Following the events of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2022 saw a gradual return to normalcy for sports in Cottage Grove and beyond. In this region of the state, the 2022 sports season saw records broken, state championships falling just out of reach, and long struggling programs rise out of their difficulties. The Sentinel takes a look back at the top sports stories of 2022 as athletes and coaches ready themselves for 2023.
Bulldogs still barking, onto the quarterfinals
By Kendrick Murphy
A mantra the Creswell girls basketball team adopted in the regular season was ‘Bulldogs not underdogs,’ meaning the girls expect to perform well in the big moments and not see themselves as underdogs.
Despite facing an uphill battle with three starters fouling out in the second half and overtime against Douglas, the Bulldogs never counted themselves out and were able to find a way to win in a riveting contest to punch their ticket to the final state site in Coos Bay after beating Douglas, 50-46, in overtime.
“We were on cloud nine, to be honest,” said head coach Tyler Hollingsworth. “I’m super proud and happy for these girls. I mean, the girls were jacked up in the locker room. It was a crazy, and an unreal moment, one of my favorite moments so far of coaching with the girls.”
Emme Whitson had another exemplary performance, finishing with a near triple-double after scoring 24 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and nabbing 9 steals. Dakota Carson (13 points) and Samairah Quinones (10) each topped double-digit points on the night. Douglas' Male’ata Polamalu led the Trojans with 18 points.
State Wrestling finishes
By Kendrick Murphy
Cottage Grove and Creswell each sent multiple wrestlers to different state meets to close out the wrestling season. The Lions sent six wrestlers to the state championships at Cascade High School on Saturday, Feb. 26. Seazar Ibarra, Carter Bengston, Logan Lowery, Rogelio Soto-Cruz, Cole Johns and Nathan Abrams all competed in their respective class on Saturday.
While none were able to secure a podium spot, each match was very competitive and Cottage Grove’s wrestling future looks very bright with Cole Johns and Logan Lowery being the only two wrestlers not returning next year.
Creswell sent two girls to the finals site, Jennalyn Kruger and Brielle Brick. Brick advanced all the way to the finals in the 140-lb. weight class and was able to secure a second-place finish. Kruger was hurt at the tournament and was bumped out of the competition.
Lyosha Mitchell and Kaleb Sanders also advanced to the state championships held that Saturday at La Pine. Mitchell finished sixth at 106 pounds while Sanders was defeated by fall twice and eventually eliminated.
North Douglas boys basketball finish 4th, girls take 5th
By Kendrick Murphy
Both North Douglas basketball programs will be returning home with some hardware after the boys team took home the fourth place trophy and the girls finished out the weekend by taking fifth. The Warriors also saw two players get recognized for all-tournament selections, with Ray Gerrard on the boys side earning first team and Samantha MacDowell getting second team.
“I’m super proud of our guys,” said boys head coach Jesse Leman. “Because it's really easy to just pack it up after a really heartbreaking loss (against Crane) and not show up, especially when the game’s the next morning at 9 a.m. It takes a lot of resolve to be able to show up and play a good game and keep it going.”
The Lady Warriors started their tournament play with a walloping of Echo in the quarterfinal matchup, 54-37.
In the semi-finals, North Douglas took on Damascus Christian with a spot in the championship up for grabs. The Warriors offense couldn’t get anything going in the first half and found themselves down 20-10 going into the second. North Douglas’ offense woke up and outscored the Eagles 15-9 to get right back in the game, trailing by just 4 points to end the third quarter. Savannah Harkins made a free throw that got the Warriors back within 3 with just over 20 seconds remaining. But Damascus was able to hold on at the end and earn the narrow 44-39 victory over North Douglas.
On the final day, North Douglas was in the 3rd/5th place game against Country Christian. In the first half, the game featured seven lead changes with the Warriors holding a slim lead at halftime, 35-32. But in the second half the Cougars turned it on offensively and outscored the Warriors 28-18 the rest of the way, coming away with a 60-53 win over North Douglas.
