It’s been six years since the Cottage Grove boys track team finished as high as fifth in the state meet, but the Lions succeeded in claiming fifth place this past weekend at Hayward field by earning 42 points in the 4A division.
All of the five Lions who scored tallied at least five points in each of their events.
Seniors Isaac Stere and Ty Kishen accumulated 24 of the 42 points, and both did it with a personal record. Stere took third in the long jump and leaped over the bar for first place in the high jump with a personal best of 6’3”. In the triple jump, Kishen earned second place on his last jump with a personal record of 43’10.5”.
“Ty Kishen, that was a heckuva last jump he had,” said Cottage Grove head coach Ricky Knutson. “I don’t think anybody thought he would be pushing (Eli) Hayes for the win, and ended up just a couple of inches away from first place.”
“I was expecting to go big today, and I pulled through,” Kishen said. “I’m thankful that God gave me the opportunity to jump here, and gave me that 10-inch PR.”
Kishen plans to enroll at Bushnell University and join their track team.
The rest of the boys’ 18 points came from a second place by junior Brennen Murphy in the 400 meters (51.38) for eight points, and fourth place finishes by junior Tyler Russell in the 110 hurdles (16.19) and sophomore Brycen Cameron in the 300 hurdles (42.51).
“Every single one of our guys finished at or above where they were seeded going into the meet,” said coach, Ricky Knutson.
Stere’s series of jumps were incredible as he made all of his first attempts starting at the opening height of 5’8”. He then cleared 5’10”, 6’, and 6’2” without a miss. He grazed the bar at 6’3’, but he made it on his next attempt to earn the high jump title and 10 big points for Cottage Grove.
“Oh, it feels amazing,” Stere said after he received his first place medal. “This was exactly what I was hoping for, to get first at state after getting a slip up at J.C. (second at Sky-Em meet). I was able to prove that I am No. 1!”
Stere plans on enrolling at Umpqua Community College and competing on their track team.
The top four scoring teams get to take home a trophy, but the Lions just missed the hardware by one point. Before the last individual event in the meet, Cottage Grove had 37 points while the Mazama Vikings had 27.
With a fourth-place finish by sophomore Brycen Cameron in the 300 hurdles, the Lions were at 42 points, but Mazama’s senior, Savien Burk, won the 300 hurdles race to add 10 points. So, the Lions led the Vikings 42 to 37 points going into the 4 x 100 and 4 x 400 relays. Cottage Grove did not have a relay team which qualified for the finals, but Mazama did have a 4 x 100 team. A fourth place would result in a tie with between the two teams at 42 points, but the Vikings’ quartet took third, edging Hidden Valley by .27 seconds to earn six points and fourth overall with 43 points.
“It’s always a sting when you’re one point away from a trophy, but I don’t think we could have asked for any more of those guys,” Knutson said. “They were great.”
In 2016 the boys scored 36 points and also finished fifth, which was the best boys finish since 1977. However, the boys have scored more than 42 points in a state meet. In 2018 they tallied 47 points, but came in sixth in the 4A state team race. The number of team points varies quite a bit from year to year.
Interestingly, the Sky-Em conference finished the team scoring with four of the top six teams. Marshfield won the meet with Siuslaw in third, Cottage Grove in fifth and Junction City in sixth.
The Lions’ girls scored 16 points, all coming from two seniors. Gracie Arnold, who will be heading to Western Oregon to play basketball, performed better at the state meet than at the district meet. Arnold took third place in the high jump with a leap of 5-feet, which was her top height this season, and finished fifth in the javelin near per personal best.
Added on to Arnold’s 10 points was a third place for six points by senior Leah Schiewe in the shot put with a mark of 33’9”.
Coach Knutson praised Schiewe for her effort as she was throwing at less than 100 percent all season after coming off knee surgery in the fall. “I’m just happy I got to finish the season and come out with a big bang at third place, not too bad for me,” Schiewe said. Leah plans on attending Bushnell University and competing on their track team.
The Lions boys team will miss those 24 points by Stere and Kishen next season, but there is still much to be optimistic about with Murphy, Russell, and Cameron coming back.
Murphy will most likely qualify in three events and Russell and Cameron should score higher, as some who placed above them will be moving on. The Lions also look to place two runners in the 3000 meters, and freshman Rogelio Soto-Cruz returns, having just missed scoring at state in the shot put.
The 2022 team has certainly set the stage for a good chance and capturing that elusive team trophy.