Titans step on the accelerator

04/17/2009 22:35

Lane tries to bolster its sprint teams in an effort to challenge Spokane for the NWAACC crown

Posted to Web: Friday, Apr 17, 2009 12:39AM
Appeared in print: Friday, Apr 17, 2009, page C6

 

 

Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard

Sprinters Bryan Harper (from left), Austin Christianson, Chris Stubbs and Taylor Norman practice baton handoffs in preparation for the Titans’ track season.
 

As he watched his once-talented sprint corps pull a virtual no-show at the NWAACC championship meet last season, it was painfully clear to Grady O’Connor what had to be done if Lane Community College was going to contend for a conference crown.

The Titans needed to be fast again.

“We made a concentrated effort to get our sprint team back to where it used to be,” said O’Connor, Lane’s director of track and field. “We made that a recruiting emphasis, and we feel like we’ve brought in some good talent.”

From 2004-07, Lane sprinters won six conference titles in the 100, 200 and 400 meters and averaged nearly 30 points out of those events in the championship meet.

Phil Alexander was the NWAACC 200 champion in 2004 and he won the 200 and 400 in 2005.

In 2006, Marcus Dillon won the 100 and 200 and Nathan Ingrao was the 400 champion. In 2007, Travis Thompson won the 400.

Alexander and Dillon went on to compete for Oregon. Thompson still does.

But last season, Lane scored just five points total in the three sprints. That was a fourth-place finish by Andrew Hastings in the 200. The Titans also finished sixth in the 4x400 relay.

When it was over, Lane was second to Spokane for the fourth time in six years.

But with a rebuilt sprint team, the return of NWAACC multi-event champion Bruce Burbank, jumper Seth Lindquist, and Spencer Head, the conference leader in the 800 and 1,500, O’Connor hopes this might be the year the Titans finally overtake Spokane.

“Last year coming off of that meet and trying to evaluate where we could get better, it was pretty obvious,” O’Connor said. “It was also pretty obvious that Spokane’s throwers depth was just tremendous, and they don’t have that this year.

“So we feel like we could match them point for point in the throws, in the distances and now in the sprints and hurdles. I also feel like our jump corps may have the edge.

“So it could come down to that 4x400, which last year was very disappointing because we were down near the bottom of the conference, and that just drives me nuts. That bothers me.”

Lane’s sprint team now includes freshmen Chris Stubbs and Taylor Norman, and sophomore transfer Bryan Harper — a trio of local kids who were standout prep runners.

Stubbs was the Midwestern League champion in the 200 and 400 meters for Willamette last year. He went on to finish second in both races at the Class 5A state meet.

In the 200 final, Stubbs finished in 22.11 seconds, just behind Mark Brooks of Klamath Union, who finished in 22.07. Both times broke the state meet record.

Stubbs, who is running those same two individual races for the Titans, made his collegiate debut last weekend and ran 22.11 in the 200. That time is second-best in the NWAACC this season.

“He hasn’t had a chance to really open up his 400 yet,” O’Connor said. “He just enrolled this term, so his fitness isn’t there yet.

“But both he and Bryan are going to be a threat in the 400 and 200.”

Harper won the Class 4A state title in the 400 in 2007 for Junction City and then spent one year at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

He currently is the NWAACC leader in the 400 with a time of 49.27, and is in the top five in the 200 with a season-best 22.51.

“He has been a tremendous team leader for us and he’s such a talented guy,” O’Connor said.

Norman was the Class 5A state runner up for Thurston in the 100 and finished third behind Stubbs and Brooks in the 200.

“We’re going to have a pretty solid sprint corps for the next year or two,” Harper said.

On the women’s side, the Titans return distance runner Leah Twombly, a sophomore who was second in the 800 and third in the 1,500 at the conference championship meet last season.

So far this spring, Twombly also is near the top of the conference in the 3,000 and 5,000 as well.

The women have also added freshman Jessica Rodolf, a freshman from Junction City who won four individual Class 4A state championships in the 100, 200 and long jump, and another in the 4x100 relay the past two seasons.

Katie Sterling has the best 100 hurdles time in the league, Annie Hayward has performed well in the 400 and 800, and throwers Tauni Powell (javelin) and Rocksi Miller (discus, shot put, hammer) are off to strong starts as well.

“Our women’s team, I just don’t think we have the 25 to compete with Spokane’s depth,” O’Connor said.

“That may be the difference. But we’ll get after it either way.”

 

“We made a concentrated effort to get our sprint team back to where it used to be. We made that a recruiting emphasis and we feel like we’ve brought in some good talent.” -GRADY O’CONNOR  LANE DIRECTOR OF TRACK AND FIELD