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Motivated Morris sprints to a state victory

Track: The Sherwood sophomore, competing at state for the first time, wins the 200
by: DAN BROOD LEAN INTO IT — Sherwood sophomoe Cristian Morris leans at the finish line to get a close victory in the 200.

EUGENE - Last year as a freshman, Cristian Morris just barely missed out on qualifying for the state track and field championships.

Only fractions of a second in races at the Northwest Oregon Conference district meet kept him from earning state bids in the 100-meter dash, the 200 and the 4 x 100 relay.

Disappointing? Maybe. Motivating? Definitely.

This year was going to be different.

And it was - in a big, big way.

Morris, a Sherwood High School sophomore, not only made it to this year's Class 5A state track and field meet, but he made the most of that opportunity, sprinting to championship gold in the 200 during the event held Friday and Saturday at Hayward Field.

'Oh my gosh, this is so great,' Morris said after receiving his state championship medal. 'This feels so good - especially after last year, when my season was cut short at district.'

Morris, who also had a second-place finish in the 100, provided just some of the highlights for the Bowmen teams at the state championships. Four of the school's five entrants at the state meet had top-four finishes.

'Everyone is really doing well,' said Sherwood senior Griffin Ruehl, who had a fourth-place finish in the high jump. 'That is definitely good to see.'

For Morris, Saturday's championship glory culminated a season full of hard work.

'I worked with the coaches and got in the weight room,' said Morris, who also helped Sherwood win a state football championship last fall. 'I thought that I got cut short last year. That really motivated me.'

Morris' big Saturday at state started with the 100-meter dash, where he ran to second place in a time of 11.02 seconds. Taylor Walcott, who played on the Marist football team that fell to the Bowmen in overtime in the Class 5A state championship football game, won the race in 10.83.

'That was great,' Morris said after the 100. 'Second place. That's more than I could ask for.'

But, in the 200, he got even more.

Morris, in that race, had Walcott running in the lane to his very right. The two ran side-by-side throughout the race. Morris seemed to turn things up a notch during the final meters and leaned at the finish.

'It was really close,' Morris said. 'It came down to the lean.'

It was so close, in fact, that Morris didn't know if he had won or not. He, and Walcott, who tumbled to the track after leaning at the finish, had to wait for the results to come up on the Hayward Field scoreboard.

'It was crazy,' Morris said of the waiting. 'As soon as I saw my name, it was the greatest feeling ever.'

Morris won the race in a time of 22.33. Walcott was second at 22.36.

'Getting a first and second at state is an amazing feeling,' Morris said. 'I couldn't be happier.'

McKenzie Griffin was also pretty happy. Griffin capped off a spectacular senior year at Sherwood by placing second in the triple jump with a personal best, and school record distance of 37 feet, 0¼ inches.

'I'm really happy with the outcome,' Griffin said after she received her second-place medal. 'I knew I was seeded third going in, I just had to battle the nerves.'

But that nervousness must have gone away quickly. As usually is the case with Griffin, her first jump turned out to be her best jump.

In her first attempt of the competition, Griffin turned in her jump of 37-0¼.

'I always hit my first jump. It just happens. It's the adrenaline,' Griffin said. 'It felt good. I thought it was somewhere in the 36s. I looked at the coaches and they were all smiling, and then they put 37 on the board. That surprised me. I didn't know I had it in me.'

Griffin had other strong jumps during the competition, including a pair of attempts in the high 36s, but it was that first jump that carried her to second place.

'I felt good warming up,' she said. 'The adrenaline was flowing. Everything was perfect.'

Griffin, who also placed eighth in the long jump at state with a mark of 16-8½, completed a senior year that also saw her help the Lady Bowmen volleyball team win a state championship as well as getting to play in the state basketball tournament.

'It's been unbelievable,' she said with a smile. 'I had no idea all of this would happen. I got to go to state in all three sports.'

Also for the Sherwood girls, sophomore Jessica Imbrie ran to third place in the 800 in a time of 2:17.14. Sophomore Emily Sackinger placed 10th in the pole vault at 8-6.

Ruehl took fourth in the high jump with a personal best, and school record height of 6-4.

'It's great,' he said. 'It's kind of a big moment for me.'

Ruehl had the big moment despite suffering from a bruised heel, which he injured the week before at the NWOC district meet.

'I grimaced my way through it. And it felt good to finally get 6-4,' said Ruehl, who had a previous season-best of 6-3.98.

The Sherwood boys finished in ninth place in the team standings at the Class 5A state meet with 23 points. The Sherwood girls placed 15th with 15 points.

Summit won both the boys and girls state team titles.