Prep track: Full pack of Dawgs competing at state

<p>David Barnett, of Hermiston, winds up to throw the javelin at the Class 5A State Championship track meet in Eugene last May. Barnett placed eighth in 2011 but comes into this season’s state meet ranked second.</p>

HERMISTON — The bus to Eugene on Thursday was more full than Dave Rohrman could ever remember, at least during his 11 years as Hermiston head track and field coach. Twenty five seats were occupied by Bulldogs ready to compete in the Class 5A State Championships, more than even during a few strong seasons for Hermiston in the 1980s and 90s.

“There’s no way that we’ve ever taken this many kids,” Rohrman said.

The Hermiston girls 4x100-meter relay team will line up for the first heat of the meet this morning at 10:30 a.m. at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field and will begin the barrage of Bulldog competitors. Fourteen from the girls’ team and 11 from the boys’ will represent the purple and gold.

The Bulldogs have quantity for sure, Rohrman said, even if the numbers look a little inflated by taking three of the four relay teams. But finding quality in the giant group isn’t difficult either.

“There’s nobody here that couldn’t score, realistically,” Rohrman said. “You don’t count anything out at Eugene.”

Rohrman pointed to a pair of Bulldogs — one boy and one girl — as the team’s “big guns” that could challenge for a state title. The first names out of Rohrman’s mouth were David Barnett and Kalee Pratt.

David Barnett qualified for a pair of events with Columbia River Conference winning throws in Pendleton on May 18 and 19. The discus comes first today but Barnett’s real shot at a championship will be in the first event on Saturday morning: the javelin throw.

The junior has the second best toss of any 5A boy this season when he exploded for a 193-foot launch at the CRC?Lask Chance Meet on May 11. He ranks second to Andrew Rogers of Silverton, but only by two inches. The boys stand six feet above the next closest competitor.

Barnett said he feels confident that a new personal record is within reach this weekend. Practice sessions in the week leading up to state have been relaxed as Barnett works on form and the flow of his throw without ever sending a javelin into the air.

“I think if I?can throw 190 feet, I can win state,” Barnett said. “I’ve just got to make sure my form is perfect.”

Barnett’s ascent to state-title contender has been gradual but marked. He improved on throws in each of the first five meets this season, going from 144-9 up to 178-4 — then a personal best. His throw at Last Chance in Hood River broke his personal record by nearly 15 feet.

“Man, I?had a hoot,” Barnett laughed, remembering his reaction to the score.

That mark remains the only throw of more than 180 feet on his resume, though. At the district meet last week, Barnett didn’t throw full strength and still won with a 157-3.

The Bulldog placed eighth at the state meet last season by chuking the javelin 161-10.

Pratt, a senior, won the CRC?championship in both the long and triple jump last week but it’s the latter in which she far out-leaps the competition. The Bulldog covered 37 feet, six inches in her three bounds at the CRC Championships.

That jump set a personal record by six inches over her previous best — which she set the day before in the preliminaries. Both of those scores rank higher than any other 5A girl this season. Pratt has an eight inch advantage on Michele Turney of Crescent Valley in the event.

Pratt has her sights on another personal record at the state meet, a feat that would keep an interesting season trend going for the jumper. Starting with the second meet of the year, the Hermiston High Inter-squad meet, Pratt set new highs with each ensuing competition but one. She’s set and then broken seven personal records in 2012 alone while upping her jumps by four feet, up from 33-6.25.

To do it again, Pratt said she’s got to bring the exact same frame of mind to Eugene that she had in Pendleton last week.

“I’m just trying to relax and stay focused without getting too excited,” she said. “I’ve got to keep doing the workouts and keep listening to my coaches.”

Pratt finished 11th in the triple jump at last year’s state meet by jumping 33-11.75 and said the state meet is something no competitor can take for granted. Running and jumping in the same facility that so many past Olympians have made their home is like a dream.

But there are plenty of other potential medalists for Hermiston. The 3,000 meters is brimming with Bulldogs in the 10 Ten in 5A. Alejandro Cisneros, Jose Macias and Eduardo Juarez all rank there. Cisneros has the best time thus far at 8:52.32, but that’s still nine seconds off the pace.

The girls are loaded with excellent throwers, among them Mckenzie Byrd, Kayla Blankenship and Crystal Schmidt. They finished 1-2-3 in the district meet in the shot put. Blankenship won the discus and Schmidt beat out Byrd by four inches for the javelin title.

Byrd’s throw of 41 feet in the shot put back in April at the Willamette Falls Invite still ranks her third in 5A. She’s also fourth in the javelin — one spot ahead of Schmidt. Blankenship’s discus toss of 117-1 at the Hermiston/Pendleton duel is the fourth best this year as well.

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Contact AJ Mazzolini at amazzolini@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0839.

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