Braves send eight athletes to the medal stand, and the girls finish in ninth place as a team

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: ZACK PALMER - Banks junior Amy Hilger clears 5 feet, 2 inches en route to a second-place finish in the girls high jump at the Class 4A state track and field meet on Friday at Hayward Field in Eugene. Competing on the biggest stage of Oregon high school track and field last weekend, Banks did not shy away from the spotlight.

In fact, the Braves embraced it. A total of 12 Banks participants competed in the Class 4A state meet, staged Friday and Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene. Eight of them posted top-eight finishes to land on the awards podium, and three of them finished as the cream of the crop in their respective events with top-three results.

“All in all, they got to the state meet, they competed well, so I’m proud of all of them,” Banks coach Rob Frank said about his dozen-strong contingent.

Amy Hilger led the way for the Banks girls in her specialty. The junior cleared 5 feet, 2 inches in the high jump to finish as the runner-up to Ridgeview freshman Hosanna Wilder, who jumped 5-3.

Hilger, who took third place at state a year ago, entered this year’s meet as a genuine contender for the title. In fact, her clearance of 5-5 back on April 20 held up as the leading mark in Class 4A and was tied for the fifth-highest mark in the state regardless of classification after the state meet concluded.

“I just started kind of trying too hard and jumping into it a little bit more,” Hilger said of her unsuccessful tries at 5-3 on Friday. “But overall, I jumped pretty well that day.”

In fact, Hilger breezed to clearances at 4-10, 5-0, 5-1 and 5-2 before bowing out at 5-3 and then watching Wilder clear that bar for the win.

“Amy put a lot of pressure on herself. I think that’s something that kids can do,” Frank noted. “But she went in and she jumped well. She did a good job. I thought she had 5-3 in her second jump. She just clipped it just a little bit. It’s just a matter of being right there.

“Again, second place (at the) state meet is nothing to be ashamed of by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, getting to the state meet is nothing to be ashamed of.”

With that result, Hilger contributed eight points to the Braves’ girls standings and fulfilled her goal of finishing higher than she did in 2012, when she cleared 5-0.

“Next year will be even harder to top,” Hilger noted lightheartedly.

Banks ended the meet with 24 points and a ninth-place finish, which is about as high as Frank can recall one of his girls teams finishing.

“We’re really pleased with that,” Frank said. “We beat every other team in the league as far as scoring points on the girls side. That was nice.”

Annie Victor, another state meet veteran for Banks, posted her best finish at Hayward Field with a third-place result in the discus.

Now a junior, Victor was fifth in the event as both a freshman and a sophomore. She threw 123-2 on Saturday, finishing behind Gladstone’s D’onna Robinson, who won her third straight title with a mark of 132-7, and Newport’s Cherilyn Bunker (125-2).

Victor’s longest throw came on her fifth attempt in the competition, and all six of her throws were longer than 115 feet — a distance almost nine feet farther than the best mark from her previous two state meet trips. This year, for good measure, she added an eighth-place finish in the shot put, throwing 35-10. Bunker won that event with a toss of NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: ZACK PALMER - Banks sophomore Kindel Bailey winds up for a throw on Friday during the girls javelin competition at the Class 4A state track and field championships at Hayward Field.

“Annie felt real good about herself,” Frank said. “She’s been a little anxious the first couple years, but this year she came, and she went in the finals in third place and then threw her best throw in finals to kind of solidify third place — almost got second.

“I think, by far, that’s the best I’ve seen her throw at state. Her form has really gotten a lot more crisp this year.”

Michaela Shurts made good on her first state meet appearance with a fifth-place result in the pole vault. Shurts cleared 10-0 for a six-inch personal best to finish behind Gladstone’s McKenna Streed (11-6).

Also competing in her first state meet, Maddison King placed fifth in the 100 meters. The Braves’ talented freshman ran a time of 12.86 seconds in the final, which was won in meet-record time by North Valley’s Venessa D’Arpino in 12.04.

In Friday’s preliminaries, King finished 10th in the 200 and did not advance to the final — thanks to an incredibly deep field — but she did set a school record of 26.55.

Kindel Bailey contributed Banks’ final point with an eighth-place result in the javelin. The sophomore’s best throw was 117-8, behind Elmira’s Kelsey Shaw, who threw 134-2.

Also competing for the Lady Braves were Lauren Birr, who was 11th in the high jump (4-8), and Ashley Edwards, who took 11th in the javelin (112-4).

For the boys, Dallin Shurts set the tone early in the 4A discus competition with a throw of 157-6 — a personal record by just more than seven feet — on his first attempt. That throw turned out to be his best and held up for third place, behind Justin Rich of Estacada (164-2) and Lucas Clark of Seaside (161-3).

The result is even more impressive given Shurts’ youth — he is just a sophomore — and for the fact that he competed for a decent chunk of the season with a broken toe on his left foot. Shurts broke the toe over spring break while playing soccer, Frank said, and he spent part of the spring competing first in a plaster cast and then in a protective boot after getting the cast removed.

“His form came together real quick at the end of the season, and I think next year we’re looking at him even throwing farther,” Frank observed.

Shurts’ mark would have won both the Class 5A and 6A divisions, and he contributed more than half of Banks’ 11½ points in the team standings, helping the Braves finish 17th.

Like Michaela Shurts, distance runner Matthew Borchers ended his high school career on a high note. Borchers raced the 3,000 in the 2011 state meet but did not qualify for Eugene a year ago. He made good on his return trip, though, with a fourth-place finish in the 800.

Borchers, timed in 2:00.11, kicked past a couple of competitors along the finishing stretch to earn his placement. Seaside’s Brett Willyard won the race and broke the meet record with a 1:53.71 clocking.

“I’d put Matthew’s kick up against anybody,” Frank said. “He’s got an incredible kick. If you’re close to Matt at the end of the race, too bad for you.”

Banks sophomore Lucas Hidalgo also made the awards stand by tying for eighth in the pole vault. Hidalgo cleared 13-0 to finish behind La Pine freshman Justin Petz, who went 14-0 to top a closely packed field.

Also competing for Banks were Thomas Blatner, 10th in the shot put (45-7), and Garrett Markham, 13th in the javelin (140-11).

Even though a few of his Braves did not land on the podium this year, Frank noted how special it is just to compete in Eugene.

“By the time you get to the state meet, they cut it down to 14 athletes,” Frank said. “If you can get to the state meet, you’re in the elite, and I think it’s important to remember that.

“If you qualify for the state meet, you’re in a real small, elite group. I’m proud of all 12 of them for getting to that point.”

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