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Byline: Steve Mims The Register-Guard

In addition to all their usual duties as track and field coaches, there's a new league to learn about and one less week to do it for Jeff Hess and Erin Regali.

Track coaches throughout the state are dealing with a time crunch this season as the big-school meet has been moved up one week due to the NCAA West Regional at Hayward Field on Friday, May 25. The Class 4A, 5A, and 6A track meets will be May 17-19 at Hayward.

"It's amazing how that one week makes everything seem so rushed in the entire season, but it does," said Hess, the South Eugene coach. "We are trying to cram everything in at the end."

The inaugural Southwest Conference district meet is May 10 and 12 at Hayward Field, and by then all of the coaches should at least have introductions out of the way, but some rules might still need to be straightened out.

"There are a lot of changes to the rules, and it is hard to get used to some things," said Regali, Sheldon's coach. "The Southern Conference did things different than the Midwestern League and it has been a learning process. They have rules that you have to compete in a certain number of meets and have a certain number of marks and different starting heights so there are certain tidbits you have to remember."

Sheldon and South Eugene had been the dominant schools at the Midwestern League meet in recent years and both figure to compete once again for titles in the new 6A league.

Sheldon swept the Midwestern boys and girls titles last year and returns some key performers on both sides, including district champions Casey Masterson and Aaron Pflugrad.

Masterson won the district title in the 800 and 1,500 meters last year and placed in the top-five at state in both events. The senior won the 6A cross country title in the fall and ranks among the state leaders in the 800, 1,500 and 3,000.

Masterson may run as an individual in the XO Invite Saturday at Hayward Field.

"We are trying to look for places for her to get good competition," Regali said. "She is running strong and she trains with a lot of the guys on our team. We took her to Stanford and she ran well there. She is in good shape and pretty focused."

Masterson has added the 300 hurdles to her list of events and ranks seventh in the state in that race.

Sheldon senior Amy Nelson is among the state leaders in both hurdle races.

Senior Nori Rice, who won the district 800 title as a sophomore and placed fifth in the long jump and sixth in the pole vault last year, is ranked among the state's best in both the long jump and triple jump.

"As a freshman and sophomore, Nori was a strong distance runner and then she came back last year and had some success in the jumps," Regali said. "It is kind of all coming together for her. She is having a good season, she's real focused, and she has some high goals set for herself."

Senior Madison Randall is strong in the distances, and junior Lisette Petersen returns after finishing third at district in both the 100 and 200.

On the boys side, Pflugrad won the district 400 title last year just a couple of months after he moved to Eugene.

Pflugrad, an all-state wide receiver who has signed to play at Oregon, helped Sheldon's basketball team reach the state semifinals before turning out for track to run the 100, 200 and 400.

"He's come off a good football and basketball season and we got him a little late, but his times are coming down," Regali said.

Junior Zach Todd is another football player who adds to the sprints, along with junior Jake Swenson and sophomore Anthony Yakovich. Senior Max Hammer returns after qualifying for state last year by finishing second at district in the 800.

Sheldon has a strong group of sophomores in the field events, including Barry Peiskee, who is tied for fourth in the state in the high jump at 6-5. Peiskee was fourth in that event at district as a freshman.

DJ Wright ranks among the state's best in the high jump and long jump, and Chris Ling recently cleared 13-feet, 9-inches in the pole vault. Wright and Ling are also hurdlers.

Senior Troy Roberts has the conference's best mark in the triple jump. Brandon Baker has been battling a knee injury but should be Sheldon's top thrower, along with Ben Douma.

"I think on the boys side we have more depth," Regali said. "We have a pretty strong nucleus of guys to cover the events. On the girls side, our top guns will do well, but it is a matter of whether that will be enough to carry us."

Hess said he expected his girls to be a step ahead of the boys at South this year, but that has not been the case early in the season.

"The boys have looked a little stronger than the girls and I thought it would be the other way around," he said. "The boys have had some more immediate success, but the difference between looking good in the middle of the season and the end is substantial."

South's boys feature three reigning district champions - seniors Zach Zosel, Adam Bumstead and Brian Rowe.

Zosel, a three-sport standout who plays football and basketball, won the Midwestern title in the shot put last year and placed seventh at state.

He ranks among the state's best again this year and is a contender in the discus, where he placed third at district last year.

"He is throwing quite well and is without question a potential scorer in both of those throws," Hess said.

Bumstead won the 300 hurdles last year and is a contender in both hurdle races this year. Rowe, an all-state goalkeeper in soccer who has a scholarship to UCLA, won the district title in the javelin and is also competing in the high jump.

Sophomore Charlie Beard was the district runner-up in the pole vault last year and ranks among the best again this year. Sophomore Daniel Blasher is one of the top sprinters in the state, and senior Camden Allison-Hall will run the 200, 400 and 800 and Abraham Lapite and Hank Turner add depth in the sprints.

The Axemen feature a strong distance crew that includes Walker Augustyniak, Colin Tracey, Sammy Kirtner, Eamonn Kerr-Daly, Casey Weinman, Nick Reynolds, Ryan Graebner and Zach Schneider-Lynch.

Ike Patton has cleared 6-2 in the high jump, and Peter Barnes and Leron Bennett are among South's top jumpers.

South Eugene's girls feature a couple of district champions in Nina DeHaas and Whitney Pitman.

DeHaas won the 300 hurdles at district and was third at state in that event. She was second at district in the 100 and ranks among the state leaders in both the 300 hurdles and 100.

DeHaas runs on both relays, which figure to be strong with sprinters Rachel Bunting, Lauren Opsal and Melina Wiebe.

Pitman, a junior, won the 3,000 at district and is part of a strong distance team that includes senior Lauren Harvey, junior Alayna Oleksa, sophomore Lauren Graebner, and freshmen Sasha Teninty, Rachel Hobart, Madeline Pickering and MacKenzie Kerins.

Junior Lindsay Beard leads the state in the pole vault with a mark of 12-0. She was sick last month but is returning to full strength.

Freshman Shay Applegate has made an instant impact in the hurdles and long jump, and sophomore Jayme McVicker is a sprinter and triple jumper.
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Title Annotation:Sports; Big schools hustle to prepare for state meets May 17-19
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 25, 2007
Previous Article:Irish fall short against Roseburg.
Next Article:Sheldon claims Southwest lead.

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