Track competes in four meets in one week


Clarion photo Tucker Johnson photo.

The Adams, Amin, Gregory and Kurtz hug after winning the DMR at the Jesuit Twilight Relays.

Cleveland’s track team sprinted into the end of the regular season with a grueling, but successful, series of four meets in one week, including a stretch of three in four days.

The series began at the Centennial Invitational April 25.  Roba Sultessa led the way for Cleveland at the meet, winning the 800 meters in 1:53.86, the fastest time in Oregon this season, and 29th fastest in the U.S.  The race included Lincoln’s Josiah Langstaff and Centennial’s Thomas Morrell III, last year’s second and third place finishers at the state championships.  Sultessa out kicked them both in the final 250 meters, eliciting a roar of excitement from the crowd.  Peter Kurtz took fifth in that race.

On the girls side, Emma Wren ran a 1500-3000 meter double, her first in years, placing sixth in the 1500 and 16th in the 3000 against stacked fields that included a number of out-of-state runners.  Emma Hausafus competed in the high jump, taking second place with a height of 5 feet-even.

The next Wednesday, April 29, saw Cleveland take on Lincoln in a dual meet at home.  The girls meet saw a new Cleveland record in the 4×100 meter relay, where Eve Lathrop, Tess Franke, Caroline Holley, and Ava Mickola combined to run 50.11 seconds.  A team effort, with individual victories from Hausafus, Mickola, Wren, Anna Rollins, Birch Clark, Emily Smith and Claire Diller, saw the Cleveland girls win 72-67.

The boys meet saw Noah Adams and Peter Gregory take first and second in the 400 meters, both running the quarter mile in 49 seconds, while Stellan Roberts swept the hurdles races.  Despite those victories, as well as a sweep of the relays by Cleveland, and victories by Peter Kurtz (800, 1500), Wyatt Starr (shot put), Joe Denniston (discus), and Roth Morgan (javelin), Lincoln’s strength lower on the depth chart earned them a 78-65 victory.

Two days later, Cleveland’s elite athletes competed in the Jesuit Twilight Relays, a massive festival of track and field which is held by some to be more important than the state championships.  The meet climaxed with Cleveland’s last event of the evening, the boys’ distance medley relay.  The first leg, 1200 meters by Noah Adams, saw the team hold a strong position among tough opponents, and Adams performed admirably over the abnormal distance.  Peter Gregory took the baton for the 400 meter second leg, and made up significant ground on the leaders, before handing off to Peter Kurtz for 800 meters.  Kurtz was a lightning bolt circling the high-performance polyurethane track, catching first West Linn, then Sheldon, and pulling into a small lead over Lincoln and South Eugene on his last lap.  After the handoff to Nabi Amin, for the final leg of 1600 meters, Cleveland’s team was in a strong position, with Lincoln’s Ronald Graham and South Eugene’s Reilly Bloomer completing the lead pack.  Amin ran his mile slow and steady, in what Mark Hale-Brown, Cleveland’s distance coach, called the smartest tactical race he’d ever seen.

Only on the final curve, with less than 200 meters left to run, did Amin make his move, leaving his rivals far behind.  “I just about passed out when Nabi started going,” Adams said. Crossing the finish line, a smile lit up Amin’s face, while his teammates leaped, screaming, several feet in the air.  The jubilation was infectious, and didn’t let up for several hours after the race had ended.

“I was so scared when I saw Ronald Graham in the mile,” Kurtz said after the race, before Amin cut him off. “Why would you be scared?” Amin said, “I’m faster than Ronald.”

Also at the Twilight Relays, Wren and Sultessa competed in the inaugural “Dream Mile” which featured several of the fastest high school runners from around the nation.  Both called it a fun experience, though they thought the field was a little too large, finding themselves boxed out early on.  Sultessa was forced to jog the first two laps, allowing the field to thin, before a massive finishing kick saw him move up nearly 15 places.  Other athletes invited to the meet included Diller and Morgan in the javelin, Tanner Montagriff-Peck in the pole vault, Franke in the 100 meters, and Clark, Gregory, and Roberts in the 100/110 high hurdles.

The next day, a tired and depleted Cleveland team arrived at Gladstone High School for the Dick Baker Invitational.  Dick Baker invites mostly 3A and 4A schools, and this allowed Cleveland’s rested athletes to have fun and collect medals against a weaker talent pool than is seen even at PIL dual meets.  However, many of Cleveland’s strongest competitors found themselves starting to get burnt out after a third meet in four days.

“I’m tired after racing so much in two days,” said Clark, “and especially after everything I ran on Wednesday too.”  Still, the day saw Hausafus set a meet record in the high jump, heighting at 5’ 2”, and Kurtz ran away with the 800 meters, building a lead of nearly 10 meters as he left the first corner of the race, and finishing as the only runner under two minutes.  In the 1500 meters, Amin won convincingly, and later came back for a leg of Cleveland’s winning 4×400 relay.  The girls 4×400 team of Clark, Franke, Wren and Caroline Holley also scored the top spot on the podium.

Cleveland’s track team rested their top runners in their final dual meet, at Grant on May 6.  As of press time, the Warriors were hoping to repeat last year’s feat of winning both PIL team championships.  The PIL district meet will be held on May 13 and 14.