WILSONVILLE — Jordan Henke turned some past disappointment and uncertainty about his own ability to race with the state’s best into exhilaration Friday evening.
With dual meets filling most of the schedules for Oregon high school track and field teams this spring due to the pandemic, top distance runners were left without much competition.
But Henke, a Crescent Valley senior, showed that he was ready and able, pulling away from the field to in the boys 800 meters in a personal-best 1 minute, 55.72 seconds at the 5A Invitational at Randall Stadium.
Without the Oregon School Activities Association hosting a state meet as in non-COVID times, the Wilsonville event served as a de facto state meet, giving athletes a chance to end the season on a high note.
After realizing that the race strategy of a slow start and a strong finish probably wouldn’t work, Henke decided he wanted to be in third place with about 150 to 200 to go.
“Then that’s where I was going to push it fully. That’s pretty much exactly what I did and it worked out well,” said Henke, who has a sophomore in 2019 reached the state meet on a wild card then finished fourth in 1:57.9. His time Friday was the fastest since then.
Henke, who earlier finished sixth in the 1,500 after knocking nearly 10 seconds off his previous personal best, felt he had something left in the tank in the 800 as he entered the final corner of the race.
He hit the homestretch and only had the finish line in front of him.
“I’ve had some disappointing races this season and I’ve also had not a lot of competition. It felt super good to pass someone with a hundred left,” Henke said. “It was a really cool feeling, something that I wanted to have but never really could. Then it actually worked out, which is really cool.”
Ashland’s Reed Pryor was second in 1:57.07. South Albany’s Matthew Resnik was fifth in a personal-best 2:00.23 and CV’s Kanoa Blake eighth in 2:01.58, also a PR.
In the 1,500, Henke wanted to stay with the lead group with three laps, leaving 300 to make his move.
“I felt pretty dang good and felt like I had enough energy to kick it for that much,” he said. "I just picked it up as much as I could. Then when I was coming down the last 100 I saw the time and I was thinking I could actually go sub-4.”
Henke knew it would be a fast race, but not as fast as it turned out. He finished in 4:00.57. His previous PR was 4:10.58.
Crater’s Tyrone Gorze was the upset winner in 3:50.88, just ahead of Ashland’s Cameron Stein (3:51.15) and Pryor (3:51.42). CV’s Keller Norland was seventh (4:01.36) and Corvallis’ Aidan Arthur 10th (4:03.87) both with new personal bests.
Norland chopped almost 11 seconds off the 3,000 PR he set a week earlier to take second in 8:49.64.
“I wanted to run a little faster to get the school record (8:36). But second in state, can’t complain,” he said. “The school record) is a hefty one, but I ran an 8:36 (in an unofficial time trial) last fall so I wanted to break that. But it wasn’t my day.”
Norland has spent the past few months in Arizona training with a professional triathlon team. In his first meet of the spring, he returned to Oregon last week and ran a time fast enough to qualify for Friday’s final.
“It kind of worked out perfectly. I wasn’t planning on running tonight,” he said.
Teammates Cade Byer (sixth, 8:54.85) and Reid Kerr (eighth, 8:59.85) both set personal bests.
South Albany’s Draven Wilborn was fourth in the 300 hurdles (42.01, PR) and sixth in the 110 hurdles (16.21) with a pair of personal bests. Crescent Valley’s Ty Abernathy was fourth in the 400 (51.61, PR).
Crescent Valley junior Ava McKee had a breakthrough day Friday, first finishing second in the 400 (1:00.54) then coming back to take third in the 800 (2:23.82 (PR).
The 400 result was big for her because she missed finals in the event two years ago.
“Even though I didn’t win it was an amazing experience,” McKee said. “Just being here is so awesome for me.”
Success in the 800 was important her father, CV Principal Aaron McKee, won the 800 at state as a senior at Philomath.
“This has been a really good day for me. The 800 is something that’s special to me and my dad, so I really want to do good in it,” McKee said. “I know I can improve in it, I just haven’t had much of a chance to do it so far.”
Corvallis’ Ellie Hintzman was fourth in the 400 (1:01.21, PR)
West Albany freshman Haley Blaine was not far behind McKee in the 800, taking fourth in 2:24.65, after taking second in the 1,500 in a personal-best 4:48.51.
In the 1,500, Blaine followed her strategy well and saved some for the final lap.
That found her in second heading for home. North Salem’s Eimy Martinez was first in 4:46.19.
“I’m proud of how far I’ve progressed because I really didn’t know if I would make it this far. My coaches helped me train to get better,” Blaine said.
Trailing her, Corvallis’ Madeline Nason was third (4:50.57), Crescent Valley’s Sunitha Black fourth (4:51.87) and Corvallis’ Avery Nason fifth (4:53.21, PR).
Black finished her day by taking second in the 3,000 in 10:30.06.
Black had a goal of running sub-10 minutes. But Martinez, the eventual winner in 10:19.22, made a surge and created a gap midway through the race that Black was unable to answer.
Black said she tried to do what she’s always done, which is stay calm in difficult situations. But Martinez’s move threw Black off her strategy.
“I tried real hard to keep going, no matter place I was in or time, my last high school track meet and I was going to finish it off strong either way,” Black said. “I gave it my all, which is what I feel counts.”
Madeline Nason was fifth (10:39.16) and Avery Nason seventh (10:44.37, PR).
Corvallis’ Sydney Soskis came through with a 200 personal best (26.31) to take second in that event after finishing sixth in the 100 (12.92).
The 200 was some redemption for Soskis after she didn’t execute her technique as she had hoped in the 100.
“I’m really happy because I got a PR and because I was seeded not in second and I came in second,” she said. “I just wanted to focus what my coaches had been talking to me about in practice and trying to get a PR.”
Crescent Valley’s Jada Foster was eighth in the 100 (13.13).
Kate Middleton of Corvallis was fifth in the 800 (2:27.06, PR) and Crescent Valley’s Angela Martin sixth (2:27.23, PR).
Jesse Sowa can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @JesseSowaGT.