Lions track team exceeds expectations: Wins Sky-Em title
Cottage Grove qualifies four girls for state meet in six events
By Jerry Thompson
On Friday, before the Sky-Em district meet began at Junction City, Cottage Grove head track coach Ricky Knutson went through the form chart, comparing times and marks of Lions athletes with those of the five other league teams in the competition. All things being equal, it looked like the Lions boys would finish third behind Siuslaw and Marshfield by as much as 20 points.
Perhaps an indication of how well Cottage Grove would perform was seen early in the meet on Friday, when freshman Rogelio Soto-Cruz, who was projected to finish in eighth place in the shot put, set a personal record with a heave of 40-feet, 7.5-inches. It was good for second place — and a significant improvement of seven points from what was expected.
The Lions' boys finished Friday with 34 points, but few people could dream of what would transpire on Saturday.
Throughout the rest of Friday and Saturday, the Lions kept exceeding expectations. With one event remaining in the meet, the 4 x 400 relay, Cottage Grove had a total of 141 points, while Siuslaw was second with 136 points. If Siuslaw won the event and gained 10 points, that meant that the Lions needed to finish third (6 points) to win the meet.
Cottage Grove only took fourth place for 5 points, which would result in a tie with Siuslaw if they won the relay. However, the Lions were aided greatly by Marshfield as the Pirates relay team beat the Vikings.
The CG boys final total was an amazing 146 points to win the Sky-Em title, edging Siuslaw by a mere 2 points, and Marshfield by 23. The last time the Lion boys won the Sky-Em title was in 2018.
"I'm generally conservative when I form out the meet, but I usually have a feeling whether or not we have a chance to win," said Knutson. "Siuslaw and Marshfield are two powerhouses, but our kids traditionally compete well at the district championships — and they did it again."
Cottage Grove exhibited its team depth as athletes scored in double figures in seven events: The triple jump (18 points), the long jump (14 points), the high jump (14 points), the 300 hurdles (13 points), the 3000 meters (12), and 1500 meters (11 points). The seventh event — and the top point producer — was the 110 hurdles, where three Lions, Tyler Russell, Hayes Valley and Brycen Cameron, combined for 21 points.
The Cottage Grove boys sent six athletes to Hayward Field: Seniors Isaac Stere (long jump and high jump) and Ty Kishen (triple jump), juniors Brennen Murphy (400 meters) and Tyler Russell (110 hurdles), sophomore Brycen Cameron (300 hurdles) and freshman Rogelio Soto-Cruz (shot put). Kishen was the top point producer for the Lions with 21.25 points: 10 in the triple jump, six in the high jump, four in the long jump, and 1.5 in the 4 x 100 relay.
A total of four Lions girls, three of them being seniors, earned trips to the OSAA State Meet at Hayward field this weekend. Senior Gracie Arnold led the way with first place wins in two events and a second place in the javelin.
Arnold won the triple jump with a personal best of 32-feet and finished first in the high jump after clearing 4-feet, 10-inches. She threw the javelin 104-feet, 6-inches to earn second place. All told, Arnold scored a total of 29.5 points.
Softball playoffs return to CGHS for the first time in decades
By Kyle McGowen
For the first time in many decades, the playoffs returned to Cottage Grove High School, prompting a big turnout of Lions softball fans beneath sunny skies. After defeating Junction City in both games of a doubleheader on Monday, May 16, the Lions clinched the 16th seed in the OSAA rankings and hosted 17th-ranked Hidden Valley in the play-in round.
In the seventh, Pacheco and the Lions’ defense continued a great afternoon, quickly getting the three outs that Cottage Grove needed to have a shot. Unfortunately, however, it wasn’t meant to be as the Lions failed to get anyone on base before to Hidden Valley, 2-1.
The loss officially ended what had been an outstanding season in a year that proved historic for the Lions, whose record was 13-12 (7-8).
