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a performance for the ages

Banks' track and field program reaches new heights at the Class 4A state meet behind the most talented senior class in school history

After a number of successful seasons in recent years, the Banks track and field teams continued to reach new heights during the 2011 season.

A year after placing third at the state meet to capture their first-ever state trophy, the Banks boys did themselves one spot better this year, scoring 54 points in a second-place effort behind Philomath last month in Eugene.

And the Lady Braves captured their third Cowapa League district title in as many years before finishing in a tie for 12th place at state.

'It was the most successful season we've ever had,' said longtime Banks head coach Rob Frank, who celebrated his 33rd season leading the school's track program.

The Banks boys, who also finished as runners-up at the district meet, rode the strength of their senior class to that state trophy.

For the second year in a row, sprint tandem Linus Nogren and Colby Seyferth played integral roles in the team's success. They repeated their 1-2 finish in the 400 meters from a year ago, and each boy also added a second-place finish in another individual event - Seyferth in the 100 meters and Norgren in the 200.

And for the final race of the meet, Seyferth and Norgren teamed with classmates T.J. Sandstrom and Deven Murray to capture a somewhat unexpected state championship in the 4x400 relay.

'It just kind of came together kind of mystically,' Frank said of the long relay. '(Sandstrom and Murray) just came out of nowhere and kept running faster and faster.

'And it was amazing to watch them at the state meet. They were so excited and so proud to be on that relay and couldn't wait to run it. They both ran PRs at the state meet in that relay, so those guys come away with a state championship, too.'

Seyferth graduates with school records in the 100 and 200, while Norgren holds the Braves' top marks in the 400 and 800, Frank said. The boys are also half of both relay record quartets.

'I've been (at Banks) 35 years and they're certainly the two most dominant male athletes we've ever had,' Frank said.

Matt Hidalgo added a third state championship to the Braves' haul in the pole vault. After finishing third in 2010, he capped an undefeated season by beating all comers this year for his first state title. And with his personal best clearance of 16 feet at the Cowapa League district meet, Hidalgo recorded the third-best vault in the state this year, regardless of classification.

'I don't think anybody works harder than Matt, and clearly that work ethic has paid off,' Frank noted. 'He's one of the most coachable kids I've ever been around. You tell him something and he can internalize it and make his body do it. That's a rare, rare talent.'

While the Lady Braves did not garner a trophy at the state meet, they also provided plenty of highlights. The team rolled to the league title by scoring 206 points, 55 more than second-place Scappoose and a point total Frank said was 'unheard of.'

Jessica Markham did not capture the elusive state title she had been seeking, but the senior standout did record her best placements at state in her specialties, the 300 hurdles (second) and 400 meters (third). She ends her high school career with school records in those events, as well as in the 800 and both relays.

In addition to placing in the top six at state as an individual on six different occasions, Markham captured seven district titles between individual and relay events, and she qualified for the state meet all four years of high school.

'I think it's a real rarity to come across an athlete that can dominate in the league the way she did from her freshman year all through her senior year,' Frank said.

While Markham provided much of the firepower in Eugene, Frank said that 12 of his 15 girls who made the trip to state are juniors or younger and could return next season. The Lady Braves' freshman and junior classes, in particular, have a lot of depth.

Freshman Annie Victor wrapped up the year with the second-best discus throw among Class 4A girls, and she placed fifth at state. And junior hurdlers Krisha Willis and Jennifer Hilger both nearly qualified for finals out of the preliminaries at state and could be threats next year as well.

But that is next year. For now, Frank can relish this season's success.

'It's hard to put into words how incredible the year was,' Frank said 'It was so much fun to coach those guys and a memory I'm going to have for the rest of my life.'