Cowboys return four with state meet experience, look to improve

by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - David Parks runs short sprints during a recent practice.  Parks went to state last year in both the 100 and 200-meters.

Expectations are running high for the Crook County High School track team.
   "Last year we finished fifth in both the guys and girls at district," said Head Coach Ernie Brooks. "That is up from sixth and seventh the year before. We sent five kids in seven events to state and all but one of those kids is coming back this year."
   Led by seniors Michelly Foley and David Parks, who each did multiple events at state last year, the team is looking to improve this year.
   "We have 110-112 right now and we are still getting a few and vice versa," said Brooks. "It's our biggest numbers yet turnout-wise."
   Brooks, who is in his fifth season as head coach, noted that the team has added numbers each year that he has been the coach, as well as scoring more points.
   "Our goal is to score 125 points or more at district this year," said Brooks. "Our first year we scored 33 points at district and that is combined guys and girls. Each year we have improved. We set a goal last year of 100 and we had 112 points combined. We also want to set 650 personal records this year. That works out to each athlete PRing at least four times during the season. We are really pushing that because if we are not doing our best it doesn't matter what we score. Our ultimate goal is to PR at district. You know that's the top of the mountain and state is a bonus."
   Once again Summit and Hermiston high schools are the teams to beat in the Intermountain Conference, but Brooks believes that the Cowboys can contend for third place this year.
   The team is loaded with returning district placers and includes a number of athletes with good chances to go to state.
   Josh McDonald went to state a year ago in the pole vault, and teammates Scott Elliot and Amber Binham are looking to join him this year.
   In the sprints Parks is expected to return to state and Brooks believes that Mike Gruber and Doug Hall may join him.
   In the distance events John Gillem is expected to contend in the 3,000 while Austin Morrell should be a contender in the 800 and Michelly, Leslie and Kellie Foley each have good chances of getting to state.
   In the throws Kady Stafford went to state in the javelin a year ago and looks to return possibly in the shot and discus as well, while Mark Blomquist looks to make it to state in both the javelin and discus, and Jessica Lea is expected to contend in the javelin.
   In the hurdles both Lea and Mark Flegel should be strong and Kator Lopez returns in the high jump.
   This Saturday, March 8, the team is taking a bus load of athletes to a track clinic at Hood River High School.
   "It's the best clinic a kid can go to," said Brooks. "There are probably 30 Olympians and college coaches and they put on a great clinic."
   Then the season kicks off in earnest the following week as the team travels to Sherwood on Wednesday for the Sherwood relays.
   "That is going to be our throw-offs and our split times," said Brooks. "That's when we would usually do it and it's better than having to do it at home by ourselves. It's a fun meet."
   Then the team opens their home season on Tuesday, March 18, with the Icebreaker Invitational. The team has four home meets this season including the annual community meet and luau that the team uses as a fundraiser.
   "The kids have absolutely been busting their tails this winter either by playing another sport or by hitting the weight room and running or jumping indoors," said Brooks. "This group of kids is going to be a fun group of kids to come and watch at the track."
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