Clackamas junior Connor McLean clears a school-record 15-0 in the pole vault

by: JIM CLARK - Clackamas junior Connor McLeanWith a record turnover of 240 athletes, Clackamas track and field coach Jeff Kelleher is feeling pretty good as he looks ahead to the 2013 season.

“I’m excited,” Kelleher said. “We’ve got 128 boys and almost as many girls. The girls team is real young. But they’re going to just keep getting better. And we’ve got some boys who are studs, so the guys will be a good big-meet team....

“We’re going to concentrate on making all our kids better. Get the good kids better, so they’ll be ready for state, and make the average kids good.... It’s not every day that you have a 15-foot pole vaulter and a 6-foot-6 high jumper.”

The Cavaliers kicked off their season last week, hosting a non-scored meet with Gladstone and Centennial. Some events, like the boys 200-meter dash, had as many as nine heats, so the meet ran from 4 to 8:30 p.m.

But with ideal weather, few were complaining about the length of the competition. That’s because the fans were treated by several outstanding first-of-the-season performances.

All eyes were on Clackamas junior Connor McLean as he cleared 15-0 in the pole vault, a school record and a state’s best for the week. McLean cleared 13-9 for sixth place at state last year. A 15-foot vault would have earned him second place at state in 2012.

“I wasn’t that surprised,” Kelleher said. “Connor’s gone 15-3 indoors.”

McLean’s 15-foot outdoor vault at last week’s meet broke a school record that had stood since 1991, when Rob Hegar placed second at state with a vault of 14-8.

McLean, in last week’s three-team meet, also won the high hurdles in a personal best and early-season state’s best of 15.5, won the intermediate hurdles in a state’s best of 42.25, and won the long jump in a personal best of 20-4.

The Cavaliers had another outstanding performer in senior Max Jette, who cleared 6-4 for first place in the high jump, cleared 13-6 for second place in the pole vault, finished a close second to McLean with a speedy 15.58 clocking in the high hurdles, and tossed the discus a lifetime best 130-10 to finish second to Clackamas senior Justin Hesselegesser (133-7) in that event.

Jette had sat out his junior year of track and field with an injury, after clearing 6-6 in the high jump in his first meet of 2012.

Clackamas boys also had a winner in the javelin, where senior Aiden Turner launched the spear 162-8; and in the triple jump, where senior Rommel Zapanta won by a foot with an effort of 40-3.

Clackamas’ youthful girls team, which includes 50 freshmen and only six seniors, also had its share of event winners.

Clackamas sophomores Katya McKenzie (13.14), Amarachi Nwokoma (13.17) and Caroline Combs (13.18) swept the first three places in the girls 100-meter sprint.

Combs (27.24) won the 200 and she cleared 5-0 for first place in the high jump; junior Kayla McNeeley (2:45.65) and sophomore Amber Harvey (2:47.35) went one-two in the 800; and junior Maddy Visscher (8-6) won the girls pole vault.

The Cavaliers travel to Lake Oswego this afternoon, where they’ll be joined by Oregon City, West Linn, Grant and Lake Oswego in a relay meet.

The Cavaliers begin league competition on Thursday, April 4, when they travel to Canby for a Three Rivers League meet with the Cougars and Grant.

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