Igelman and junior Joe Delgado in the 800.

Igelman is the only entrant to clear 14 feet. He bested the school record at district last week by clearing 14-5. Delgado was seeded seventh in the 800 last year at state and nearly pulled off an upset before placing second in 2:02.55.

His best time this season is 2:00.25. Delgado is also a member of the St. Mary's 4x400 relay team, along with senior Bay Gross, junior Jeff Reeder and freshman Harrison Leep. That team is seeded second at 3:36.76.

The Crusader boys have competitors in eight events. Reeder in the 400 (No. 3, 51.54) and Zach Tomlinson in the discus (No. 4, 130-7) are among the top five.

"Our boys, if they won according to seed, could end up with 45 points," Volk says. "That's right there knocking on the door for a trophy."

CLASS 3A STATE MEET — The Cascade Christian boys are also vying for a team trophy. Despite no top seeds, the Challengers have entrants in 11 events. Senior Tim Stieglitz holds the No. 2 overall times in Class 3A in the 110 hurdles (15.84) and 300 hurdles (40.93), and junior Brandon Grissom is the third seed in the long jump at 20-51/2.

Senior Connor Kirkpatrick will run the 100 (No. 10, 11.75) and 200 (No. 11, 23.97), and Jared Nichols will compete in the 1,500 (No. 10, 4:32.47) and 3,000 (No. 8 9:50.54).

The Challengers will have teams in the 4x100 (No. 8, 9:50.54) and 4x400 (No. 7, 3:39.43) relays.

Cascade Christian's girls will be led by senior Rachelle Buck in the discus. The Boise State-bound Buck holds the top Class 3A mark at 123-4, nearly five feet farther than second place. She'll also throw the shot put.

Senior Ashleigh Soltis, though she is seeded ninth, has the No. 2 time in Class 3A in the 100 (12.84). She recorded that time with a victory at the Grants Pass Rotary Invitational. Soltis will also run a leg on Cascade Christian's 4x100 relay team of senior Heather Case, sophomore Mariah McLemore and freshman Kelsey Cochran.

Rogue River junior Cole Watson has become a familiar name around track circles. He will again lead the Chieftains, running three events. Watson, who won a Class 4A state title last season in the 800, is a favorite in that event with a Class 3A state-best time of 1:53.58. He'll also run the 400 and 1,500.

Watson holds the top time in Class 3A in the 1,500 (4:00.36) and is likely to find his toughest competition in the 400.

He's tied for second overall at 51.54 and just 0.20 back of Colton sophomore Austin Collins.

Junior David Craw is Rogue River's highest seed aside from Watson. He's seeded fourth in the shot put at 44-9.

CLASS 1A STATE MEET — Coming off his first state-tournament appearance, junior Chase Ellis, a one-man track team at Butte Falls, is entered in three events. He'll run the 100, 200 and 400. He's the top seed in the 100 (11.24), the third seed in the 200 (23.34) and fifth seed in the 400 (52.54). He failed to qualify beyond prelims in the 100 and 200 at state last season.

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