Pendleton will be overflowing with talented athletes this weekend when the Intermountain Conference championship meet descends on the track at Pendleton High School Friday and Saturday.
The IMC is one of, if not the most competitive leagues in Oregon's Class 5A as evidenced by the multitude of competitors that litter the state's leaderboard in each event. That should make for an extremely exciting meet and could even be a preview of how the state finals will wind up in many events.
The most talented team of the bunch just might be the Hermiston Bulldogs with three athletes ranked first in the state in six events.
The Dawgs have had at least one district champion each of the last four years.
"The kids are really expecting to do good things at the district and state meet," coach Dave Rohrman said. "We never really walk into anything thinking, 'Yeah, this is ours,' but we know we're capable."
"I have them picked to win the thing," Pendleton coach Mark Christensen said. "If they don't then they just messed up."
If they are going to take home a title, it will have to be a team effort though.
"In the past, the last four years, each one of the championships we had we nickeled and dimed everybody," Rohrman said. "It's a little different this year because we have the big guns... but we're going to go after it the same way. I don't think there's anybody that we're taking that we're not counting on."
The Dawgs are led by a trio made of senior Kersee Lind, classmate Jennifer Macias and junior Alex Ringe.
Lind is ranked first in the state in the 110 meter high hurdles and 300 intermediate hurdles, Macias tops the leader board in the 1,500 and the 3,000, and Ringe is setting the pace in the 1,500 and the 800.
Rohrman doesn't like to make any guarantees but the odds of any of these extremely driven athletes not winning their events at the district meet are minuscule.
The Dawgs aren't the only talented Class 5A track team in the area, however.
Host Pendleton should send their fair share of athletes to the state meet and have as good shot as any team to win what should be a classic battle for second place in the boys division that should also include Summit and Bend.
"I think it will be just a few points," Christensen of the difference between the eventual runner-up and fourth place. "We have a great opportunity to be second place if we do things right and the chips fall our way a little bit. It's been a while since we've done something like that so we'd like to try to put something together."
The girls also should be right up there for a top spot.
Leading the way for the Buckaroos are seniors Maurice Peterson and Trever Armstrong, junior Derek Barfuss, sophomores Kate Bostwick, Haylie Wynn and Christine Harwood, and freshman Lyndsie Wynn.
Peterson will be looking to run down Crook County's David Parks in the 100 and hold off Summit's Cody Buckendorf in the 200 after an on-again, off-again season.
Barfuss will put his best foot forward in trying to catch the Dawgs' Lind in the hurdles while Bostwick and Haylie Wynn try to remain atop the league in the hurdles and shot put, respectively.
The Dawgs also have seniors Alma Aguiar, Melissa McKinley, Petr Pipek and Aaron Sanders; juniors Michelle Coombs, Brittany Coombs, Sarah Von Arx, Kasia Rademacher, Michael Hoston and Tyler Brown; and sophomore Jordan Ringe - all ranked in the top 10 in the state in their events and all with great chances to take home a district title or at least qualify for the state meet.
Not to mention, all four of the Dawgs' relay teams are ranked in the top 10 in the state and the Buckaroos' boys 4x100 relay team is ranked second in the IMC and will be looking for a state berth.
Bucks' senior wheelchair racer Brandon Caswell will no doubt be putting his personal records to the test at the meet, but an ongoing battle with the OSAA will prevent him from adding any points to the team total.
For a complete listing of the start times of each event in the IMC final meet, log on to the Pendleton High School Web site and click on the Track and Field link.
While all of this is going on, just down the road in Milton-Freewater, the Greater Oregon League championship meet will be held.
While host McLoughlin doesn't see a team title in their future, they should be represented well in the state meet when all is said and done.
"Not even close," coach John Milleson said of their shot at a team title. "We don't have the numbers that the other teams have."
Sophomore Stacy Potter is ranked first and second in the GOL in the 100 and the 200 (an event she now holds the school record in), respectively and junior Hailey Rambo should be leading the pack in the 800 and the 1,500.
Rambo's classmate Casey Smith is another Pioneer who has a good shot at a state appearance in the 400.
Freshman Andrea Roeder recently broke Rambo's school record in the 3,000 and will be looking to make waves in the event at districts.
Milleson added that their relay teams should be right in the thick of things as well.
"We look to be competitive," he said.