Lions boys exceed expectations: Win Sky-Em title

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 the athletes from the five other league teams with the Lions’ performances. 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 positive Cottage Grove would perform was 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 five 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 two points and Marshfield by 23. The last time the Lion boys won the Sky-Em title was in 2018. 

“I’m usually conservative when I form out the meet, but I usually have a feeling whether or not we have a chance to win,” said Coach 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 their team depth as they 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 will send 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 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. Arnold and fellow senior Piper Youngmayr never expected to go to state together.

“I wanted Piper to get second, and I wanted it to be us two to take first and second, so it would be an awesome experience to go to state with her,” said Arnold. “Both of us have never really done triple before, so I think this was awesome for both of us and the team.”

Fellow senior Leah Schiewe qualified for the state meet with a first place in the shot put with a heave of 34-feet, 10.75 inches. Another senior, Piper Youngmayr also set a personal best in the triple jump with a mark of 30-feet, 9-inches, good for second place.   

The fourth Lion to qualify for state was freshman Abby Hemenway who won the 200 meters in an exciting upset victory in a personal best time of 27.69.

The Lions’ girls experienced a heartbreaking ending to the meet. At the end of the last event, the 4 x 400 relay, it appeared Cottage Grove had captured second place, behind Marist. However, an official ruled that one of the Lions had unintentionally impeded an opposing runner after she passed the baton to her Cottage Grove teammate. The action did not change the outcome of how the teams placed, and the Lions issued a protest. Unfortunately, the official ruled by the letter of the law, which resulted in the Lions finishing in fourth place instead of second place.

At the end of the end of the meet, seniors Isaac Stere and Gracie Arnold were honored as the top field performers. Stere won the long jump and took second in the high jump, while Arnold won the triple jump, high jump, and placed second in the javelin. Stere said his goal at state is to jump over 21 feet and place in the top three.

“I’m super excited to be going to Hayward Field,” Stere said. “It’s going to be fun.”