Big show awaits for Lane track and field after Southern Region test
The Titans have regional titles to defend before the NWAACC championships
Photo Info: The Lane Community College Titans are hosting the Southern Region championships on Saturday and are the favorites to win both the men's and women's titles. Defending regional champions include (from left) Brandon Nash, Shaneesa Applegate, Allie Church and Joey Hart. (Brian Davies/The Register-Guard)
With a women’s team bursting at the seams with talent and a men’s team as strong as usual, Grady O’Connor is ready to compete for a conference championship.
“Our bags are packed, now we just need to get on the bus and go,” said an eager O’Connor, the director of track and field at Lane Community College since 1998.
However, there remains one last piece of business before the Titans can leave for Spokane and the May 20-21 Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championship meet.
Lane will host the South Region championships on Saturday, a holdover from the 1980s before teams from Oregon joined the NWAACC.
None of the other three regions has a championship meet.
“I love team track and field,” O’Connor said. “I love having a dry run for the NWAACCs, so we don’t get up there and get and tight and freaked out. … But this regional meet is sort of a double-edged sword.
“It can be a good tune-up, but at the same time, if we don’t manage it correctly, it can sort of beat us up too.”
The Titan men have won the South Region nine straight times dating back to 2004, and the women have won three straight titles and seven of the last nine.
Both are the favorites again heading into the meet, which also includes teams from Clackamas, Mount Hood, Southwestern Oregon, Treasure Valley and Clark. Field events begin at 10:45 a.m., and the first running event is scheduled for noon.
“The bigger fish, the bigger goal is to capture an NWAACC title,” O’Connor said. “We’re going to compete hard, but we’re not going to sacrifice the squad’s health.
“Clackamas, I imagine, will throw everything at us. They’re going to try and catch us napping.”
Factoring in the completed NWAACC multi-event results, the Titan men already hold a 25-8 lead on Clackamas, and the women trail Clackamas 21-16.
It shouldn’t take too long for the women to erase their deficit. The Titans are loaded with top-end talent this season and have the best NWAACC marks in 13 of 21 events, including both relays.
They’re also deep in many events, which will help them tremendously in these next two scoring meets.
Defending NWAACC 100- and 200-meter champion Allie Church is back and again leads the conference in the 200 at 25.15 seconds. She also has the second-fastest times in the 100 and 400, behind teammates Alisha Rowlee (12.16) and Macaulay Wilson (58.57), respectively. Wilson is also the leader in the 800 at 2:17.53.
Kara Hallock, who finished second in the hepathlon, is the NWAACC leader in the 100 hurdles (14.58) and high jump (5 feet, 6 inches).
Shaneesa Applegate, who scored 26 points in the regional meet last season with wins in the long jump and 100 hurdles, and a third–place finish in the high jump, leads a group of four Titan long jumpers in the top six with a mark of 19-1 ½.
In other events, Anna Jensen and Kayla Vasquez are tied for the pole vault lead (11-5 ¾), Kristin Clark leads the triple jump (36-7 ¾), Leah Wilson leads the shot put at 44-5, and Madison Seaman leads the discus at 148-1.
“Event by event, it’s as strong of a team as I’ve had here in my 15 years,” O’Connor said. “Does that equate to a championship? By no means. We still have to show up and perform up to our abilities.”
The Lane men are led by sprinter Jemiel Lowery, who has the top time in the 100 at 10.80 and is also second in the 200.
The men also also have defending NWAACC champions in the high jump and long jump. Brandon Nash is again leading the high jump with a mark of 6-9¾, and long jumper Joey Hart is ranked third is his event at 22-11.
Zach Olivera heads a group of four Titans in the top five in the pole vault with a leading mark of 16-4 ¾, and Dylan Hamming scored big points for Lane with his decathlon win last month.
“Clackamas has a pretty strong team as well,” O’Connor said. “It’s going to be a challenge. We certainly can’t just do a walk-through, and some of those seventh- and eighth-place finishes will make a difference.”
As they will in Spokane, once the Titans finally get there.