The final day of the Columbia River Conference Track and Field District Championships turned out to be an historic day for the Hood River Valley Eagles, who won their first ever CRC title. The Eagles, guided by coach Donnie Herneisen, won the boys and girls district championships Friday at The Dalles High School.
“It was very special to win the district titles this year,” said Herneisen. “Winning on either side would’ve been a great accomplishment, but it is extra special to have won on both sides this year. In every previous year, we always finished second to Hermiston’s boys and girls teams. Last year was a much closer competition on the girls’ side than in years past, but Hermiston’s depth really helped them pull away from us. The tables flipped a bit this season.”
HRV has 11 boys and eight girls that will advance to the state meet (May 22-23 at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field in Eugene), led by senior Jestena Mattson (100 meters, 200, high jump), junior Sebastian Barajas (discus, shot put) and junior Parker Kennedy (pole vault). The trio are each ranked No. 1 in their events.
A number of Lady Eagles won individual CRC titles, including three-time district champion Mattson, who won the 100 (12.36 seconds), high jump (school record of 5 feet, 7 inches), and the 200 (24.59, breaking her own school record). Senior Emily Viuhkola was a two-time individual district champ with victories in the 400 (66.77) and 800 (2:26.68). Mattson is the defending state champ in the 100 and 200.
“It was really super fun for me today,” said Mattson, who has earned an athletic scholarship to attend Fresno State University in California in the fall. “In other years, I’ve won district titles in four events (100, 200, two relays), but this year I switched to high jump instead of being in the 4x400. It’s super exciting to be going to state again for the fourth straight year. The state meet is always my most favorite meet of the year. I’m ready to go and I hope to repeat as state champ in the 100 and 200 and I would like to win a state title in the high jump too, so that’s my goal this year.”
Eight Eagle girls qualified for state, including juniors Lauren Robinson (1500, 3000), Marlie Bloomster (300 hurdles), as well as freshman Audrey Marble, Caitlyn Fick, Kassidy Davidson and Chloe Clark. Marble, Fick, Viuhkola and Mattson combined to lead HRV to the district title in the 4x400 relay (4:15.88). HRV totaled 93 points in team scoring to take the title, with Pendleton (88 pts.) getting second place.
“We challenged the girls on Thursday at practice and told them we were going to need some heroes to step up,” said Herneisen. “There were plenty to choose from after Friday’s competition. We had so many kids step up and score points in the three, four and five spots such as (Marlie) Bloomster, Sophia Marble, Terri Hewitt, and (Caitlyn) Fick just to name a few. Even though we won quite a few events, lots of kids earned a whole lot of points with top-five finishes. Those were the heroes we needed to get the team win.”
The Eagle boys contingent of state qualifiers is led by two-time CRC champions Barajas (shot put, discus), Kennedy (100, pole vault), juniors Parker Irusta (200, long jump) and Justin Crosswhite (1500, 3000).
“I’ve had so much fun at districts and after winning the 3K on Wednesday, it felt good to top it off with a victory in the 1500,” said Crosswhite, a first-time state qualifier. “Going to the state meet is a great way to end the season and it’s going to be a lot of fun there.”
Crosswhite, the CRC Boys Track Athlete of the Year, ran to first place Friday in the 1500 with a time of 4:11.34 and on Day 1 of districts in the 3000 with a time of 9:07.43. Barajas set a school record in discus with his throw of 188-11. HRV totaled 106 points to win districts over Hermiston (94).
“Coming into the meet, I believe our boys were the favorite to win,” said Herneisen. “They came into the meet and performed in a very business-like manner, with nearly every event coming out as expected or slightly better than we predicted.”
The Eagle boys state qualifying squad also includes junior Quinn Fetkenhour (3000), senior Mason McDowell (110 hurdles), senior Patrick Crompton (pole vault), freshman Gabe Campos-Davis (4x100) and junior Tyrone Stintzi (high jump). Senior Lucas Campos-Davis and junior Noah Noteboom earned qualifying spots as alternates on the 4x100 relay. Stintzi won the high jump with a leap of 6-2, a personal record. McDowell ran to victory in the 110 hurdles with a time of 16.11.
“It feels great to win the district high jump championship,” said Stintzi, in just his second year on the team. “It’s the first time I’ve qualified for state in the high jump, which is just awesome. I’ve been to the state meet before on our relay team last year, but this is pretty exciting to go there as district champ. It was my goal today to win the high jump, so I’m pretty happy.”
Eagle track and field athletes who will be competing at 5A state for the first time include Gabe Campos-Davis, Fetkenhour, McDowell, Bloomster and Marble.
“Being able to run at Hayward Field, site of multiple U.S. Olympic Trials, NCAA Championships and where the World Championships will be held in a few years, can be a pretty big reward in itself,” said Herneisen. “Coming home with a medal around your neck is usually just a bonus. We want to go down to Eugene and represent the Hood River Valley and show the state of Oregon that track and field is alive and well here.”