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A balanced diet.

Byline: Curtis Anderson The Register-Guard

One bad turkey sandwich.

At the risk of being simplistic, you can make the argument that the consumption of said sandwich is all that stood between the Siuslaw boys and an OSAA Class 3A track and field title last season.

The unfortunate luncheon choice was made by Vikings standout Collin Cram two days prior to the state championships at Hayward Field. Cram came into the meet as the favorite in the 110 high hurdles and pole vault, ranked fourth in the 300 hurdles and was a good bet for the finals in the long jump.

But after a better-than-expected third-place finish in the long jump on the first day of competition, Cram struggled to fourth in the pole vault, won his heat in the preliminaries of the 110 high hurdles and then faded badly in the 300 hurdles as he failed to qualify for the final.

It was later discovered that Cram had been weakened by food poisoning.

Siuslaw still managed to finish second overall with a total of 40 points, but that wasn't enough to hold off Wilsonville, a deep and multi-talented team that captured its second straight title with 44 points.

`During the heats of the 300 hurdles, it hit me like a brick wall, and I had no energy after that,' Cram said. `It was awesome to place second in the state as a team, but to know one little thing, like me not making the finals of the 300 hurdles, kept us from possibly winning the title was very disappointing.'

Cram and his teammates - notably distance runners Adam Pino and Kyle Kotaich, sprinter Scott Todd and fellow vaulter Chris Voogd - are back for another run at the state title.

And once again, Wilsonville is standing in their way.

`Last year they were the favorites and we pushed them to the last event,' Siuslaw coach Chris Johnson said. `I think we have a chance to win this year, but it all depends on who has a good day. ... First of all, you have to get there, and then you have to compete at your best when it matters the most. We're just happy to be mentioned in the same breath as Wilsonville.'

For the Vikings, it all starts with Cram.

The 6-foot, 175-pound senior was a first-team all-state wideout in football this past fall, but his athletic future probably lies with the decathlon.

He has already cleared 15 feet, 6 1/2 inches in the pole vault this season, a mark that ranks fifth on the all-time 3A list. He has run 14.78 seconds in the 110 high hurdles and 39.6 in the 300 intermediate hurdles, and he has soared 22-4 1/2 in the long jump.

`Collin is the straw that stirs the drink,' Johnson said. `I know it, he knows it, and everybody else knows it.'

The Vikings are far from a one-man show, however.

They have a deep stable of distance runners led by Pino, a junior who is competing in his first season of track and field. The former football and wrestling standout also ran cross country for the first time last fall, placing first at the Sky-Em district meet followed by a ninth-place finish at state.

And he did it while running with a hernia that would require surgery in December.

`I didn't tell anybody about it, not coach Johnson or my parents. I just pushed it back in and kept running,' Pino said. `After my first two wrestling practices though, I went to the doctor and he told me I would want to have surgery.'

Pino was sidelined for six weeks and then resumed training for track.

He currently ranks among the state 3A leaders in three events - the 800 (fifth, 1:57.80), 1,500 (second, 4:04.94) and 3,000 (second, 8:47.97).

Kotaich, who is just a sophomore, is another Viking distance runner on the fast track this spring. At last Saturday's XO Invite at Hayward Field, he broke Pino's school record in the 800 with a time of 1:57.77. Kotaich also ranks fifth in the state in the 1,500 at 4:07.01, while senior Tommy Balcom has cracked the top 10 in the 3,000 (eighth, 9:18.01).

`What I like best about this team is our depth in distance running,' Johnson said. `I grew up watching the Oregon teams that were built around the distances, and we're trying to put together that as our core.'

Not that Johnson will ignore the other events.

Todd, a senior, has come out of nowhere this year to post some impressive times in the 200 (22.94), and he could also be a threat in the triple jump after breaking 44 feet earlier this season (44-2 1/2 ).

And let's not forget Voogd.

Although he is currently battling the effects of a freak accident in which he sliced his small toe to the bone, Voogd helped pick up the slack in the pole vault at last year's state meet with a second-place finish at 14-3.

`We have kids who are willing to do what it takes,' Johnson said. `They have all bought into the team concept. There are no attitudes and everybody is focused and committed. I'm trying to enjoy the moment, because you never know if you'll ever have a team like this again.'

As good as the Vikings are, it will be difficult to catch Wilsonville.

The Wildcats return three seniors who figured prominently in last year's state title run, including Joe Staub in the discus and shot put, A.J. Casteel in the middle distances, and Jarret Axelrod in the jumps.

They also return sophomore John Zaganiacz in the hurdles, and have added senior Scottie Hand in the javelin and Dave Driskoll in the sprints.

Staub, the defending state champion in the discus, is the 3A leader in that event (171-6) and ranks second in the shot put (56-2).

Casteel has the fastest time in the 800 (1:54.57) and is third in the 1,500 (4:05.16), while Axelrod is listed among the top 10 in the high jump (second, 6-6), long jump (fourth, 21-7 1/2 ) and triple jump (sixth, 43-5).

The Wildcats placed third at the prestigious Centennial Invitational earlier this season, and many 3A track coaches believe they are the team to beat.

`That's not something we try to duck,' Wilsonville coach Mike Henderson said. `We're counting on three seniors to lead us to a third straight title. ... We have the potential to score some big points, but I guarantee you that 44 will not be enough this year.'

Should Siuslaw or Wilsonville falter, at least two other teams will be waiting to pounce.

Henley is a team predicated on speed.

The Hornets, led by Dan Martin, the defending state champion in the 400, have three sprinters currently ranked in the top 10 of the 100. They also have two in the 200 and two in the 400. Not surprisingly, Henley teams are ranked No. 1 in the 4x100 relay (43.74) and No. 2 in the 4x400 (3:29.06).

The other team getting positive reviews is North Bend, which came within four points of knocking off Siuslaw at the Central Coast Invitational.

Senior Brian Wutherich is the 3A state leader in the javelin (184-9), ranks third in the shot put (54-1 1/2 ) and stands third in the discus (157-6) behind second-ranked teammate Mat Cole (160-7). Cole, a senior, also competes in the javelin (174-4).

The jumping events are handled by senior Anthony Accinelli, who is third in the long jump (22-0) and tied for third in the high jump (6-4). Andrew Greif is in the top 10 in both the triple jump and long jump, and Ryan Johnson is a factor in the high jump and 300 hurdles.

`We jokingly call ourselves the North Bend field and track team because we're so strong in the jumps and throws,' North Bend coach Steve Greif said. `I'm realistic enough that I don't think we can win the state title, but we're honored to be a team that people have to contend with.'


Siuslaw sophomore Kyle Kotaich provides valuable depth in the distance events and owns the school record in the 800.
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Title Annotation:Sports; Siuslaw has all the ingredients of a state-title contender
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 4, 2004
Previous Article:For Marist junior Collins, one good lap deserves another.
Next Article:BRIEFLY.

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