In a normal world, there's a good chance that Sherwood's boys track team would be working toward a repeat 6A title this season.
Unfortunately for the Bowmen, their title window has coincided with the COVID-19 crisis, a spate of bad luck not lost on coach Terrel Smith, who hasn't won a state championship since his tenure began in 1986.
“Opportunities to win state at this level haven't come along,” Smith said.
But the disappointment hasn't stopped Sherwood from going gangbusters in the first two weeks of the season. The Bowmen charged out of the gates, responding to the challenge presented by the short season.
“Without a doubt, this guys group is the best team I've ever had,” Smith said. “You can see how my kids are reflecting that we're just going to seize the opportunities that come our way. They're saying, 'OK, this is a short season, we have to get after it.'”
Juniors Jeffery Rogers and James Crabtree are ranked 1-2 in the 3,000 meters, for all classifications. Senior Noah Culbertson leads the state in the shot and is No. 2 in the discus. Senior Asher Krauel has the best mark in the javelin.
In the 6A rankings, the Bowmen have a whopping 20 in the top 10.
“The kids were ready,” Smith said. “Part of that was we've been able to train a little bit along the way. Even from September, we had fall season intrasquad stuff.”
Rogers not only has the state's best time in the 3,000 (8:52.74), but in 6A, he is ranked No. 2 in the 1,500 (3:59.37) and No. 6 in the 800 (1:58.82). He has cut his time in the 800 by nearly 10 seconds from 2019.
“I'm absolutely impressed with him,” Smith said. “It's like, holy smokes, this kid's got some speed, more so than we had ever known. He's a good distance runner, but to be able to see the speed, just in this two-week period, is just amazing. It's absolute excitement to know that he's got even more in him.”
Culbertson, who has signed with Idaho, has thrown the shot a personal-best 62 feet, 5 inches. The mark is a five-foot improvement from 2019, when he placed third at state, and leads 6A by more than 10 feet.
Culbertson also has thrown the discus 175-0 to lead 6A by more than 20 feet. His mark is second in the state only to senior Aiden Paul (180-3) of 5A West Albany.
“When I'd come in during the summer to work on the facilities, Noah was throwing the shot,” Smith said. “There's no one that outworks Noah.”
Sherwood would dominate the rankings even more if not for senior Bryan Cuthbertson – 6A runner-up in the shot and discus in 2019 -- injuring his elbow during football season. Still, wearing a brace on his right elbow, Cuthbertson threw the shot 44-6 left-handed at a meet April 17.
If healthy, Cuthbertson would have dueled with Culbertson in the shot and discus and with Krauel in the javelin. Cuthbertson threw the javelin 197-11 last fall, ahead of Krauel's state-leading 193-7 this season.
“We were looking at Bryan to be over 200 feet in the javelin, throwing 175, 180 feet in the discus and pushing Noah in the mid-60s in the shot,” Smith said. “There's a lot of what-ifs here.”
The top 6A athletes will have a chance to go head-to-head during the Season 3 culminating week.
Oregon City will play host to the season-ending Oregon 6A Track and Field Showcase on May 21 and 22 at Pioneer Memorial Stadium.
“Our coaching staff was talking, and we were like, 'Maybe we can step up and fill the void,'” Oregon City boys coach Adam Thygeson said.
So far, 36 of the 46 teams in 6A have signed up to participate in the meet, according to Thygeson. Among them are several teams from outside the area in South Medford, Sheldon and Summit.
Thygeson said each event will include 12 to 16 athletes, with much of the field determined by state rankings. He said organizers are considering giving automatic berths to the top seed in each league.
State guidance will impact the event schedule. If Clackamas County enters the extreme-risk category, stadium occupancy will be limited to 50 and the starting times will be earlier.
“If we don't have extreme risk, the Friday and Saturday will be very similar to the OSAA meet in 2019,” Thygeson said. “I'm kind of using that as our guideline.”
Teams will use the upper parking lot as a staging area as they wait to enter by event. No coaches or spectators will be allowed in the stadium, only athletes and officials.
“It'll be a well-oiled machine,” Thygeson said. “One race is coming down the entry way while the last one is leaving out the lower gate.”
Thygeson said the meet will have a fee – about $20 per entry – to cover the cost of officials, timing and individual and team awards.
One week after setting state freshman records in the 100 and 200 in her high school debut, Lake Oswego's Mia Brahe-Pedersen took it up another notch in a meet at Canby on April 21.
Brahe-Pedersen ran the 100 in 11.67, the second-fastest time in state history behind Churchill's Margaret Bailes, who clocked 11.30 in 1968. Her time is the best in 6A since the classification began in 2007, supplanting Grants Pass' Deshae Wise, who ran 11.79 in 2017.
Brahe-Pedersen also finished the 200 in 24.09, ranking her No. 5 in state history. Bailes holds the 200 record at 22.95.
Other girls are making their marks in the state record book:
Summit junior Magdalene Williams ran the 800 in 2:08.45 on April 21, the third-best time in state history. She is behind Crescent Valley's Leann Warren (2:03.02, 1979) and Sunset's Teri Wierson (2:05.3, 1978).
Hidden Valley senior Kaiah Fisher, who has signed with Stanford, threw the discus 159-5 on April 21. That puts her at No. 4 all-time, but still well off the record of 179-7, set by Sherwood's Shelby Moran in 2018.
Cascade junior Emma Gates high-jumped 5-11 on April 23 to move into a tie for fourth-place all-time with Oregon City's Laurel Roberts (1988). West Albany's Rachel Proteau (2013) owns the state record of 6-1.
St. Mary's Academy senior Sydney McCann cleared 12-8 in the pole vault on April 14, putting her in a three-way tie for third all-time. Sarah Sasaki of North Clackamas Christian holds the record at 13-0 (1999).
Track athletes got some good news Monday when the Oregon Health Authority revised its guidance on the use of masks during outdoor competition.
Masks, face coverings or face shields no longer are required for athletes if they are outdoors, competing in a non-contact sport and maintaining a six-foot distance from others outside of their household.
The new rule does not apply for training and conditioning or for before and after competing.