It was easy to pick out the theme of the PIL 5A district track and field meet for Madison High senior Monica Danciu - redemption.
In 2009, Danciu won the 100-meter hurdles at the league meet. In 2010, though, she was disqualified for a false start.
'Last year was pretty bad,' Danciu said. 'I didn't expect that. But my teammates and my coaches were really supportive and helped me get past that.'
Before the 2011 race last Thursday at Lewis and Clark College, Danciu prayed with her brother to help her calm down.
As she lined up for the start, she was reminded of what had taken place a year before.
'The ref might have referenced that a bit,' Danciu said. 'Because when he was talking about false starts he was looking like right at me. So he probably remembers me. That's something I had to let go, too.'
As might have been expected, Danciu was not first out of the blocks.
'I kind of just gave it up at the start,' she said. 'I surrendered it.'
As the race progressed, though, Danciu pulled away from the field, winning by 1.54 seconds with a time of 15.90, shattering the meet record she had set as a sophomore.
'The rhythm and the grace and just keeping the beat of the three-step … I just really felt good,' Danciu said.
She also finished second in the PIL 5A 300 hurdles to Benson star Jazmin Ratcliff.
The 100 hurdles time put Danciu at No. 6 on the Oregon 5A season list, and she hopes it gives her a little more clout with competitors at the state meet Friday and Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene.
'When I (last) went to state, I was kind of the underdog the person in lanes one and eight,' she said. 'This year, I'm hoping I get a better seed and maybe send a stronger message.'
As she waited to accept her 100 hurdles gold medal at the PIL meet and wrap redemption around her neck, Danciu's face contained pure joy.
'It's one of the moments that makes track worth it,' she said. 'Worth all the work and all the sweat and all the stress. It's really cathartic.'
Ratcliff was the brightest individual star at the meet, also winning the 100 meters (12.78) and long jump (16-1 ¾ and teaming with Benson's Ilijah Darden, Jaylah Bullock and Carina Donley to capture the 4x100-meter in 49.44.
Ratcliff did all of that despite having her training interrupted recently by back spasms.
'I'm just trying to get back into shape,' Ratcliff said. 'I know I have it in me to do amazing things. I'm almost there.'
When she gets to state, Ratcliff hopes to write her name into the record books.
'I want to have the overall state record of all-time,' she said, pointing especially to the 300 hurdles. 'I just want to push myself really hard and run against the clock. That's my biggest competitor.'
The PIL 5A girls title went to Franklin, which totaled 168 points. Wilson finished second with 139, just ahead of Cleveland (133). Then came Benson (99), Madison (79) and Jefferson (20).
Franklin had individual success and depth, earning 10 spots at state. Senior Madison Trowbridge won the 800 in 2:21.29 and 1,500 in 5:16.49, nipping Cleveland freshman Bryn McKillop in both races. Chloe Retallack won the 3,000 in 11:40.07, with a 7 ½-second edge on teammate Mona Law. Trowbridge, Dannika Sullivan, Lauren Sullivan and Karina Harper took home gold in the 4x400 relay, and the Quakers advanced in the short relay, as well, running second to Benson with a team of Paris Gresham, Valentina Tran, Harper and Nailya Davis.
Wilson had champions in Cailley Cole-Sigmon in the 400 (1:03.17), Mariah Jones in the discus (98-7), Erika Dahl in the javelin (100-2) and Kelly Olsen in the high jump (4-6).
Cleveland's Savannah Baber cleared 8-0 to win the pole vault. Rachael Gernhart, Sophia Ahmad, McKillop and Katie Warberg led the Warriors to second place in the 4x400 relay.
For Benson, Bullock won the shot put (31-10), Darden claimed the 200 (27.14) and Carina Conley won the triple jump (36-3 ½). Conley's best triple jump this season (36-9 1/2) ranks second in Oregon 5A behind Iris Anderson of North Eugene (38-1).
Jefferson had one OSAA state qualifier. Tiara Miles took second place in the 200 in 27.64, a half-second behind Darden.