Benson calls on track versatility

PREP WATCH: Smith, Martin lead Tech's push for a state meet trophy
by: DENISE FARWELL, At the state tourney last year, Benson’s Jewel Martin – shown competing last week – came in second behind Lincoln’s Bianca Mathabane in the 100 hurdles. She also helped the Techsters take third in the 4x100 relay.

Benson hopes to be in the trophy hunt again at the Class 6A boys and girls state track and field meet May 17 through May 19 at Hayward Field in Eugene.

'We aren't quite bankrupt yet,' coach Leon McKenzie says.

Transfer sprinter Kayla Smith should be a state threat in the sprints, and Jewel Martin is one of the state's top hurdlers.

Smith placed third in the state in both the 100 and 200 meters last year as a Parkrose freshman. Martin was second to Lincoln star Bianca Mathabane in the state 100 hurdles and helped the Techsters take third in the 4x100 relay.

Both can do other events; Smith has the early state best of 18 feet, 7 inches in the long jump.

Grant, Lincoln and Benson placed fourth, fifth and sixth in the girls team competition at last year's state meet, and McKenzie calls Lincoln 'the team to beat this year, with Southridge, Gresham and us trying to chase them.'

Benson's boys have a small nucleus that includes hurdles star Eric Bailey, sprinter/long jumper Jamarian Malley, sprinter Isaiah Jones and Brannon Beasley (42-10 triple jump). On the downside, Tech has lost two sprinters: Andre Boatman moved to Missouri, and Domenique Hall now attends Mountain View in Vancouver, Wash.

• Grant will have solid teams again in boys and girls track. The Generals have more than 180 athletes out for the sport.

The boys relays will be worth watching, with Karl Acker, Kasseem Osheroff and Paul McCoy among the speedsters. McCoy also was third in state in the triple jump last year and fifth in the long jump.

Will Goodling is Grant's top middle-distance runner, and Nate Knutson gives the Generals a threat in the long races. Ryan Hall adds depth in the jumps, and Grant has three good pole vaulters in Greg Zadniproskiy (13-9 this season), Wilson Bailey and Charlie Childress.

Brendan Shimada is Grant's No. 1 hurdler and could be plugged into relays or races from the 100 to 800. McCullough Crawford returns as the PIL discus champion and already has a javelin throw of 175-1.

The Grant girls are led by Sara Wild, who placed at state last year in three events (third in the 800, fourth in the 1,500, fifth in the 4x400 relay).

Diana Martin was second in the PIL pole vault last year, and Monique Shellmire is the league's top returning triple jumper. Also in the jumps, Grant has Meghan Leineweber and freshman Kayla Greer (16-10 1/4 long jump).

Anaiah Rhodes leads the Grant sprinters, and Christine Jones could be a league contender in the 400.

• In baseball, Jefferson is playing only a junior varsity schedule. The team's first game was Monday versus Lincoln. Greg Robinson and D'Angelo Brooks, a transfer from Louisiana, both play infield positions and pitch, and are among coach George Bishop's team leaders.

• Jesuit's softball team has all its starters back, except for one, as it goes for a repeat state title. And in right field, the Crusaders have plugged the hole with Robin Gawlista, who was all-Metro League last year for Westview.

'If you want to hand us the trophy, fine, we won't play a game. But there are a lot of good teams out there,' Jesuit coach Jim Speciale says.

The current Class 6A state poll has Jesuit (8-0) on top, followed by Roseburg, Southridge and Westview.

Jesuit is having to make do, though, without left fielder Brittany Wolf (torn meniscus). She had surgery three weeks ago. 'We're hoping she can come back this season,' Speciale says. Freshman Samantha Nelson and sophomore Sara Moore are sharing the load in left.

Ace pitcher Paige Hall is just as tough as ever after surgery repaired a small hole in her heart last year. 'We've been running the players pretty hard, and she keeps up,' Speciale says. 'And she's really working on hitting her spots. She's got more focus on pitch control. The power training has gotten her stronger, and I think she's mentally tougher on the mound.'