St. Helens track shows it's ready for the big time
A smattering of St. Helens competitors will keep things interesting at this weekend's state track and field championships in Eugene.
The Lions will have two senior boys — Dakotah Camberg (high jump) and Daniel Lujano (110-meter hurdles and triple jump) — in three individual Class 5A events.
The boys 4 x 100 relay team qualified for state as well. It included senior Sam Estep and sophomore Logan Page, who was fourth in the 100 and 200 at district, but at state, the lineup will include Estep with senior Hans Hughes and juniors Anthony Navarro and Kruze Katzenmeyer.
In the Oregon School Activities Association Class 5A girls meet, also Friday and Saturday at Hayward Field, six Lions are slated to run on two relay teams, with one of them, freshman Savannah Moore, also entered in the 100.
Up in the air
Camberg is the defending state champion in the high jump, but how ready he will be for Saturday's event was up in the air earlier this week. He was battling patellar tendinitis and knee pain that held him back at last week's NWOC district meet, where he tied for first but cleared only 6-feet-2, five inches under his PR. He won state last year at 6-6.
"Patellar tendinitis is jumper's knee. A lot of jumping stretches it out and makes it hurt," Camberg said. "This one flared up a lot (at district). And the track actually dipped, it was not even, so that threw things off, too."
Since the district meet, which concluded May 11 at La Salle Prep, Camberg has been immersed in "lots and lots of ice baths and taking recovery time, not doing as much, and rolling out and trying to get my legs back to 100 percent."
Beyond the physical concerns, "emotionally, it's a little stressing, because I've got one last year," he said. "It's a little unnerving, but I'm optimistic and willing to try my best. And at the end, it's all about having fun."
Camberg still has one of the two top 5A jumps of the season — his 6-7 mark in the April 4 dual meet at Hillsboro. Marist senior Pierce LaCoste made 6-7 on May 12.
Camberg's league rival, Sandy junior Jackson Staples, ranks third in 5A, having jumped 6-6 on April 25 at Hillsboro. Four other 5A competitors have made 6-4 this spring.
Camberg and Staples wound up in a short duel at the district meet. Camberg entered the competition at 6-2 and cleared that height on his second attempt, as did Staples.
Both then chose to go for 6-5. After his second miss, Camberg said his legs were "dead," and only after some prompting from a coach did he to take his third attempt.
It "wasn't a good day," he said.
Camberg and Staples decided to split the first-place points at district so both could begin getting ready for state.
"We've been competing all through high school, and it's usually just us jumping against each other — we're friends," Camberg said.
Camberg is going to state for the fourth time. He took fourth in the high jump as a sophomore and was 10th as a freshman at Hayward.
"He's very, very comfortable jumping there," St. Helens coach Cory Young said, "and this week, he gets to focus on just the high jump. Last week, he was doing a lot of stuff to help us score points, the long jump, 4 x 100, hurdles.
"This week, he gets to focus on just Dakotah, and hopefully, he'll have fresher legs."
Lujano is ranked fourth in the high hurdles and sixth in the triple jump. He has PRs of 15.08 seconds and 44-0.
LaCoste of Marist ranks third in the high hurdles (15.01), behind Hermiston senior Tyler Rohrman (14.26) and Crater senior Cal Duke (14.68).
In the triple jump, 5A leader Elijah Field has gone 47-8. He's a junior at Churchill.
In two previous trips to the state meet, Lujano finished second (2017) and seventh (2016) in the triple jump, and fifth both years in the high hurdles.
"He's competed really well there," Young said. "He had some big competition at Centennial earlier this year, too, and ran really well, so we're excited to watch him run and jump this week."
Lujano gave the Lions their other district victory with his 15.25 mark in the hurdles. Sandy senior Maxwell Shannon wound up second in a PR 15.44.
It was a tight NWOC final until Lujano pulled away over the final three hurdles.
"I got halfway there and wasn't sure why I still had someone next to me," Lujano said. "I pushed harder and just took off. It was a matter of whipping my trail leg down and getting back onto the track as fast as I could.
"Going over the final hurdle, I had no one in my vision, and I'm not going to let anyone catch me at that point."
Camberg took third in the 110 hurdles at district and St. Helens sophomore Kyle Parnell was sixth, giving the Lions 19 points in that event.
St. Helens wound up second in the boys team standings with 94 1/2 points. Sandy won with 188, but the Lions nosed out Milwaukie (89) and Wilsonville (86) for the No. 2 spot.
The St. Helens girls placed sixth out of eight teams at district, scoring 48 1/2 points. Fourteen of those came from the relays.
The St. Helens girls 4 x 100 ranks 10th in 5A going into the state championships, and the Lion girls 4 x 400 is ninth on the 5A season chart.
Girls sprinter Moore ran a PR of 12.84 in the district finals to nail down her state berth in the 100.
She just missed qualifying in the 200, where she also had a personal best (26.85) and took third. La Salle senior Philicia Robinson was second in a season-best 26.43. The top two in each event automatically qualified for the state meet.
Both the boys and girls 4 x 100 teams (who placed fourth and third, respectively) earned spots in the state meet as wild cards, based on their district times.
"Pretty cool," Young said. "We get to reward some of our seniors who have been working hard, and they're excited to get the opportunity to run at Hayward.
"And for the boys (4 x 100) to make it as the fourth-place team says something about our league."
David Ball contributed to this report.