For Canby High javelin thrower Cade Holbrook, high jumper Ethan Dawson-Hurley and runner Neal Cranston, a trip to Eugene and a chance to compete at the storied Hayward Field track in the Oregon State Championships wasn't exactly an inevitability.
Holbrook floundered at last year's Three Rivers League district meet and wasn't projected to qualify for state heading into this year's go-around, Cranston dealt with a knee injury last winter and at times doubted whether he could revitalize in time and Dawson-Hurley didn't even join the track and field team until this season.
And yet, when the three seniors' time came, Wednesday, May 10 and Friday, May 12 at Linfield College, they exceeded expectations and earned the right to stand amongst the state's best.
Holbrook has thrown the javelin for Canby since his freshman year and blossomed into one of the better throwers in league by his junior season. On April 20 of last year, propelled by a gust of wind, Holbrook shattered his personal record with a throw of 162-5.
Holbrook also accumulated three first place finishes in seven meets before districts but his performance nosedived in the district meet.
Amidst a stodgy, tense atmosphere, Holbrook posted a mark of 131-6 and placed 13th in the district.
But the disappointment wasn't all for not. Hobrook learned an important lesson that would benefit him a year later.
"It was just really tense the whole time. It was hard to relax because there was the kid from Newberg who was throwing 200 feet. I knew I wasn't going to win and it was hard to have fun with it. I realized in order to throw my best I need to relax as much as possible," he said.
Holbrook lifted weights and underwent speed training in the offseason.
While his throws fluctuated violently between one meet to the next last season, he was much more consistent this year and just flat out better.
Holbrook's personal record before the district meet, 164, was the third best mark in the league regular season, but he needed to finish in the top two to qualify for state.
Sure enough, he delivered the strongest performance of his career.
Holbrook broke his personal record five times in the meet and had sealed the district title heading into his final throw. Then, he posted his current personal record of 169-6.
"I was really surprised because it was my last throw. I wasn't expecting anything from it. I had already won at that point. When I threw it I guessed 162 and he (his dad) said 159. We were both super surprised. It didn't look like it went that far," Holbrook said.
Heading into the season, Holbrook stated that he wanted to qualify for state. It was a seemingly lofty goal at the time and yet he accomplished one better – winning a district title.
"Going into it I was aiming for second and was hoping I had a good day and he had a bad day. I did a lot better than I expected," Holbrook said.
Throughout the meet he joked with his dad and chatted with fellow competitors. He relished the light-hearted atmosphere.
And that may have been the difference.
"This time around I was having fun," Holbrook said.
During the first three years of his high school career, Dawson-Hurley played for his Amateur Athletic Union basketball team during the spring season.
But with his high school basketball career in the rearview mirror, Dawson-Hurley, as well as friends Peter Wilmes and Justin Morris, decided to compete for the track team this season.
From the get-go, Dawson-Hurley identified the high jump and the long jump as the events he was most interested in. And he quickly found that the hops he garnered playing basketball translated to the track.
"I thought it would translate in track but I didn't know how well it would translate and if I would get the form down," Dawson-Hurley said.
Dawson-Hurley and Wilmes were neck-and-neck throughout the year and quickly established themselves as some of the better high jumpers in the league.
"Me and Peter settled in on jumping and pushed each other throughout the year," Dawson-Hurley said.
Yet they had a lot to learn.
"In the beginning I had nothing down. I was just trying to go out and jump over the bar. Our coach really focused on explosion, popping your hips, creating that arc to get over the bar. It just took time and repetition to get it down and breaking it down step by step," Dawson-Hurley said.
Throughout much of the season, Dawson-Hurley could jumped 5-feet, eight inches but not 5 feet, 10 inches.
But in a home meet against Tualatin, April 10, he finally cleared 5-10. He hadn't cleared that mark even in practice up until that point. Dawson-Hurley cleared that mark one more time before the district meet.
At the district meet, he fired on all cylinders – clearing 5-6 and 5-8 on his first try. He even cleared the 5-10 mark on his first try while just two other competitors matched him. He wound up finishing tied for second and qualifying for state.
"It's pretty awesome. It didn't really settle in when it happened because this being my first year I just went out there and was trying to have fun with it with friends. Because it's my first year I had to have a lot of help from coach Greene and also Peter and Chris Nickerson. We gave each other pointers in practice," he said.
Maybe if Dawson-Hurley had joined the track and field team earlier in his career, he would be jumping even higher by now. But he has no regrets.
"If I had found track a little earlier maybe this would have come sooner. I enjoyed basketball a ton too," he said.
Soon after the 2016 cross-country state meet, Cranston began to feel nagging pain in his knee. He found out he had strained the ligaments in his knee. He calls it an overuse injury.
So Cranston steered clear of the trails during the winter months and underwent physical therapy. He also biked and swam to keep his fitness up.
By the time track season started, his knee still hurt while he was nowhere near tip-top running shape. He couldn't wake up at the crack of dawn for morning workouts per usual throughout the first half of the season and ran shorter distance races to increase his speed and strength.
In mid-April, though, he began to feel normal again and put forth two impressive performances in the 800 and the 1,500 in the Canby Invitational. He even set his personal record of 1:58.3 in the 800.
"It wasn't until mid-to-late this track season that I felt like I was getting strong again," Cranston said. "This season was almost a miracle season. It just worked itself out."
Cranston qualified for state in the 800 his junior season but qualified in the 1,500 instead this year.
The field started out fast but he felt relaxed and didn't feel the urge to catch up as quickly as possible. Part of his thought process was he wanted to save his energy for the 800 – which would take place 50 minutes later.
"One thing that worked well is that I wasn't fazed by the splits or the pace. I was locked in. I wanted to run as relaxed as I could to save energy for that race," he said.
Cranston placed second with a time of 4:06.66 – besting third-place finisher Henry Potter of Lakeridge by 1.45 seconds.
In the 800, Cranston neared the lead heading into the final quarter of the race but Newberg runners Peter Gentile and Kyle Charbonneau out-kicked him and earned the two coveted state qualification spots. Cranston finished in 2:00.08 while Gentile won in 1:58.56 seconds.
Cranston's times in both races were better his junior season but considering he once doubted if he'd even be able to race this season qualifying for state was a net victory.
"I'm proud of the fact that I was able to get back up to the point where I'm about to the point of districts last year without winter training. It's disappointing because I had pretty high goals after last season. I wasn't able to accomplish them because of setbacks but I was proud of what I was able to do," Cranston said.
Other notable boys track and field performances:
Tristan Oakes placed fourth in the 1,500 (4:08.28) and third in the 3,000 (9:02.87)
Stephen Rue placed sixth in the discus (120-06)
Jacob Heininge placed eighth in the shot put (40-11.5)
Peter Wilmes placed tied for fourth in the high jump (5-08)
Cole Thomas placed eighth in the 3,000 (9:17.99)
The Canby boys track and field team finished fifth in league.
Notable Canby girls track and field performances:
Katie Odell placed 11th in the discus (91-06)
Mackenzie Lee placed 13th in the javelin (84-09)