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Soaring to new heights

TRACK: Year by year, Tigard's Spencer Patterson keeps going upward and upward in the high jump
by: DAN BROOD, UP, UP AND AWAY – Tigard High School junior Spencer Patterson soars over the crossbar in the high jump competition during last week’s dual meet at Forest Grove.

FOREST GROVE - Spencer Patterson isn't exactly sure why it's happening.

But, from year to year, he just keeps going higher and higher.

And he's certainly OK with that.

Patterson, a junior on the Tigard High School track and field team, for reasons he may not be totally sure about, keeps reaching new heights year by year in the high jump.

Two years ago, as a freshman, Patterson had a personal-best jump of 5 feet, 8 inches. Last year, he stayed at 5-8 for the first couple of weeks of the season before suddenly starting to clear 6-0 and 6-2, which stood as his new personal best.

This year, he's already cleared 6-5 - without really knowing the reason for his constant improvement.

'I honestly don't know why,' Patterson said during the Tigers' Pacific Conference dual meet at Forest Grove on April 4. 'Maybe it's from basketball - it's constant running. I've been practicing, too.'

Whatever it is, Patterson is hoping that this year's bout of improvement takes him to the Class 6A state meet.

'I'd really like to go to state. That's a goal,' he said. 'I want to place at state. That's a big goal.'

Patterson came close to qualifying for state last year. At the 2006 Pacific-9 Conference district meet, he finished third in the high jump (the top two placers go to state) with a height of 6-2. Since-graduated teammate Robert Wegner also had a mark of 6-2, but he had one fewer miss than Patterson, meaning earned second place and the state-meet bid that went with it.'

'I missed going to state by one jump,' Patterson said. 'That's extra motivation for this year.'

Patterson is also motivated by the chance to put his name in the school record book.

'I'm hoping to get the school record (6-7) sometime,' he said.

In last week's meet at Forest Grove, Patterson won the high jump competition with a height of 6-4. He barely missed in his three tries at tying his personal-best mark of 6-5.

'I know I can do better,' Patterson said. 'My steps were off today.'

Patterson battled throughout the event with teammate Chase Dalton, who finished second in the high jump with a mark of 6-2.

'I can't let Chase beat me,' Patterson said with a smile.

Patterson's win in the high jump helped the Tigard boys, who were competing without top sprinter Scott Grady, tip the Vikings by a 73-72 margin in last week's meet.

Senior Brian Westlund picked up a win for the Tigers with his season-best time of 51.94 seconds in the 400-meter dash. Westlund held off Forest Grove's Dusty Klein, who had a time of 52.15, down the homestretch to get the victory.

'I knew going in that (Klein) was more of an 800 runner, so I knew I'd have to have a good finish to hold him off,' Westlund said after the race. 'And it worked. I was also trying to redeem myself after running a bad leg in the short relay.'

Westlund, like Patterson, is looking for bigger things down the road this season.

'I knew going into the year that I was the top returnee in the 400,' he said. 'I'm not running my best right now. I want to gradually keep building. I want to peak at the right time.'

Dalton had three first-place finishes for the Tigard boys at the meet.

He had a winning distance of 19-11¼ in the long jump, he ran to victory in the 110 high hurdles in 15.22 and he won the 300 intermediate hurdles in 40.6.

Senior Joseph Pape won the triple jump with a mark of 41-7½ and senior Marshall Kennedy had a winning toss of 40-3½ in the shot put.

The Tigard girls were edged by Forest Grove at last week's league opener as they fell 76-69.

Eight different Tigard girls picked up one individual win apiece.

On the track, freshman Kristin Taylor won the 400 in 1:05.33. Sophomore Karen Ellis won the 100 high hurdles in 18.93, senior Courtney Schild triumphed in the 300 low hurdles in 49.41 and junior Ali Davis had a winning time of 11:00.74.

Junior Alysha Brannon won the discus with a toss of 96-7, junior Trianna Brannon cleared 4-10 to win the high jump, junior Kaila Bittinger had a winning height of 7-6 in the pole vault and sophomore Heather Loyd won the triple jump with a mark of 31-6.

The Tigard teams were scheduled to host McMinnville in a league meet on Wednesday. Results from the meet weren't available when the Times went to press. The Tigers will be back in action Saturday when they run at the Sandy Invitational. On Wednesday, Tigard travels to Newberg for a 3:45 p.m. league meet.