Speed to burn
Tyren Wolfe said he felt pretty good heading into Saturday’s prestigious Oregon Relays at Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.
After his four events, the North Medford senior sprinter’s feelings turned from pretty good to positively euphoric following a tremendous outing on the track.
In a reasonably short turnaround, Wolfe anchored the Black Tornado’s 4x100-meter relay team to a win in its heat but a second-place finish overall, he won the 100, placed fourth in the 400 and then gutted it up for a triumph in the 200 that also eclipsed his own school record.
“It was just a great experience and a great meet to really showcase what I can do and my potential,” the 18-year-old Wolfe said Monday. “I’m really excited to see what the rest of the year holds for me.”
It was the second time in less than a year that Wolfe was able to put on a record-breaking show at Hayward Field. In last season’s Class 6A state championships, the 6-foot-1, 165-pound standout won the 100 and placed second in the 200 in school-record times of 10.69 seconds and 21.89 seconds, respectively.
Surrounded by some of the best sprinters on the West Coast Saturday, Wolfe again rose to the occasion, most notably with his winning time of 10.70 seconds in the 100. The finals included top Canadian sprinter Michael Aono of Seaquam High School in British Columbia, who was second in 10.80, and Grant senior Harrison Schrage, who was third in 10.81.
“Once you’re in a big meet like that with pretty much the top kids in the state and other states competing all on the same track and in the same race, it pushes everybody,” said Wolfe. “Pretty much everyone in that race turned in a (personal record).”
The 100 stands as Wolfe’s favorite race and he was well aware of the competition heading into the finals.
“Most of the guys I know just from Athletic.net, so it’s always fun to put a face to them,” he said. “I kind of look at the heats before I run and see who I’m running against and what their times are and what they do.”
In the marquee event, Wolfe said he actually got off to a bad start due to a prolonged hold before the starter’s gun went off. After holding his stance for an uncomfortable period, Wolfe said he flinched slightly as the gun went off and that initially set him back among the group.
“I looked at the video and it looks like I tripped almost coming out,” he said. “My first step I kind of stumble but I kept my head down and stayed in my drive phase. I was really surprised how fast I came up and stayed driving because usually when that happens people pop straight up. My start definitely was not good but I was excited I was able to collect myself and win that race.”
That effort came on the heels of Wolfe playing his part on North Medford’s short relay team with Brian Schireman, Javel Stewart and Cody Matthews. The Black Tornado had solid handoffs throughout and won its heat easily in 42.95 seconds, second overall to Westview’s 42.41.
Finishing behind North Medford in its heat were Mountainview of Auburn, Wash., in 43.96 and Southridge (44.10). Westview’s heat included overall No. 3 Valor Christian of Colorado (43.57) and Sheldon High of California (43.60).
“We were in the slower heat so I didn’t think we were pushed where we wanted to be,” said Wolfe. “I think if we were in the faster heat we could’ve pushed ourselves a little harder and maybe gotten a better time.”
After the relay and the 100, Wolfe had limited time to recover for the 400, a race he’s only picked up this season — and one he jokingly said he regrets taking on.
“A lot of people have told me that the way I run, I can be good at the 400,” said Wolfe. “Once I learn how to run it and keep training for it, I think the times will come. I know the speed is there, it’s just tough, man. It hurts.”
Wolfe said he knew going into the race that he wasn’t going to win — Jesuit’s Julian Body won in 48.28 — but he was pleased with a final time of 49.74 in only his third running of the 400. That effort ranks sixth on North Medford’s all-time list, topped by Matt Parish (48.59).
While his legs didn’t feel the best following the grueling 400, Wolfe said he took confidence from an outing he had a few days before the Oregon Relays as he prepped for his final race, the 200. Last Wednesday, Wolfe posted a 21.99 in a dual meet against Grants Pass despite running in headwinds North Medford head coach Piet Voskes likened to sprinting into a hurricane.
“I was really impressed with how fast I was with that headwind so I knew I was going to run a really good time this weekend,” said Wolfe.
That confidence was rewarded with his school-record 21.71 seconds, which was just ahead of Eliot Ward of Strathcona High School in Canada (22.00) and Schrage (22.01).
“To break the (200 record) again was a lot of fun,” said Wolfe. “Hopefully I break it again a few more times, and then again with the 100. And hopefully I can get that 400 record, too.”
Wolfe has a handful of opportunities remaining in each and hopes to qualify for state in all four events and earn another chance in the spotlight at Hayward Field.
After that, the future is unknown. Wolfe, who also played basketball, said he has not made a decision on what college he will attend next year, but he knows that he will only want to compete in track.
“I’d like to just focus on one sport for once,” said Wolfe. “I’ve always gone back and forth between sports but to settle down for one sport … it would be kind of fun to see what I can do.”
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry