BYRON – While advancing to state is the first priority at track sectionals, the Oregon Hawks had one other goal in their sights at Friday's 1A Byron Sectional.
The Hawks had finished second to the host Tigers at each of the last three sectionals. With three events left, they were poised to end that trend.
But, with the Hawks leading, Byron's star distance runner Kelsey Hildreth won the 1,600 to give the Tigers the lead. Challen Jackson then sealed the victory by edging Oregon's Cydney Long in the 200.
Byron had 126.5 points to win its 11th sectional in 12 years. Oregon finished with 112 points, the closest margin between the two schools in several years.
“You never see the full Byron team until the sectional,” Oregon coach Lynn Ahlgrim said. “To stay this close to them with such a small and young team was a great accomplishment for us.”
Byron won all four relays, and had double place-winners in over half of the events.
“It took our whole team to beat them,” Byron coach Scott McMullen said. “Winning that 200 was big for us. We knew it would be tight. Oregon is so good in the field events and with Cydney.”
Long won her specialties, the 100 hurdles (15.48) and 300 hurdles (48.28), to make it 13 events qualified for in 4 years at Oregon. She also took third in the long jump (16-0) and fourth in the 200 (27.61).
“By the 200, Cydney’s legs were done,” Ahlgrim said. “Doing six long jumps takes a toll on you.”
Oregon had another double-winner in Shannon Cullen, though she did put a scare into her throwing coach Doug Engle.
Coming in as the No. 1 seed in the discus, Cullen scratched on her first two attempts, and was one throw away of missing the finals.
“On the last one, I told her she could either make a full turn, which is more risky, or try to qualify from the standing position,” Engle said.
Cullen opted for a full turn, and she managed to keep the discus within 3 feet of going out-of-bounds, and advanced to the finals. There, she won with a personal best of 120 feet, 2 inches.
“It takes guts to make a full-turn throw with the nerves and frustration she had,” Engle said. “In the discus, she is just starting to see how good she can be.”
In her specialty, the shot put, the returning state medalist hit the 39-foot mark to win by nearly 5 feet. Earlier in the week, she went over 40 feet for the first time.
Oregon’s Sarah Lauer added a triple jump (33-7) win, and Kelsey Pudlas did the same in the pole vault (8-6). Whitney Long added to Oregon’s field event point total and qualified for the state meet with a second place in the high jump at 5-0. Another Hawk runner-up was Mackenzie Skoumal in the 400.
After dropping the baton in the 400 relay, Oregon’s 800 relay of Erica Grace, Pudlas, Sarah Harris and Brianna Horn redeemed itself with a 1:54.64 clocking, edging West Carroll for the second-place qualification.
The 1,600 relay of Skoumal, Whitney Long, Pudlas and Horn were the beneficiaries of a disqualification of Harvest Christian to move up from third place to second and also make state.
Milledgeville-Eastland's Miranda Grisham redeemed herself after a disappointing 2013 sectional, when she narrowly missed state qualifications in the long jump, 200 and 400.
“My freshman year, I went downstate in a relay with three seniors. My sophomore year was a learning experience, and last year was an incredible disappointment,” Grisham said.
She made sure that would not happen again by winning the 400 (1:01.81) and placing second in both the 200 (27.26) and long jump (16-7).
“After all those thirds as a junior, she was really driven this year,” Milledgeville coach Jason Wroble said.
It was heartbreak for West Carroll, as Courtney Boyer just missed qualifying in the 100 hurdles by one place, and the 800 relay of Erica Walls, Trelawney Baisden, Allison Barr and Boyer were one spot behind second-place Oregon.
Boyer made up a 20-meter deficit to nearly catch Horn on the anchor leg, but came up .08 short.
Besides Cullen and Long for Oregon, the meet’s other double-winner was Hildreth in the 1,600 and 3,200 runs. In the 3,200, she lapped every competitor at least once, and finished with a time of 10:32, good for top 40 in the nation according to dyetstat.com.
“She’s the story of the meet,” Polo-Forreston coach Terry Jenkins said.
Naeva Groenewold had P-F’s best finish with a fourth place in the triple jump at 31-2.