PHOTOS BY LON FRENCH
A pulled hamstring suffered late Friday in his final qualifying run cost Taft High senior sprinter Gabe Arce-Torres a chance at three titles and a trip to State, and the boys a shot at the team crown Saturday in the Class 3A West Valley League District Track and Field Championships in Dayton.
Senior Preston Nightingale and sophomores Kaden Wright, Ella Knott and Autumn Ellis qualified to compete in their respective events in the OSAA State Track and Field Championships Thursday and Friday in Eugene.
While the dominant Arce-Torres had three State qualifying times Friday in the preliminaries of the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, he is not eligible under OSAA rules to compete this week at historic Hayward Field on the University of Oregon campus.
“Even though his prelim times scored well above the automatic qualifying times, only the finals are accepted, or finishing first or second,” Arce-Torres said. “His times were well lower than anyone there. It’s a flawed system, for they do take throwers’ and jumpers’ prelims, but not runners.”
“Words don’t really describe how disappointed I am about what happened yesterday, but it’s really just how things play out sometimes,” said Gabe Arce-Torres, who will attend Western Oregon University on a track scholarship. “I’m not the first one it’s happened to, and I certainly won’t be the last. Sadly, it was my senior year but I have four more years to do the thing that I love.”
Arce-Torres never lost this season in the 400 and had qualified for Saturday’s finals by more than four seconds. The star sprinter placed second just once this year in the 200, to a Class 5A runner in the prestigious Prefontaine Rotary Invitational in Coos Bay.
“I wish they could make an exception because he deserves it, not because he is my son,” Arce-Torres said.
With its leader out, Amity won the boys’ title 129-105 over Dayton, while Taft placed third at 92. Santiam Christian claimed the girls’ title 140-115 over Amity, with Taft third at 104.5.
“The District meet had some great results,” Arce-Torres said. “Things didn’t go as expected, but the underclassmen represented themselves very well. The program will continue to thrive with rising stars like Ella Knott. Kaden Wright, JJ French, Autumn Ellis, Jose Flores, William Calderon and many more.”
Knott broke her own school record to win the javelin Friday with a throw of 137 feet, 2 inches, and was second in the 400 and pole vault and third in the 200 in Saturday’s finals.
Wright won the 200 in a personal-best time of 23.80. He placed second in the 100.
Nightingale was second in the 1,500 and third in the 800.
Ellis was runner-up in the 3,000 finals Friday with a personal-best time of 12:21.36.
“Preston, Ella, Autumn and Kaden will be well-prepared for next week. I will make sure of it,” Arce-Torres said. “Two [Knott and Wright] have experienced Hayward and two [Nightingale and Ellis] will be wide-eyed.”
Freshman Jordyn Ramsey was third in the 800 and Ellis third with a PR in the 1,500, while junior Lydia Prins PR’d while placing third in the 3,000.
JJ French was third in the pole vault with a PR of 11 feet while setting a Taft High freshman record.
Junior Mad Scott was third in the javelin.
Achieving PRs in Saturday’s finals were junior Jacob Mayoral (400, pole vault), freshman Brigido Zacarias (800), junior Micah McLeish (1,500, 3,000), sophomore Edson Fuentes (1,500), junior David Jin (110 hurdles, 300 hurdles), junior Clay Nelson (discus), junior Oscar Rodriguez-Meza (long jump, triple jump), French (110 hurdles) and Scott (shot put).
Freshman Brie LeBeouf (200), junior Savannah Russo (200), sophomore Olivia Williams (800) and Prins (800) also posted PRs.
Posting PRS on Friday were McLeish (3,000 meters), junior Joram Hoff (3,000), Rodriguez-Meza (long jump), Russo (200), junior Maleah Smith (shot put), freshman Elizabeth Kirkendall (javelin), freshman Lilly Parker (long jump), freshman Chris Gomez (high jump) and Scott (shot put).
“All of our kids are inspirational, for they met the requirements to be varsity athletes, and in my mind, that’s still something special. Win or lose, the rose above the average. They did things they couldn’t do three months ago and they flourished.”
“It was great to see how well our team performed, and I was super-proud of what we were able to accomplish,” Gabe said. “One day or one injury doesn’t define my whole season, or even my high school career. I know what kind of season I had and I’m proud of the things I did this year.”