Hermiston shines in track opener

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PENDLETON — Hermiston kicked off its season right at the 2011 Bucks Track Classic with a meet-best 10 first-place finishers on Thursday, while six area schools held their own in the 12-team competition.

A familiar sight unfolded in the boys’ 1,500-meter race, as four Hermiston state champion cross country runners swept the top places. Freshman Alex Cisneros took first place in 4:20.29 after trailing runner-up senior Eduardo Juarez (4:21.88) until the final 300 meters.

“I didn’t feel like taking the lead today, but people were yelling at me to run faster and it motivated me to push it,” Cisneros said.

Andrew Valdez took third place in 4:27.31 and Javier Velasco finished in 4:31.98. All four Bulldogs gave credit to cross country.

“If you run track and don’t do cross country, that’s kind of setting yourself up for failure,” Juarez said.

Among the day’s most heated events, Hermiston freshman Katie Markwick outsprinted Pendleton senior Nicole Dillavou (5:14.00) down the straightaway to win the 1,500-meter race in 5:10.18. The former cross country rivals paced neck-and-neck for nearly 1,300 meters.

“My goal was to see if I could lead Nicole the whole way,” Markwick said. “It’s kind of a love-hate relationship with us, but off the track we’re good friends.”

Another Hermiston-dominant event was the javelin throw, won by junior Hope Butler. Last year’s fourth-place state finisher heaved the stick 126 feet, 8 inches. She also placed second in the 300-meter hurdles, clocking in at 51.62 seconds.

“Today I threw where I left off at state last year,” Butler said. “It was a good day and I’m excited for our next meet to see if I can climb up a little higher.”

Runner-up to Butler in the javelin was Jordan Connell of Riverside, who typically throws around 120 feet. A flu bug struck Connell this week, which she said kept her arm sore and limited her throw to 113-00.

In the girls’ 3,000-meter run, Hermiston continued its winning ways. Kayla Swarat (11:35.93) and Kelli Niederwerfer (11:47.04) claimed first and second, with times more than 20 seconds faster than the third place runner.

Hermiston freshman Mckenzie Byrd, who had ankle surgery on Oct. 19 to repair a chipped bone and cartilage, finished atop the girls’ high jump standings with a 5-foot leap. Pendleton rivals Xayna Robinson (4-10) and Amanda Fowler (4-8) took second and third.

Making Byrd’s victory more impressive, she also suffers from tendinitis in her right knee. She jumped unprepared in shot put shoes to start, while the five-event Sandstone Middle School record holder gritted through pain.

“I can only do a five-step approach,” Byrd said. “I can’t run right now (and) that’s why I fell really short.”

Joining the list of 10 Hermiston victors was Karla Gonzales in the girls’ 100-meter dash. Gonzales won the event in 13.28 seconds, and teammate Ramona Faaeteete finish third in 13.75. Kayla Blankenship took the girls’ shot put with a thow of 34 feet, 9 inches.

The final two Bulldogs first-place athletes were Kaylee Pratt in the girls’ triple jump and Jose Macias in the boys’ 300-meter race. Pratt covered 33-04.75 of ground and Macias stopped the clock at 9:41.15. Second to Pratt was Pendleton’s Robinson (32-04.75) and behind Macias was Pendleton’s Ryan Montgomery (9:46.38).

In one of Pendleton’s most impressive performances, senior Tyler Zyph won the 800-meter heat in 1:59.89 after missing cross country season with a staph infection. He was about six seconds faster than Hermiston’s Oscar Contreras-Leal (2:05.78), and Buckaroo Lathan Alger was third in 2:07.39.

“I had six Hermiston guys in that flight and we were chipping words back and forth,” Zyph said. “I felt strong, I felt good — pretty much back to normal now unless I hit a rock or something.”

A tight girls’ 800-meter race saw another Pendleton winner in the event. Emma Anderton’s 2:27.66 propelled her into first, trailed by Mac-Hi’s Ellie Meza (2:28.88) and Catie Coleman of Hermiston (2:41.23).

The final first-place Buck was Tasha Sitz in the girls’ pole vault. Her vault of 8 feet stood alone as teammate Rebekah Hippe tied five other vaulters by clearing a height of 6-6.

Pilot Rock was the only Class 1A school to claim a top finish at the meet. Sophomore Jason GrosJacques threw the javelin 154-07 to trump Mac-Hi’s Francisco Saldana (151-7) and Patrick McBee of Pendleton (151-6).

Standing at 6-foot-3, GrosJacques is a natural javelin athlete. He finished in eighth place at state last year and said that if he improves his technique, he’ll be tossing the stick about 10 feet further.

“My plan is to beat our school record this year (172 feet),” GrosJacques said. “Last year I thew 162, but I went from throwing 108 feet at the beginning of the year to 162.”

Another strong Pilot Rock showing came from David Thurmond, who took second to Ontario boys’ high-jumper Joe Delgado. Thurmond’s best jump was at 5-10.

Representing Class 4A well, Mac-Hi’s Saldana claimed the top boys’ triple jump distance at 40-5. Raymond Aguilar of Hermiston was runner-up, ending at 39-6.

Mac-Hi senior Dillon Wagner finished in second place in the boys’ discus throw, posting a personal record 137-6. He was second to Jorden Osborn (141-10) of Baker.

“I felt calm and happy, and I had a competitor (Osborn) to push me, which helped,” Wagner said.

The second of three Class 1A schools competing, Echo had its best performances in the girls’ discus throw and shot put. Amanda Lancaster took second place in the discus (98-09.50) and Kirsten McCallum threw at 95-4. Lancaster also finished in third with a 32-10 shot put.

As for Ione, the Cardinals top boys’ finisher was Alex Rietmann with a 12.9 time in the 100-meter dash, good enough for third place. Beth Morter was fifth in the girls’ shot put at 31-8.

“That’s not my PR overall, but it’s pretty good and especially for my first throw of the season,” Morter said.

The final area school competing at the meet was Riverside. Besides Connell’s second place girls’ javelin finish, the Class 3A Pirates’ top finisher was Cinthia Morales taking fifth in the girls’ 3,000-meter run at 13:51.98. Francisco Velasquez ended tied for sixth place in the boys’ 100-meter dash (12.24 seconds) and Vincent Harrison was seventh in the 400-meter race at 56.95 seconds.