Madras looks good in first meets of the year

by: JEFF WILSON/THE PIONEER - Niki Andy, right, takes the baton from Myra Rentaria during the 1,600-meter relay last week in the Culver Invitational.On the track, last week’s Culver Invite track and field meet went about as well as Madras coach Melissa Bowerman could have hoped for. Off the track, it was even better.

While not officially a home meet, the Madras High athletes were able to not only get the 2014 season underway but do it in front of a home crowd. For some, that was the bigger takeaway.

“It was really great, because my mom got to come, my dad got to come. My mom, she’s a single mom, so she can’t really make it to the far away meets like we’ve had, so that’s the first time she’s watched me run in like two years,” Madras senior Cheyenne Duncan said. “She was happy and I’m happy that it was a good meet for her to see.”

The White Buffalos, competing against Culver, Sherman and La Pine, opened the season with plenty of solid performances and ending up taking the boys' title. The Buff girls, with just 12 athletes participating, took second place by half a point.

Not bad for a team that doesn’t have a track to call its own.

“It was so great just to be so close to home, have a nicer, smaller meet where they could get the kinks out and perform,” Bowerman said. “This was a really good confidence builder for them. They were pretty successful and shoot them off on a positive note.”

And that was just what Bowerman was after.

Instead of going to a large meet with dozens of teams to start the year, she worked with Culver coach Mike Dove to get her seniors one opportunity to run close to home, but to also work her younger kids into a meet where they wouldn’t get lost in the numbers or feel overwhelmed.

It worked better than she could have ever thought.

Duncan, who was shuffling between multiple events all day long, paced the Buffs to 64.5 points. She won the pole vault on a cold, windy day by tying her personal best vault of 7 feet, 6 inches, took fourth in the 100-meter run and ran the first leg on both the 400 and 1,600 relay teams. She also changed shoes about a dozen times in between the events.

“(I’m) very satisfied, I met all the goals I wanted to do,” Duncan said. “I really liked what I saw from the team. We all cheered each other on and we had great standout performances and personal bests already in the season.”

The Buffs really just started working on individual events a couple of weeks ago, but it was hard to tell with some of the times and distances they put up.

Elle Renault was a double winner for Madras, taking first in the javelin and the long jump while Cera Clay took first in the discus and was second in the shot put.

Things were just as positive on the boys side.

The Buffs filled nearly event on their way to scoring 96 points on the strength of seven first-place finishes.

Samuel Coyle took first in both hurdle events, while freshman Drake Anderson opened his high school career with firsts in the long jump and high jump. The Buffs also won both relays with Taylor Welsh taking first in the javelin.

“I was really proud of them, because they didn’t whine about the cold,” Bowerman said. “They didn’t let that dampen the meet and the opportunity for them to run for their parents. They did great and it was really fun to watch the guys because there are so many of them to watch. There was something going on every minute, because we had guys in every event.”

Sophomore Miklo Hernandez was one that seemed to be everywhere, running in the 200, 400 and on both relays.

“That’s the first time my mom has actually seen me run track,” Hernandez said. “It gave me a mental boost knowing that. Even if it didn’t physically help me out, mentally, it did.

“I felt OK. Our (400 relay) was strong but we can get stronger,” Hernandez said. “Personal events like the 400 and the 200, they were OK. The 200, that was the first time I ran it, so it was a surprise, but the 400, I can get stronger. I just need to get my legs down.”

That will come as the season moves along. The Buffs ran in the Jones Invitational Friday in Finn Rock and although it was a much bigger meet, once again had some solid times.

“The team is actually a lot better than last year,” Hernandez said. “Last year, we had everyone thrown into different spots. Before districts, I was thrown into the (400 relay) just randomly. It was all over the place. But we’re setting stuff this year, getting things prepared for districts early, which is good.”

Hernandez said he sees the Culver meet as a springboard to bigger and better things. Although it will be tough to beat last year’s number of state qualifiers, he feels that those who do make it to Eugene will do better and place higher than a year ago.

That will be just another part of the building process that continues Saturday as the Buffs head to the Burns Invitational.

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