By Ben • Ben Schorzman • 

Mac track at Hayward Field, Tatton, Kennedy looking for titles

Marcus Larson/News-Register
McMinnville sprinter Spencer Payne starts the boys 4x100 meter  relay for the Grizzlies in March. Payne will start for Mac on Saturday.
Marcus Larson/News-Register
McMinnville sprinter Spencer Payne starts the boys 4x100 meter relay for the Grizzlies in March. Payne will start for Mac on Saturday.

For the Memorial Day Weekend campers and hikers, baseball and softball players and also high school track fans, the damp weather proves to be a poorly timed joke. The state baseball and softball playoffs are under way, and the state track and field championships started Thursday, with the 6A meet beginning today at Hayward Field in Eugene. There have been a few postponements and reschedules, with teams scrambling to find alternate sites to play games, but the track meet will go on, and that’s just fine by McMinnville coach Vic Downs.

“(The rain) will weed out the weak,” he said, “and we’re not weak. We’re good.”

The Grizzlies, runners-up at the boys and girls Pacific Conference championships last week, enter today’s state meet with a mix of athletes that bring big-meet experience. Mac brings nine boys and five girls to Eugene, and each competed this season in meets at Jesuit and Hayward Field which they say gives them confidence now.

“You just know what to expect,” said freshman Whitney Rich, who runs at 3:41 p.m. today in the 6A girls 3,000 meters.

Rich won the Pacific Conference title in the 3,000, giving her two individual titles this year. She also won the Pacific Conference championship in the fall in cross country. She said her experience at the state meet in November plus all the meets this spring take away some of the anxiety.

McMinnville’s boys track team looks to continue the momentum that it started last May at the 2012 state championships. The Grizzlies finished a surprising fifth, sparked by Kane Kennedy’s second-place finish in the 400. This year, six individuals qualified for events, and the boys 4x100-meter relay team is in Eugene. Kennedy is one of the favorites to win the 400, though there is some doubt about his ability to perform. He ran a school-record 48.67, but he crossed the finish line in a stumble and crashed to the track. Kennedy sat for a long time after the race on the infield, nursing one of his hamstrings, and he was scratched from running in the boys 4x400 relay, which was also favored to make it to state. Downs said Wednesday that Kennedy had yet to go full-speed this week, and it could be that he waits until the 400 prelims today to test it. If he doesn’t make it out of the prelims because of an injury, it would be a disappointing end for Kennedy to what has been a record-filled senior season.

“It’s really a wait and see kind of thing,” Downs said.

Perhaps Mac’s greatest chance of winning an individual title is in the boys discus, where junior Tim Tatton comes in with the best seed after his 149-foot throw at districts. Oregon City’s Beau Brosseau has the best mark this season at 163 feet, 10 inches, but Tatton is second at 155-6.

Despite the weather, the biggest story line is going to be how the OSAA handles all six classifications in the same location for the first time since 1971. There will be more than 2,200 athletes on hand this weekend, with Friday being the busiest because every class will be competing.

Downs said he thinks his athletes are ready. The season progressions are meant to help an athlete peak at the state meet, so if the trend holds from previous years, the Grizzlies should again come away with some stand-out moments.

“We just want to get this meet going,” Downs said. “We’re antsy.

“It’s going to be great.”

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