By Jeremy McDonald
EUGENE, Ore.– Who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
Here’s one from the Salem Academy Track and Field team as they start Day 2 of the OSAA State Championships.
It’s well-known that the Relay teams and the Flash that is Wilson McLean will score points in bushels for the Crusaders, but it was a duo who lived up to the jokes they made Saturday morning they’ll finish 1,2 though they were seeded ninth and 11th entering the Triple Jump that afternoon.
“Well, we’re mostly trying to podium, then all morning we were joking around, ‘We’re going one and two boys’, all morning we were joking around, ‘we’re going to PR by four-feet, we’re going one-two,” laughed Gage Hazleton. “And we both came out here and PR’d by two-and-a-half-feet and somehow we got one and six, I’ll take it!”
There was something special about this day though as they felt loose walking to the sandpit.
Feeling it, Hazleton and Dawson ‘General’ Patton went after it.
Hazleton finished sixth with a 41-feet-seven-inch leap, as for the General, he literally flew 42-feet-9.5-inch in his jump.
“Oh man it’s hard to describe, until then I wasn’t jumping very well and then I broke away with that, it was awesome,” said Patton.
As for being the underdogs, they sure helped their team in terms of Team Points as well with 13.
Not bad for two guys who were just looking to place entering Saturday.
“We really wanted to podium, that was our main goal because we’re trying to set realistic expectation and then we’re jokingwe’re going one-two and somehow we did, not one-two but one-six, I’ll take that any day of the week,” said Hazelton.
Head Coach Casey Haslebacher is impressed with how the Sophomore and Junior went one-six in the meet.
“It’s amazing, I knew they could pop out big jumps, I mean I knew those guys could,” said Haslebacher. “Looking on the faces of everyone else, I don’t think they thought it was going to happen and they shocked everyone else.”
Joining them was Morgan Strunk, who won his first ever State Title as a senior; and the Javelin State Champion couldn’t be happier with his near PR performance.
“It feels fantastic and I got to give Glory to God man, he put me through everything, hardship everything and stuff,” “And today, I came out, let it rip. Felt loose and it was a good one and I finally got my State Championship, so I’m super sync’d.
“I’m super happy about it.”
His throw of 172-feet-six-inches was just seven inches better than second place Jacob Blackburn of Burns.
At this point, Salem Academy took the State lead with the two state titles and Hazletons sixth-place; something special was in the air.
“Beautiful, I mean we never expected a hot start like this and it’s just awesome,” said Haslebacher. “These kids came here to compete and that’s what they’re doing and they’re showing.
“Every jump, every throw, they’re going 100-percent.”
The Salem Academy 4×100 team added a second-place finish as they the belief from the whole season was slowly coming together.
“At the very beginning, I think we didn’t fully realize that until we really got close to Districts and once we knew we had everybody, but this whole year the mentality has been, ‘Win District, First Prority’, second priority, get to State and see what we can do and the closer we got, we realize our full potential,” senior Sam Kenyon.
JT Williamson and Grant Webb added eighth and seventh-place 110 meter finishes and McLean added a second-place finish in the 200 as they held roughly a 10 point lead.
McLean, Willamson went 1,2 in the 300 meter run.
For McLean, it was his first State Title and completes his redemption quest from how last season was.
“I was almost in tears as soon as I finished and the realization that all that hard work pain and suffering finally paid off. It was beyond any joy that I’ve ever felt in my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better state,” said McLean.
The person who put his medal around his neck, was father and Salem Academy Coach as both shared a special moment together on the podium.
“It was beyond incredible. He’s been through it with me and I was so happy that at the end of it all he was right there with me to experience it all,” said McLean.
The wins iced the would be the State Title for the Crusaders as they finished 32 points ahead of second-place Burns for the Title.
“It’s beyond anything I could ever ask for and then some,” said McLean. “There’s no other team I would’ve wanted behind me because they’re the greatest group of guys I’ve ever gotten to run to. No one gave us any big recognition either so it’s a good feeling to come out here and finish how we did.”