Coach Adam Dimock, who concluded his first season as Lions coach, has a bright outlook for the program, which returns as many as eight players in the upcoming season.
“We’re losing three girls, but we have some of our key players coming back,” Dimock said. “Addison Hitt, Sienna Wagner, Emily Pacheco, Josie at catcher … we’ve got a lot of key people that are still going to be around. I have nothing but high hopes for next year. I think we build off of this year and see where we go.”
Warriors softball season ends at quarterfinals
By Kyle McGowen
Nobody in the entire OSAA, 1A-6A, has been as dominant as the North Douglas Warriors softball team when it comes to getting runners across home plate. Coming into their matchup with Lakeview, the Warriors were averaging 19.2 runs per game.
They haven’t been too bad on defense either, only giving up 2.4 runs per game — good for second in the 1A/2A — and winning games by an average of 16.8 runs. Coming off of a 20-1 season, the Warriors hoped that could carry them to a deep playoff run while looking for their third state championship.
They topped Pilot Rock/Nixyaawii 16-6 on May 25, then set their sights on Lakeview.
But things did not continue as normal for the Warriors in the playoff quarterfinals.
The Warriors did fight in the bottom of the seventh, with Halli Vaughn getting on base. But 7-1 would be the final score and the conclusion to North Douglas’ season.
“It’s times like this where you’re disappointed, but how can you be disappointed when you look at the teams that are left? The teams that are left are just as good,” said North Douglas coach Jesse Rice. “What a great year we had. We made it all the way to the quarterfinal. I told them how proud I am of them. They’ve played really good ball.”
Oregon Gran Fondo returns to CG — then the world
By Kyle McGowen
More than 200 bicyclists from all over the region descended upon Cottage Grove in June, but even more will have the ability to participate virtually soon. The Oregon Gran Fondo, an annual biking event in the community, returned for its 10th anniversary with 210 participants.
For the first time, the event, which sends bicyclists along four different routes, started at Bohemia Park as opposed to its traditional starting location on Main Street.
Also a first for Cottage Grove’s Gran Fondo, the race was virtually simulated online for bicyclists around to world to participate in from the comfort of their homes. iFIT, an interactive fitness and workout app that is partnered with ‘NordicTrack’ workout equipment, was onsite while social media influencer and iFIT trainer Travis McCabe was also involved.
The 25-mile mini gravel event was filmed with drones and other equipment. Those with an at home iFIT enabled bike, or iFIT app on their smartphone or tablet, could explore the virtual simulated route live.
“June 11th, they are going live to 4 million users on their platform, featuring Cottage Grove, Oregon,” said Mike Ripley, who is associated with Mudslinger, and is the event organizers.
“They’ll feel the climbs, all that is inaugurated,”
Heather Cunningham Bridgens Endowment looks to make sports free for Cottage Grove students
By: Kyle McGowen
Two months following the tragic passing of former Cottage Grove High School (CGHS) teacher and Bohemia Elementary School Principal Heather Bridgens, her impact continues in the community.
Through an endowment in her name, Bridgens will leave an indelible mark on the future of Cottage Grove sports.
Heather Bridgens graduated from Cottage Grove High School in 1992 and was part of the swimming and water polo team. She also went onto coach those same teams later in life. Following her passing April 8, the Heather Cunningham Bridgens Endowment was created. The goal is exceptional: To make playing sports at CGHS free for students.
To contribute to the Heather Cunningham Bridgens Endowment through the Cottage Grove Community Foundation, go to www.cgcfoundation.org/index.php/giving/donate-to-cgcf. (On the donation page make sure to type Heather Cunningham Bridgens fund in the “Write a note” area).
BMX Track officially returning to Cottage Grove
The ‘Row River BMX group’ gets the green light from City Council
By: Kyle McGowen
Following a unanimous decision by the Cottage Grove City Council during the June 13 meeting, the BMX bike course that once sat on Row River Road will return to its original site. The new track will be available to the surrounding community for recreational and competitive purposes.
