COOS BAY — Chase Howerton and Khaley Aguilar have a chance to join an elite Marshfield group this week at the Class 4A state track meet in Gresham.
The defending boys and girls pole vault champions have a chance to join Trevor Woods (1999-2000), Moirah Roberge (2008-09) and Hunter Drops (2015-16) as two-time champions in the event for the Pirates. And Aguilar has a chance to join Muriel Roberge (2003-06) as a four-time state placer in the pole vault.
That Marshfield has pole vaulters in contention for state titles is no surprise. Starting with Woods, Marshfield has had the boy or girl standing atop the podium at the state meet 13 times. An additional 26 times, Pirates have brought home medals in the event — spread out over nine boys and nine girls.
True to form, in addition to Howerton and Aguilar, Kamren Chard and Raegan Rhodes are favored to place this week.
“We have a tremendous coach in Puck,” Chard said, referring to Steve Puckett. “I’ve been blessed to have him as a coach since seventh grade.
“And it’s nice to be able to train in a facility like this. It’s a blessing.”
Chard hit a new career best when he cleared 13 feet, 3 inches to finish second to Howerton at the Sky-Em League’s district meet in Eugene last weekend.
The senior just missed a trip to state last year, placing third at district after being sick late in the season.
“I’m happy I finally made it,” he said.
Rhodes, a sophomore, finished second to Aguilar to earn her trip to state.
“I’m really excited, but I’m also really nervous,” she said. “Last year, I got to state, but it was just on the relay.”
She hopes to be able to continue Marshfield’s legacy in the event.
“I don’t feel pressured,” she said. “I feel like I want to work hard for my team. I owe it to the team to do well.”
Marshfield hoped to get Rhodes to state as a third girl in the event, with Aguilar and fellow senior Payton Davidson.
But Davidson suffered a season-ending knee injury one meet after setting a Class 4A-leading mark of 11 feet, 9 inches.
Instead of practicing her technique this week, Davidson was helping her teammates with theirs.
“Track is super important to me,” she said. “Track is a family. And in pole vault, we’re a special family. We support each other.
“It’s important to keep pushing Khaley.”
Davidson describes herself as the team’s official tape recorder and is keeping an upbeat attitude about her future, which includes competing for George Fox University.
“Even though I’m disappointed I don’t get to compete at state, I did get to go out at a good time,” she said, referring to her big personal best.
Davidson will have to settle for her fourth-place finish at state last year, but is happy for Rhodes.
“I’m very glad another Marshfield athlete gets to go,” she said.
With Davidson’s injury, Aguilar is the clear favorite this week to repeat as champion. Rhodes is the only other Class 4A girl to even clear 10 feet once.
Aguilar said she won’t worry about what the other girls do, even if they all are eliminated from the competition with three misses before she even attempts her first height.
“I’m going to go in there and do what I’ve been doing the last couple meets,” she said.
While no other girls in Class 4A have surpassed 10 feet, Aguilar has hit 11 feet or higher in five meets, including 11-6 three different times.
She wants to go higher. Her lifetime best is 11-8 and she’s just missed 12 feet a number of times.
“Hopefully this weekend,” she said.
Howerton, too, is hoping for a big jump this week. His season got off to a slow start because of injury and after clearing 13 feet his first two times out, he’s gone out after clearing 13-6 five meets in a row. With bests of 14 feet as a sophomore and 14-6 last year (15-6 during a summer meet), he’s itching to do better.
“I’m feeling good,” he said. “I’m ready.”
Though Howerton’s winning height last week at district was 13-6, he was probably 2 feet over the bar when he cleared it.
“I’m just ready for a good one,” he said.
Puckett said he expects both state champions to do well.
“They’re ready,” Puckett said. “They’ve been jumping so well.”
Howerton actually doesn’t have the top mark in Class 4A this spring. That belongs to La Grande’s Jacob Huntsman, who has been over 14-3.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” Howerton said. “I’ve put a lot of work in, so I’m confident.”
While Marshfield likely will get a bunch of points from the pole vault again, only the girls appear to be in the running for a trophy this week, and they may be battling for fourth place.
Newport’s boys are favored, with Sisters and Mazama hoping to beat out the Cubs.
The girls race, meanwhile, likely comes down to Grants Pass-area neighbors North Valley and Hidden Valley, as well as Philomath.
North Valley is led by sisters Baylee, Kaylee and Karlee Touey, with Baylee favored in the sprints, Kaylee strong in the throws and Karlee good in the jumps and hurdles.
Hidden Valley is led by sprinters Nyah Kendall and Jada Hurley. They are part of a quartet that has a time more than two seconds better than the next best in the 4x100 relay. Hurley and freshman Jaaden Steele also are strong in the jumps.
Philomath figures to score well in the relays as well, and in the 400 with Melia Morton and Hannah Bovbjerg.
Marshfield and Sky-Em League foes Marist Catholic and Siuslaw are battling for a top-four finish as well.
Aside from the pole vaulters, Marshfield is led by sprinter and long jumper Ravyn Miranda, hurdler and jumper Elise Martin and 800-meter specialist Jazmin Chavez, all favored to place in their events.
The meet starts Friday at Mount Hood Community College with about half the field events, the 3,000 meters and preliminaries for all the individual races up to 800 meters.
The Class 3A meet also will be at Mount Hood on Friday and Saturday.
The first events begin at noon each day, with the exception of the Class 3A javelin, which starts at 11 a.m. Friday, and the Class 4A boys discus, which begins at 11 a.m. Saturday.