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Medford Rotary Relays expand

83rd annual track and field meet will be held over two days beginning Friday at Spiegelberg Stadium

What was born out of necessity last spring for the Medford Rotary Relays has turned into something that may be a reality for years to come in the long-standing track and field meet.

Established in 1939, the 83rd edition of the Medford Rotary Relays will be a two-day event, with Friday’s action from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at Spiegelberg Stadium and Saturday’s schedule set for 12-3 p.m. at Bowerman Field on the North Medford High campus.

Spectators are allowed each day, with a $5 admission charge per day at the entry gate. A total of 14 schools — with just about every Rogue Valley program represented — and about 700 athletes will be competing.

Due to COVID metrics and the limitations of how many people could be in a facility, last spring’s diluted meet was held over two days at Bowerman Field for the first time in its history — and the change received rave reviews.

“Last year because of COVID we tried this and the coaches really liked it,” said North Medford track and field coach Piet Voskes. “We never could in the past because the OSAA wouldn’t allow it. A two-day meet counted as two meets on a person’s schedule, but when the OSAA changed that ruling about three years ago, it created some flexibility for us to be creative. So now a two-day or three-day meet is one meet.”

Already one of the more quirky meets on the schedule with its diversity of relays, this year’s change allows for a unique experience for the athletes involved, as well as honoring the legacy of an event that was started by Bill Bowerman and predominantly held at Spiegelberg Stadium before shifting to North Medford High.

“Historically it just fits because this is where the meet was started in 1939,” said Voskes. “It allows us to kind of go back to its roots. It’s the 83rd year of this meet so there’s some history and lineage there that we wanted to tap into.”

“More importantly, it gives kids a night meet, which they don’t normally get as varsity athletes,” he added, “so that should be fun. It adds to the quirkiness of the meet.”

Kicking off Friday night’s competition will be another change to the usual lineup, with the Medford Rotary Relays taking a cue from the Olympics with a coed 4x400-meter relay that will feature two boys and two girls from each school.

“You’re going to see some great short relays,” Voskes said of Friday’s forecast. “Besides the hurdle relays in the mix, the 4x100 and the distance medley relays look to be the two premier races both on the men’s and women’s side.”

Only a few tenths of a second separate the girls 4x100 relay squads from South Medford, North Medford, Grants Pass and North Valley in the seeding, with South Medford’s boys quartet of Deacon Edgar, Andrew Walker, Benjamin Krebs and Asher Johnson boasting a seeding time of 43.73 seconds that will be challenged by entries from Roseburg and North Medford.

Ashland’s quartet of Nathan Stein, Luke Seeley, Finley Taylor and Vincent Senn have a formidable seeding time of 10 minutes, 40 seconds to lead the field in an event that covers legs of 1,200, 400, 800 and 1,600 meters.

When the action shifts over to Bowerman Field on Saturday, the field events take center stage, along with an elite 1,500-meter boys race expected as well as elite 100-meter and 300-meter intermediate hurdles races.

“I think Saturday you’re going to see the 1,500 and the 100 be very, very good, especially on the men’s side,” said Voskes.

Crater’s Tyrone Gorze and Josiah Tostenson expect to be joined by Ashland’s Nathan Stein and South Medford’s Michael Maiorano in providing for a blistering boys 1,500.

Walker, the state-leading South Medford junior (10.74), isn’t expected to be in the boys 100 field but the elite lineup includes a trio of top caliber sprinters in North Medford’s Nathan Rider (11.08), Roseburg’s Landyn Dupper (10.90) and Gavin Cougle of St. Mary’s (10.99).

Johnson (42.36) of South Medford and Roseburg’s Charles Anderson (42.00) boast the top times in the elite boys 300 hurdles, while Mackenzie Walker of St. Mary’s highlights the girls field with a seeding time of 48.80.

Zanai Vainuku-Johnson of Grants Pass (12.75) and Karlee Touey of North Valley (12.86) lead the entries for the girls 100, while Ashland’s Grace Yaconelli (5:05.00) will look to chase down leading girls 1,500 runner Madison Wilt of Grants Pass (4:56.00) in that race.

“The two-day format allows kids to specialize maybe more than they did in the past because you break out the events over two days, so you’re seeing maybe more depth in all the events than we did in years past,” said Voskes of the heats. “A distance kid can run in the 1,500 and do the distance medley because there’s a 24-hour separation. It’s the same thing in the 100, we’re seeing kids come back in the men’s 100 and women’s 100 and the short relay the day before.”

Have a story idea? Reach sports editor Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@rosebudmedia.com or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry