Titans looking to squash Sasquatch at NWAC championships
Lane has won the last two conference titles and will be heavily favored in the men’s team race
By Jarrid Denney | For The Register-Guard
Grady O’Connor, director of track and field for Lane Community College, spent the better part of a decade watching the Community Colleges of Spokane dominate the Northwest Athletic Conference.
The Sasquatch won a combined 22 men’s and women’s team championships from 2001 to 2012 and swept the team titles 10 times.
O’Connor’s Titans put an end to that dynasty when they swept the team titles in 2013 and then proved they weren’t going anywhere when they repeated as champions last season.
Lane will be gunning for a men’s and women’s three-peat, which would be the first in school history, when it begins competition today in the NWAC track and field championships in Spokane.
“Now that we’ve been there and done that a time or two,” O’Connor said, “the sophomore leadership really comes through and everybody understands what they need to do this time of year.”
The Titans breezed through the NWAC Southern Region Championships, winning both team titles while also resting a few top athletes.
The Lane men are considered the deepest in the conference and, according to O’Connor, it’s the deepest men’s team he has coached.
With a versatile group of sprinters led by sophomore Jesse Goodier, and an embarrassment of riches in the jumps, Lane enters the meet as heavy favorites. Goodier, Brian Burt, Michael Capri and Ben Kelly all top the form charts in at least one sprint event.
“Without them I probably wouldn’t be as fast as I am,” Goodier, a former Springfield High standout, said of his Lane teammates. “It’s kind of scary ... having to worry that if I don’t compete today, I might not have a spot tomorrow.”
Goodier was the high point scorer at the Southern Region Championships.
Sophomore Jonathan Cornish owns the fastest 1,500-, 5,000- and 10,000-meter times in the conference, and his twin brother, David, owns the second-fastest 3,000 steeplechase time.
Sophomore decathlete Colton Thurman is second in the conference in the long jump with a best of 23 feet, 5½ inches and is one of six Titans ranked in the top 10 in the event. Thurman finished second at the NWAC multi-event championships three weeks ago despite nagging injuries. If healthy, he could provide a huge boost for Lane in several events.
“(Thurman) is so explosive that it’s almost to his detriment,” O’Connor said. “He’s extremely talented, but it’s just been a balancing act trying to keep him healthy.”
The Titan women aren’t the juggernaut they were last spring — 11 athletes from last year’s team are currently competing at NCAA and NAIA schools — but the form charts are still filled with Lane athletes who will be in contention for podium finishes.
Former Sheldon High runner Danielle Girard is ranked first in the 800 with a personal best of 2 minutes, 17.16 seconds and former Cottage Grove High standout Kristine Dunn, the Titans’ lone returning women’s individual champion, is ranked second.
Sophomore Simone Reynolds owns the top javelin throw in the conference and the second-best in the nation among junior college athletes.
A pleasant surprise for Lane has been sophomore sprinter Taylor Boyer. After starring on the Titans’ soccer team last fall, Boyer is third in the conference in the 100 despite splitting time between track and the Eugene Timbers Futbol Club.
“It’s hard to find a balance in everything, especially with soccer being my main focus,” Boyer said. “But all of my coaches have been really understanding about me doing both.”
Boyer, a Thurston High alumnus, was named Southern Region MVP last soccer season after spending her freshman year playing at Oregon.
Ultimately, like it has in so many years past, the meet will be a shootout between the Titans and the Sasquatch.
“If it was just a cakewalk each and every year I would probably be retired by now,” O’Connor said. “Us and Spokane both try to build a culture around this meet. They bring out the best in us and I think we do the same to them.”