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PREP TRACK: Locals take high hopes to state

While all eyes will appropriately be on Ashland’s EJ Holland and Crater’s Jantz Tostenson in what stands to be a thrilling final set of boys distance races in their Class 5A rivalry, Southern Oregon boasts several other intriguing storylines heading into Friday and Saturday’s 6A and 5A track and field state championships in Gresham.

Holland, a junior, has been dominant in his young career and enters the state meet as the defending champion in the 3,000 and 1,500 meters, recently running the latter in one of the nation’s best times in 3 minutes, 50.42 seconds. Crayton Carrozz of Texas holds the top mark at 3:46.24, according to Track & Field News.

Tostenson, a senior, placed second in the 3,000 and seventh in the 1,500 last year, but gained a measure of revenge on his chief nemesis by scoring the Midwestern League title in the 3,000 over Holland last week (8:39.80).

With Ashland’s Reed Pryor also among the state’s best in both events — as well as Arlo Davis near the top in the 1,500 — it’s hard to imagine two races with more local flare when it comes to a sprint down the stretch.

Still, the Rogue Valley’s impact this weekend at Mt. Hood Community College stands to expand across the 6A and 5A landscape in boys and girls competitions.

Besides Holland, Eagle Point sophomore Austin Strawn is the only local athlete looking to defend a state title, with Strawn providing a stunning win last year in the 5A boys javelin.

Strawn won with a throw of 189 feet, 4 inches and enters this year’s meet with a second-best mark of 198-8, trailing only North Bend senior Ty Hampton (221-4).

North Medford junior Jaida Ross won a shot put title as a freshman and was second last year but carries the top 6A girls mark of the season with a throw that places her among the tops in the nation at 48-5. Gretchen Hoekstre of Seaside is No. 1 at 50-11/2, according to Track & Field News.

Ross also placed third in last year’s discus and has the third-best mark entering the meet at 147-81/2.

South Medford sophomore Emma Schmerbach will also look to take a leap forward this weekend against a loaded field after placing fourth in the 3,000 and fifth in the 1,500 last year. Schmerbach’s times haven’t been as fast in either event as last year, but the potential and the competitive experience are there for the Panther runner.

Another possible title contender for North Medford is senior Turner Nye, who boasts the state’s fourth-best mark in the 300 hurdles (38.94), which is only three-tenths of a second off the No. 1 time of Lakeridge junior Luke Neville. Nye will also compete in the 110 hurdles and pole vault.

Other Black Tornado boys in action include Jacob Allmaras (800), Daniel Olson (200), Aidan Vanderhoof (300 hurdles), Colby Neron (javelin) and both relays. Also in the girls meet will be Kamaile Kaeo (javelin).

For South Medford, Michael Maiorano (3,000), Reed Hungerford (400), James Duane (110 hurdles), Noah McCrary (200), Jacob Hermant (discus) and a 4x400 relay team will also be in the 6A boys meet. Morgan Burke (100 hurdles) will compete in the girls meet.

While Ashland’s distance crew has deservedly gained headlines for their accomplishments, junior sprinter Anthony Smith ranks first in the state at the 5A level in the 200 (22.07), third in the 100 (10.93) and seventh in the long jump (21-6).

Crater senior pole vaulter Cody Le Bel is the only other 5A boy with a state-best mark entering the meet after clearing 15-3 to win last week’s MWL title. Le Bel placed seventh at state last year.

The Comets also boast top contenders in senior Cody Fisher and juniors Ryland McCullough and Chase Sherer. Fisher has the fourth-best discus mark (155-0) after placing seventh last year, and ranks ninth in the shot put. McCullough ranks fifth in the 800 (1:57.81) and was third at state last year, while Sherer ranks fifth in the high jump (6-0).

In the 5A girls meet, Eagle Point sophomore MaLayni Stovall has a prime chance to gain her first state title in the 400 as she enters with the second-best time in the state (59.80) and is three-tenths of a second behind leader Katie Sinn of Silverton. Stovall is eighth in the 200.

Ashland senior Alexa Hague ranks fifth in the 1,500 (4:50.21) and will also compete in the 3,000, while Eagle Point junior Andrea Flores ranks seventh in the high jump (5-1) after tying for eighth last year. Flores and Stovall also are part of the Eagles’ 4x100 relay team that qualified for state.

Also competing in the 5A boys meet will be Crater’s Cole Ryerson (400), Matthew Schenk (1,500) and its 4x400 relay squad; Ashland’s Niccolo Cellini (pole vault), Nolan Rinefort (high jump), Chadwick Adams (discus) and its 4x100 relay; Eagle Point’s Noah Page (100), Eric Parliment (100 and 200), Tanner Greene (high jump) and its 4x100 relay.

In the 5A girls meet, Ashland’s Sophia Wiencek (pole vault) and Crater’s Maya Van Hook (100), Jade Hopkins (800), Elezebeth Allen (1,500) and Gracen Hokanson (triple jump and pole vault) will also be in action this weekend.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Anthony Smith stretches across the finish line winning the 200-meter race at the Midwestern League championships.