A local group called Row River BMX will head up the project and partner with USA BMX, a 45-year-old corporation that organizes races and helps build tracks through the United States. They are the world’s oldest sanctioning body for BMX racing.
“USA BMX and the USA BMX Foundation fully support the construction of a USA BMX Track in Cottage Grove, Ore.,” the organization said in a letter to the city council. “Upon the completion of the BMX track, USA BMX will support with full sanction status, local program creation and event scheduling.”
Cottage Grove and Creswell host ‘World Athletics Championship’ teams
By: Kyle McGowen
With the World Athletics Championships (WAC) descending upon Hayward Field in Eugene, participating nations from around the world needed locations where the athletes representing them in the event could do pre-championship training. The Cottage Grove and Creswell communities stepped up to answer that call.
July 15 -24 was the first time the United States has hosted the WAC, an event that sees some of the greatest athletes in the world come together for competition. Alongside the Olympics, it is considered one of the most prestigious occurrences in world of track and field, marathon running, and race-walking athletics.
The WAC was originally scheduled to take place in August 2021, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the championships until 2022. Cottage Grove was host for Team Botswana Athletics, which hails from a country located in South Africa. Creswell accommodated the Finland team.
CGHS XC History Made
By: Kyle McGowen
For the first time in Cottage Grove High School [CGHS] history, the Cottage Grove boys and girls cross country teams headed to the state championships together. The teams looked for a state trophy at Lane Community College [LCC] on Nov. 5.
The Lions boys’ team took home the Sky-Em League District Championship after finishing above Marshfield and Marist, who tied for second place.
“On the boy’s side we were ranked 3rd coming in, so we had a team meeting and talked about how we thought the other teams would go out,” Lions coach Ricky Knutson said. “We predicted that they would go out hot and it unfolded exactly how we thought. Marshfield and Marist went really fast, and our guys ran exactly as they should in the first mile, then they moved up — and boy was it close. We thought it would be close between second and third [place] and to see that we moved up enough to win is a pretty big surprise.
“We knew on the girls side that Junction City was going to be the favorite and that they are strong,” Knutson added. “We’d have to run a perfect race and they would have to falter in order for us to be there, they were awesome. Our girls were tough and fought North Bend for that second place spot. I know our girls really wanted to win, but we want to make sure they are holding their heads high because they’ve accomplished something that not many girls’ teams have done at our school. It’s a pretty awesome day for them.”
North Douglas Volleyball falls just short of second straight title
By: John Tawa, OSAA Today
Damascus Christian rallied from a two-set deficit at the OSAA /OnPoint Community Credit Union Volleyball State Championships to stun defending 1A champion North Douglas and claim its first-ever championship in volleyball. The Eagles (36-0) also finished undefeated on the year, the only team in all of the OSAA to do so last fall.
North Douglas, which came in as the No. 7 seed, almost pulled off the miracle trifecta. The Warriors, playing without injured senior RS Asia Ward, upset No. 2 Crane in a five-set quarterfinal and defeated No. 3 St. Paul in four at the semifinals before setting their sights on No. 1 Damascus Christian in the championship final.
“To say that I am disappointed that we didn’t repeat would be an understatement, especially since we were so close,” said North Douglas coach Emily Reed. “It will haunt me for many years. But finishing the last two years at first and second is something that we will always be so very proud of.”
Makayla Murphy led North Douglas (25-11) with 11 kills, 15 assists and nine aces. Brooklyn Williams contributed 11 kills, 15 digs and 12 assists. Lailah Ward had 15 digs and Brooke McHaffie contributed a team-high 14 kills.
“I really did not expect to do that kind of damage about three weeks ago when Asia Ward tore her CAL,” Reed said. “We had to do a complete lineup change late in the season. I am so proud of this team and all that we had to overcome this season. It was a season of adversity and these girls powered through and fought so hard, pretty impressive from a No. 7 team.”
Now… On to 2023!