The OSAA?Track and Field State Championships begin today in Eugene and Monmouth and before the first preliminary race is run, it can already be said with certainty that this has been another great spring for track athletes in the East Oregonians coverage area.
One of the great things about track and field is the pursuit of records. Athletes strive to break personal, meet, state and national records each time they take the field in competition.
While it cant be said for certain, this years group of state qualifiers may have collectively set a local record and certainly must have come close for number of athletes at state.
From the 15 schools in the EOs coverage area with track programs, 121 athletes have qualified for the state meet individually or as part of a relay team.
Listing their names consecutively would take up 12 inches of newsprint, or roughly a fourth of this column.
With most of the schools in the area competing in districts with several out-of-area teams, that is a remarkable feat and yet another testament to the level of athlete produced by this portion of Eastern Oregon.
However, the state finals wont yield medals for all of the areas athletes and most of them figure to come home with only memories and valuable experiences gained.
Just 23 of the 121 are returning to state with finals competition experience, and only nine of those 23 placed in the top five last year.
In fact, Mac-His Emily Childers is the only defending state champion from the area. She returns to try for a repeat in the 400-meters.
The Pioneers senior has some ground to make up, though. Her district time of 1:00.53 is almost three seconds off top qualifier Kristine Dunn of Cottage Grove.
Dunn, a sophomore, ran a personal record of 57.35 to win her district meet. Childers won the event last year in a PR?time of 58.35 and her fastest race this year was 1:00.17.
Childers also was second in the 200 last year but has foregone that event for the 800 this year, where she has qualified fourth. She was three seconds off a new personal record at the district meet, and her personal record is at least a second faster than the PRs for each of the three girls ahead of her.
Another high placer in 2010 who is looking for a pair of titles in 2011 is Riverside senior Erik Carranza.
Carranza took bronze in both the 100 and 200 last season and enters the preliminary heats with the fifth and eighth fastest qualifying times, respectively.
He has yet to hit his personal records this season but has been close despite battling lingering tightness in his quadriceps.
It looks like hell need a PR?in the 200 to even equal his finish last year. Three runners qualified under 23 seconds and Carranzas PR?is 23.01. The top qualifier, Joseph Harris of Coquille, is the defending state champ and won the race in 23.13 last year.
Harris also is the top seed in the 100 with a time of 11.09 .06 faster than Carranzas PR and has broken 11 seconds in the event before. Defending champion Seth Wenger of Sheridan also is back for another go and qualified second in a time of 11.30. He won with an 11.33 last season.
Another Pirate going title hunting is senior javelin thrower Jordan Connell. She placed third last season and appears to be at least a solid second this year.
Her qualifying throw of 128 feet, one inch at districts is just four inches from her personal best, but shes dealing with an up-and-comer that looks to have just hit her stride.
Glide sophomore Maggie Eddings launched the javelin 131-2 at her district meet just shy of a 20-foot improvement over her previous personal best and 23 feet further than she had thrown in her previous meet.
Pilot Rock senior David Thurmond placed second in high jump last year by clearing six feet the same height cleared by champion Derek Barth of Kennedy.
Barth isnt back to defend his title but has passed the torch to Kennedys Derek Traeger, who qualified with a jump of 6-4. Central Linns Blake Nightingale also hit 6-4 in his district meet while Thurmond cleared 5-10.
Thurmond has hit his PR?of 6-2 twice this season. Nightingales 6-4 leap was a new PR?for him but Traeger is one of the best all-around athletes at the meet and has cleared 6-5 twice this season.
Stanfields Danny Angel finished fourth in the 100 and 200 last season but is in position to possibly end his Tigers career with dual state titles.
Angel ran the fastest qualifying time in the 100 to match his personal record and a qualified fourth in the 200. His PR in the 200 is 23.04 and Central Linns Scott LaCoste qualified in a time of 23.00. LaCoste broke 23 seconds in back-to-back meets in April but had been running in the high 23-second range for most of May.
LaCoste also leads the field behind Angel in the 100 and the top three qualifiers were within .04 of each other. LaCoste hit his peak in the event in late April but ran an unofficial 11.05 in March. Angels 11.22 is his best time. Faith Bibles Chang Baek qualified third in 11.26 and has a PR?of 11.24.
Hermistons top returning placer is Hope Butler in the javelin. She qualified in fourth, where she finished last year. Butler has yet to break 130 feet this year but threw a personal record 134-2 last season and threw 130 in another meet.
Sandys Makena Schroder came in with the biggest qualifying throw at 133-5, which was short for her. She has hit 140 five times this year with a long of 145-9.
Pendletons highest placer from 2010 that is back this year is senior Tyler Zyph in the 800. He was fifth last year and is coming off a 2:01.22 district-winning run. His personal record is 1:56.38, set April 23, and he qualified in the seventh spot.
Wilsonvilles Jalen James had the fastest qualifying time in 1:57.74 knocking two seconds from his previous PR. Wilsonvilles Will Strahl PRd in 1:58.20 to qualify second and no finalist has a faster PR than Zyph.
Bensons Demetrius Rhodes is the only other runner to hit 1:56 before, which he also did on April 23 with a time of 1:56.80.
The Bulldogs and Bucks also have a pair of state newcomers that are primed to make runs at a title.
Hermistons Mariah Delepierre has qualified second in the long jump but will have to hit her best jump of the season to get past North Eugenes Iris Anderson, who has eclipsed 18 feet in four of her last five meets. Delepierres PR?is 17-10.5.
Pendleton's Sandra Torres qualified second in the 400 with a personal-best 59.08 but is still behind freshman phenom Ricci Kitzmiller of Summit, who had a PR of 58.43 at districts and ran her slowest race of the year in 59.78.
Mountain Views Ayla Rosen qualified third and has a PR in the low 58s while Corvallis Malika Waschamann qualified fourth and has a PR in the high 57s.
If past seasons are any indication, at least one of our area athletes will come from seemingly nowhere to challenge for a title so if they werent mentioned here it doesnt mean they dont have a shot at some hardware.
Some of the distance races and throwing events will hold their finals today while the rest will finish up on Saturday.
The state meets can be followed live online at www.osaa.tv today and tomorrow.
Matt Entrup is sports editor of the East Oregonian. Write him at email@example.com.