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Ryan Byrd flies high by winning both distance events at district meet

Just four athletes qualify for trip to state in five events at district
by: David Ball, St. Helens’ Ryan Byrd (right) beat Akiiharu Kitagawa in both the 1,500 and 3,000 meter runs on Thursday and Friday. Byrd is one of the favorites in the upcoming state meet.

St. Helens' Ryan Byrd got the best of Liberty's Akiharu Kitagawa in their cross country and track meetings this year and Byrd did it again in both the 1,500 and 3,000 at this year's Northwest Oregon Conference District meet.

Byrd qualified for state in both events, and has the best 5A times in the state in those events. He has his sights set squarely on two state championships.

The 3,000 was held on the first day of the two-day competition last Thursday.

The opening laps had a surprise runner go out fast, as Rex Putnam's Nathan Geiter took off at the gun and was five strides in front on the first lap. He maintained his lead spot for the first few times around the track, while Byrd settled back at a more comfortable clip and paced the chase pack.

'When someone goes out crazy like that, you assume it's a rabbit,' Byrd said. 'He wasn't even in my mind, you know he's going to fall back.'

Geiter's excitement waned mid-race and he ended up sixth.

That left Byrd and Kitagawa racing side-by-side over the last mile, with Byrd stubbornly protecting his spot on the inside and forcing his opponent to the outer edge of the lane adding precious strides to his race with every lap of the track.

'I wanted to keep him out there, but the biggest boost was to my morale, just knowing I was holding him off,' Byrd said.

Kitagawa remained on his heels into the bell lap. Most runners make their move for the lead on the backstretch, but Byrd anticipated such a move, stretched out his stride and pulled away. Coming off the final turn he had put a 20-meter gap between himself and Katagawa, securing the victory well before the finish line. He crossed over in 8:49.96.

'It was a great last lap - it felt incredible,' Byrd said. 'Fear motivated me more than anything. I didn't want him to catch me.'

Byrd finished off the distance double by coming back Friday and winning the 1,500 (4:04.69), edging Kitagawa by less than a second.

St. Helens' Will Lawrence, also a senior, was the only other Lion boy to qualify for state, winning the 400 meter run. Lawrence was second in state in that event last year, breaking the school record with a 49.51. He was close to that Friday with a 49.99.

The St. Helens girls qualified just one athlete for the state meet. Kylie Reinholdt, a sophomore, will go in the triple jump. She bested the field Friday with a 35-3.25. She also went last year in the event and took eighth with a 34-9.75.

'I think it was quite a performance for Ryan to come back after the 3,000m and win the 1,500,' St. Helens Coach Gerry Tinkle said. 'Will looked good in the 400m too. He didn't get enough rest between the 400 and the 200. He is going to state in only one event. That hasn't happened to him in his high school career. He has always run in at least two. Kylie has been solid all year in the TJ. She should score at state.'

Tinkle was okay with the overall finish for the Lions.

'We would like to have won it, but we did do well. It was disappointing taking third in the 4x400, but I knew we would have to run 3:27 or better to beat Sandy and Wilsonville. It was a three second PR for us though. Not too many surprises for us,' he said.

One other St. Helens athlete, Austin Sandford, will go to state, making the qualifying mark in a tough pole vault competition.

The pole vault became a prime time attraction during the opening night of the district meet. The competition lasted nearly four hours and carried on long after the final event on the track was completed. Fans began migrating across the stadium, filling the far bleachers to watch as the bar neared record heights.

In the end, it was a three-way battle between seniors - top seed Thomas Lott of Parkrose, along with Nick Pettus of Milwaukie and Sandford of St. Helens. The top two finishers would get automatic spots into this weekend's 5A state meet.

Sandford's quest almost came to an early close when he faced a third attempt at 12-feet-6-inches.

Clear the height and advance. Miss and you're packing your poles and heading for the bus.

Sandford wasn't in the packing mood.

He shook the bar slightly on his way over, but it was never in danger of falling.

Lott and Pettus were over on their first tries at 13 feet. Sandford cleared on his second attempt. The bar took a big wobble on his way over, but stuck on the ledge and stayed on.

'You get into it and one height just leads to the next,' Sandford said.

Those misses were leaving Sandford on the short end of the stick if the event came down to the tiebreaker, but with the bar raised to 13-6 he could still reach state by meeting the qualifying standard. He would need one more clearance.

Once again, Lott and Pettus got over on their first attempts. Sandford wasn't close on his first two tries, setting up another pressure-packed trip down the runway.

This time he got plenty of bend in his pole. Zooming through the air, he clipped the bar going over but it stayed up as Sandford made the long fall to the mat on the other side. He celebrated with a series of fist pumps before climbing out of the pit.

