Senior Capelle, freshman Crouser lead Barlow boys to Oregon 6A title; Jesuit wins the girls

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            EUGENE, Ore. – Barlow’s tag team of the speed of Eric Capelle and the strength of Ryan Crouser overwhelmed the rest of the 6A boys field at the Oregon state championships at Hayward Field. Between them, the two accounted for five championships.
            Add Capelle’s 2nd-place finish in the 100 – Lincoln’s Jordan Polk was the only man able to handle Capelle through the three days – and that added to 58 of Barlow’s final total of 74 points.
            Portland’s Lincoln, the defending champions, led by Polk and distance runner Nathan Mathabane, who finally got a state championship after three times runnerup, was 2nd with 47 ½.
            Jesuit of Portland, helped mightily by a 2-3-4 finish in the pole vault, won the girls 6A with 88 points. It was the first team title ever for Jesuit, which had finished 2nd to Lincoln a year ago and 2nd twice in the 1990s as well.
            For Barlow, a school located in the Northeast Portland suburb of Gresham, it was its first state championship in boys track and field since winning 4A in 1999.
            Barlow set the tone early on the final day, held under sunny, mild conditions after two days of rain and chilly temperatures. In the 4x1, Barlow’s final stick pass, to Capelle, was a little better than Lincoln’s to Polk. Capelle quickly built a 5-foot lead, and Polk, try as he might, couldn’t make a dent in it.
            “That was huge,” Capelle told Rob Moseley of the Eugene Register-Guard. “Everybody ran a good race. It was perfect.” The times were 41.92-42.11.
            “I couldn’t gain on him,” Polk said. “I knew it was going to be a battle. He’s a great competitor.”
            An hour and a half later, the two were face to face in adjacent lanes in the 100 final.
            “My start is my best part of my race,” said Polk, a senior who is heading to the University of Washington to play wide receiver in football. “I’m always confident.”
            Polk felt he was ahead of Capelle out of the blocks, but by 20 yards they were even. “He gained back up,” Polk said. At the 60-yard mark, Polk appeared to have another gear that Capelle couldn’t match; he put a yard of distance on him, and Capelle couldn’t mount a second charge. Polk won 10.63-10.72 with a 1.2 mps aiding wind, a lifetime best for Polk. The 200 was yet to come at that point, where Polk would be facing another rival, Nycole Griffin of Benson. “That’s going to be a fun race,” Polk said, smiling.
            That it was. Griffin ran a superior turn and was ahead of the field. Polk was 4th or 5th with only 30 meters to go when he came flying down the final straight. He leaned mightily, and the pair had a wild embrace just past the finish line, before even knowing the outcome. It turned out to be the younger Griffin’s day, 21.79-21.81, lifetime bests for both.
            “Jordan Polk is my cousin,” said Griffin, a sophomore at the Portland school. “He’s the reason I ran that fast.
            “I love him to death. He’s someone I look up to.”
            About the same time of the 200 finals, the discus throwers were entering their final rounds. Barlow’s other star, Ryan Crouser, the precocious ninth-grader, was facing a tough competitor in senior Chase Sexton of West Salem, who had thrown 179 during the season.
            Chase was no match for destiny. Crouser, who had thrown a lifetime-best 60-2 to win the shot on Friday – defeating Sexton by 2 feet – bombed his sixth throw down the right side of the sector. The big crowd roared, Crouser clapped his hands in expectation and punched his fist in the air when he saw the tape over the official’s shoulder. “178-9,” said the announcer, “Crouser into the lead in the discus.” Sexton finished 2nd, at 172-8.
            It was another lifetime best for the big freshman, another state championship in his debut at state. When the season began, no Oregon freshman had thrown beyond 60 feet in the shot or beyond 160 feet in the discus.
            Ryan Crouser’s cousin Sam finished 4th, throwing 150-4. Sam Crouser, a sophomore at neighboring Gresham HS, had won the javelin on Thursday.  (Sam and Ryan are pictured at left. Ryan wears #65.)
            “They’re like best buddies,” Mitch Crouser said of the two.
            Mitch, Ryan’s father, (both pictured below left)  competed in the throws himself, as did his own two brothers, Brian and Dean, both of whom went on to success at the University of Oregon. Dean is Sam’s father.  
            “We all went to Gresham High School together,” Mitch said. “I just did javelin in high school, but I hurt my elbow. I never made it to state.
            “Later, I took up shot and discus, got a scholarship to the University of Idaho, and wound up winning Big Sky conference in them.”
            Ryan Crouser has thrown the javelin as well. “He’s grown at least 3 inches this year,” Mitch said of his son, who is 6-foot-5 now. “This year when he threw the javelin, it was hurting his back, so he stopped and concentrated on shot and disc. He may pick up the jav again next year.”
            There is precedent for that. Uncle Brian won all three throws at the 1980 state meet.
            If Ryan returns to the javelin, he would have to contend with his older cousin, Sam, already a state champion. “It’s going to be fun,” Mitch Crouser said. “For a freshman and a sophomore, they’re doing pretty good.”
            And believe it or not, there’s more.
            “My brother Brian has two boys,” Mitch said. “One’s in 5th grade, the other’s in 8th, and they’re throwing.
            “And my brother Dean has a daughter, Haley, she’s in 7th grade. She throws javelin.
            “And I have another son, Matt, he’s in 6th grade. He does turbo javelin, but he’s built more like his mother. He’s more of a runner.”
            In the girls 6A meet, Jesuit scored in all areas – distances, sprints, hurdles, field events – to run away with the team championship.
            When Jesuit teammates Adrienne McGuirk and Anna Marie Maag finished 2-3 behind Alexandra Jones of St. Mary’s Academy in the 1,500 – freshman Maag running past four runners in the final run-in – and senior pole vaulters Nicole Shaw, Meghan Pranger and Emily Cornelius swept 2-3-4 behind Lindsay Beard of South Eugene, the meet was cinched.
            McGuirk also won the 3,000 on Thursday, going 1-2 with sophomore teammate Sarah Bridges.
            Jones swept the 8-15 for St. Mary’s, running 2:14.78/4:42.32. McGuirk ran 4:43.41, and Maag – whose older brother Michael was Ivy League champion this year for Princeton – 4:45.16.
            Jesuit also got a first place from Kristen Colwell, who won the triple jump.
            Beard  (pictured right) cleared a meet-record 12-7 to win the vault. “It was awesome,” said Beard, whose South campus is a stone’s throw from Hayward Field. “The meet record is the best thing ever. That’s what I came to do.”
            Beard, an 18-year-old senior headed to the University of Idaho on a track scholarship, is shooting for 4.00 meters, 13-1 ½, the mark needed to compete at the national Juniors meet. At 5-foot-2 ½, she’s short by today’s standards for women in the event. “That’s OK,” she said. “It means there’s less of me to get over the bar.”
            Kayla Smith of Benson and Rebecca Rhodes of South Salem were both double winners.
            Smith, a junior, won the 100 in 12.11 and the 200 in 24.18, the latter meet and personal records. She was also second in the long jump, losing to Rebecca Rhodes, an Oregon-bound senior who won the LJ and the 100 hurdles.
            Attendance for the three-day championships was about 19,000 – 5,725 on Thursday, 5,561 on Friday and more than 7,000 on Saturday.
            A state association official said, however, that the meet was likely to return to its former two-day format in 2009, because of housing costs borne by the schools.

Reporting by Jack Pfeifer, photography by Kim Spir