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Ross is the boss

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GRESHAM — Jaida Ross is one of the best girl high school shot-putters in the country, yet she had something to prove in the Class 6A state championships.

To herself.

“I had a lot to prove from last year,” said the North Medford junior, “because last year, I was not happy with it. I definitely wanted to do better than last year. It’s kind of like satisfying, a self-fulfillment kind of thing.”

She achieved a sense of nirvana by winning her second state title in her specialty Saturday at Mt. Hood Community College.

Ross produced a winning throw of 42 feet, 10 inches, which was nearly a foot farther than runner-up Angel Aluesi of Centennial, whose best mark was 41-10 1/4.

Her performance was among the highlights by Rogue Valley competitors.

Ashland’s EJ Holland again did what EJ Holland does: He won a race and set a meet record.

The junior claimed the 5A boys 1,500 meters in 3 minutes, 51.92 seconds, besting runner-up Jantz Tostenson of Crater and leading a parade of locals — five in the top seven in the metric mile.

Holland’s time approached the national-best mark of 3:50.42 he ran a week earlier.

Grizzly teammate Anthony Smith had an active day, placing second in the 200, third in the 100, sixth in the long jump and running on the third-place 4x100 relay.

Holland and Smith were the catalysts as the Grizzly boys placed second to North Bend. North Bend scored 72.5 points to Ashland’s 65.

Another runner-up spot went to Crater junior Gracen Hokanson in the pole vault.

North Medford’s Ross won state as a freshman, but she was second last year with a lesser mark.

Her goal this time around was to improve on the personal best of 48-5 she set this spring. It ranks fourth in the nation according to athletic.net.

She wasn’t very close, she nodded.

“It wasn’t the best number,” said Ross, “but I guess results count for something. I’m still happy with where everything ended.”

Her primary focus was on technique, meeting the checkpoints necessary to put it all together.

“My coach taught me don’t ever chase a number,” she said. “Just throw your best. It’s all about feeling and rhythm with throwing.”

Ross, who also placed third in the discus, wasn’t feeling it on her first three throws. She eclipsed 40 feet, then fouled twice.

She went to a rotational throwing style this year, spinning in the ring, then launching. After her first series and before her three attempts in the finals, she worked on her craft — specifically, getting under the throw for more arc.

“Every throw was pretty flat,” she said. “That was the main thing because if you fix that, you fix your orbit.”

She came back in the finals with a 41-7, then her winning mark. Her final attempt was shy of 40-0.

They weren’t perfect, but they got the job done.

“It’s just more to work on next year,” she said.

Ross reached 141-9 in the discus. Oregon City’s Anessa Chirgwin won it at 143-3.

Holland got the job done as well, following up a record time in the 3,000 on Friday with another in the 1,500. His time broke the 2014 meet record of 3:53.08 set by Summit’s Matthew Maton.

Holland, too, had designs on a PR. He felt few ill effects from the rigorous race on Friday and was ready to give it a go despite incessantly cold, rainy weather.

But on the second lap, his hamstrings tightened and the pace was a few seconds slower than necessary.

“I thought, ‘All right, the time’s done,’” he said.

But on the final lap, he chose to push it and see what might happen.

“I was just going to put everything I had into it,” he said. “We were just over a 3:50 pace. I picked it up a lot. Jantz gave me a gap and I was like, let’s finish this thing, bring it home.”

Holland is confident he can run faster than a 3:50. He’ll next try in an elite division at the Portland Track Festival next month.

“I really want to see how far under 3:50 I can get,” he said.

The other locals in the top seven: Tostenson clocked 3:54.48, and Arlo Davis of Ashland was third in 3:58.73. Ashland’s Reed Pryor and Crater’s Matthew Schnek were fifth and seventh, respectively.

Like Holland and Smith, Davis is a junior. Pryor is a sophomore.

As well as the Grizzlies did this year, better things could be in store.

“As a team, I thought we’d do really good,” said Smith. “We have a lot of really strong runners throughout the program. A lot of them are juniors, too, so hopefully we’ll come back next year and be even stronger.”

Smith certainly fits the mold.

He challenged for a state title in the 200, running 22.76 to Dallas’ Malaki Connella’s 22.31.

The miserable weather was not conducive to sprinting.

“The weather kind of messes with me, makes my legs a little tight,” he said.

“I was expecting to have a really close race with the Dallas kid,” Smith added, “but he pulled out in front because he’s a really strong runner.”

Smith’s time in the 100 was 11.20, and he long-jumped 20-8 1/2.

His relay mates were juniors Austin Harris, Nolan Rinefort and Gabriel Ekwall. They ran 43.65, finishing two spots ahead of the Eagle Point quartet of Dylan Marshall, Eric Parliment, Isaiah Irving and Noah Page, whose time was 44.05.

Hokanson also had to contend with the weather, but the Comet vaulter said doing so looked worse than it was.

She cleared 10-0, just 4 inches off her PR. Poppy Miller of Hood River Valley had a winning mark of 10-6.

“It takes you a while to learn the technique,” she said, of jumping in the rain. “But once you learn it, it’s actually a lot easier than people think.”

Hokanson was clean through 9-0, 9-6 and 10-0. She then missed three times at 10-6.

She had a new pole at the ready, a foot longer, but with cold weather, it wouldn’t bend as easily as her regular one, so it wasn’t broken out.

She didn’t mind.

“I wasn’t expecting to do this good,” she said, “so I’m really happy.”

Hokanson also placed in the triple jump — another event stunted by the weather. She was seventh at 33-9 3/4.

In other girls events, Eagle Point sophomore MaLayni Stovall ran a strong 5A 400, placing fourth. She was among the leaders coming off the final turn in a tight race, but was passed on the final straight.

Her time was 1:00.37. Silverton’s Justice McBride won in 59.03.

In other boys events, North Medford senior Turner Nye scored in both the 6A hurdles, placing third in the 110 and seventh in the 300.

The senior’s high hurdle time was 14.92, and his intermediate clocking was 40.25.

Davis came in third in the 5A 800, clocking 1:57.65, and Crater junior Ryland McCullough was eighth in 2:02.41.

Crater senior Cody Fisher placed sixth in the 5A discus with a best of 151-10, and Ashland senior Chadwick Adams was right behind him with a mark of 148-7.

North Medford senior Jacob Allmaras was seventh in the 6A 800 in 1:58.29.

Crater junior Chase Sherer took eighth in the 5A high jump at 6-0, and Eagle Point’s Parliment was eighth in the 100 in 11.52.

The Crater 4x400 team placed sixth in 3:31.16. It was made up of Cole Ryerson, Tostenson, JC Herring and Noah Cline.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or ttrower@mailtribune.com

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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth's Jaida Ross makes a throw winning the shot put Saturday afternoon at Mt Hood Community College.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth's Jaida Ross makes a throw winning the shot put Saturday afternoon at Mt Hood Community College.
Day 2 of the Oregon State Track & Field Championships at Mt Hood Community College in Gresham OR. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
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Day 2 of the Oregon State Track & Field Championships at Mt Hood Community College in Gresham OR. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Gracen Hokanson makes an attempt at 10'6'' in the pole vault Saturday afternoon at Mt Hood Community College.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Anthony Smith crosses the finish line placing 2nd in the 200-meters final Saturday afternoon at Mt Hood Community College.
Day 2 of the Oregon State Track & Field Championships at Mt Hood Community College in Gresham OR. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth's Jaida Ross makes a throw winning the shot put Saturday afternoon at Mt Hood Community College.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's EJ Holland crosses the finish line winning the 1,500-meter run Saturday at Mt Hood Community College.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's Anthony Smith crosses the finish line placing 2nd in the 200-meters final Saturday afternoon at Mt Hood Community College.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's EJ Holland leads the race in front of Crater's Jantz Tostenson winning the 1,500-meter run Saturday at Mt Hood Community College.
Day 2 of the Oregon State Track & Field Championships at Mt Hood Community College in Gresham OR. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
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Day 2 of the Oregon State Track & Field Championships at Mt Hood Community College in Gresham OR. Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
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Day 2 of the Oregon State Track & Field Championships at Mt Hood Community College in Gresham OR.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneNorth's Jaida Ross makes a throw winning the shot put Saturday afternoon at Mt Hood Community College.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneEagle Point's MaLayni Stovall pushes down the final meters the 400-meter run.
Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneEagle Point's MaLayni Stovall falls to a wet track after finishing the 400-meter run.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneCrater's Gracen Hokanson makes an attempt at 10'6'' in the pole vault Saturday afternoon at Mt Hood Community College.
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Day 2 of the Oregon State Track & Field Championships at Mt Hood Community College in Gresham OR.{ }Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneEagle Point's MaLayni Stovall comes out of the blocks starting the 400-meter run.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's EJ Holland pushes to the finish line winning the 1,500-meter run Saturday at Mt Hood Community College.
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Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneAshland's EJ Holland crosses the finish line winning the 1,500-meter run Saturday at Mt Hood Community College.