'You don't really see anything until you hit the pit,' Sandford said. 'I could see the bar wobbling and was just hoping it makes it. Getting to state was a big goal.'

All three competitors missed at a district record 14 feet with Lott of Parkrose eventually winning the event in a jump-off. The 'fewest attempts' tiebreaker left Sandford officially in third place.

Tinkle noted, 'Austin vaulted very well. He took third but gets to go to state by meeting a qualifying mark. He could do well in Eugene. He is very competitive.'

St. Helens results:

Boys

Team scores: Wilsonville 181.2, Milwaukie 104.4, St. Helens 93.4, Sherwood 72, Sandy 64, Liberty 56, Parkrose 47, Putnam 45.

100-13) Kyle Vandercook, 11.81; 14) Jordan Pense, 11.90. 200-4) Will Lawrence, 23.05; 16) Vandercook, 24.46; 19) Jeff Steinke, 24.64. 400-1) Lawrence, 51.10; 10) Pense, 55.51; 11) Steinke, 55.66. 800-7) Alex Lull, 2:04.46. 1,500-1) Ryan Byrd, 4:04.69; 9) Micah Pletsch, 4:25.60; 20) Logan Fox, 5:10.39. 3,000-1) Byrd, 8:49.96; 9) Bryan Strang, 9:49.33; 12) David Sumsion, 10:01.26. 110 Hurdles-4) Thomas Hughes, 16.36; 6) Michael Dorry, 17.28. 300 Hurdles-3) Hughes, 42.67; 5) Dorry, 44.03. 4x100 Relay-5) St. Helens (Lawrence, Vandercook, Pense, Sandford), 44.93. 4x400 Relay-3) St. Helens (Lawrence, Byrd, Lull, Sandford), 3:28.34.

Shot Put-9) Joshua Hughes, 40-3; 12) Micah Pletsch, 38-10.75; 14) Matthew Denakis, 38-3. Discus-5) Corey West, 127-4; 7) Nathan Reed, 125-8; 13) Pletsch, 112-5. Javelin-3) Nick Dummer, 156-8; 4) Nathan Reed, 155-0. High Jump-T-6) Jake Ramisky, Jared Bonney, 5-8; 16-Gage Baumgardner, 5-0. Pole Vault-3) Austin Sandford, 13-6; 9) Chris Gray, 10-6; 15) Levi Luttrell, 9-6. Long Jump-7) Jeff Steinke, 19-3.75; 16) Gray, 17-0.75. Triple Jump-7) Ramiskey, 39-0.75; 17) Baumgardner, 35-5.5.

Girls

Team scores: Sandy 149, Liberty 137, Wilsonville 101, Milwaukie 85.5, Sherwood 74, Putnam 54, St. Helens 50, Parkrose 9.5.

100-12) Kylie Reinholdt, 13.44; 17) Nicole Harcourt, 14.10. 200-19) Harcourt, 29.68; 20) Sydney Nett, 30.14. 400-13) Nett, 1:08.85. 800-6) Kayla Brumbles, 2:28.67; 17) Megan Barnes, 3:05.73. 1,500-8) Megan Waite, 5:19.76; 10) Cynthia Fenrich, 5:21.38; 15) Jamie Bradford, 5:43.87. 3,000-7) Cynthia Fenrich, 11:59.08; 16) Michaela Munger, 13:06.67; 18) Stephanie Pfau, 13:49.98. 100 Hurdles-10) Alyna Habel, 17.77; 18) Sarah Hanna, 19.86. 300 Hurdles-5) Habel, 51.95; 7) Hanna, 54.00. 4x100 Relay-6) St. Helens (Jillian Ross, Nett, Habel, Harcourt), 53.48. 4x400 Relay-7) St. Helens (Brumbles, Hanna, Ross, Megan Waite), 4:24.24.

Shot Put-12) Regan Duarte, 29-1.5; 16) Dana Sukau, 27-1; 22) Chelsee Rennie, 24-6. Discus-6) Rennie, 96-11; 17) Sukau, 78-6; 18) Duarte, 78-0. Javelin-11) Sukau, 99-11; 16) Rennie, 86-11; 17) Duarte, 77-11. High Jump-4) Reinholdt, 4-10; 5) Alyssa Holz, 4-10. Pole Vault-5) Lucy Kyle-Milward, 8-0. Long Jump-5) Ross, 15-3.75; 11) Haley Twilleager, 14-5.5; 18) Holz, 13-6.25. Triple Jump-1) Reinholdt, 35-3.25; 6) Ross, 33-1.25; 12) Twilleager, 30-9.75.