O’Connor goes out as a track Titan
By Jarrid Denney | For The Register-Guard
GRESHAM — “How about that for a finish!” Lane track and field coach Grady O’Connor yelled.
He was referring to the comeback victory his men’s 4x400-meter relay team had just delivered, but he just as easily could have been talking about the fitting end to his coaching career.
O’Connor and the Titans captured their fifth consecutive Northwest Athletic Conference men’s team title at Mount Hood Community College on Tuesday with 252 points, 48 better than runner-up Spokane.
The meet was O’Connor’s last as Lane’s coach; he will be stepping down in June after 19 years in charge of the track and field and cross country programs.
“It was just great team chemistry,” O’Connor said following the meet. “These guys just really wanted it for each other and just believed in it. It’s the culmination of a hard-fought two days.
“It’s a little bit surreal, just processing it already.”
The Titan men ended the meet with six individual winners and won both relay events.
“We did it for coach Grady,” Lane jumper Tristan James said. “Not even talking about his coaching; just his personality and the type of guy he is. He’s a role model and father figure for so many of our athletes and such a great guy.”
James won the triple jump with a leap of 49 feet, 10 1/2 inches after taking home the long jump title Monday.
The Titans entered Tuesday with a sizeable lead over the Sasquatch. They compiled much of that with a sweep of the top four in the pole vault Monday, including a meet record of 17-4 1/2 by winner Justin Petz, who earned Field Athlete of the Meet honors.
Lane got right back to work Tuesday with a win in the 4x100-meter relay to open the meet and followed with 16 points split between four athletes in the 400, led by runner-up Cornelius Berry.
Former South Eugene standout Michael Martin led wire-to-wire in the 5,000 and outlasted Everett’s Douglass Davis to win in a time of 15:36.80. Lane sophomore Moises Martinez wasn’t ranked in the NWAC top eight in the 800 meters entering the day, but busted the form charts and kicked his way to victory in 1:58.05. That win came just an hour after he finished third in the 1,500.
O’Connor’s son Cade won the 400-meter hurdles early in the day, and later went on to erase a 10-meter deficit during his leg for Lane’s winning 4x400 crew. Cade, who also plays soccer for Lane, wasn’t planning to run track this year, and the NWAC Championships were just his second meet of the season.
“That was invaluable,” Grady O’Connor said. “I’m so blessed to have witnessed that and been a part of that. … He did this for me. He was just going to redshirt and focus on soccer, but once I made my announcement, he wanted to get on the track and told me he was going to do it. I’m just proud.”
Former Thurston standout Grant Shurtliff racked up 37 points in six events to finish as the meet’s high-point scorer for the second straight year.
The Lane women finished second to Spokane for the second year in a row. The Sasquatch won with 231 1/2 points and Lane finished with 186 1/2.
The Titans scored in every event, and Lane sophomore Emily Viuhkola delivered an unprecedented hat trick.
In the span of 62 minutes, Viuhkola racked up wins in the 400, 800 and 1,500 and is the first athlete to do so at the NWAC meet, Grady O’Connor said.
“My coaches and teammates and everybody were super supportive,” said Viuhkola, who will run collegiately at Fresno State next year. “They literally shook my legs out and tried to get as much lactic acid out of my legs as they could.”
After her three individual titles, she also anchored the Titans’ 4x400 team to victory. Viuhkola received the baton at the same time as Spokane anchor Harley Strope and went on to win the race by 20 meters.
“I had my whole team screaming for me on the last corner of that 4x4,” Viuhkola said. “We just have such a crazy dynamic; it’s like the greatest support system I could ever ask for.”
Lane's Grant Shurtliff and Clackamas' Chelsea Bone crowned NWAC Decathlon and Heptathlon Champions
Clackamas sophomore Chelsea Bone entered day 2 of the Heptathlon with a 72 point lead over Spokane sophomore Katie Collins and immediately added to her lead winning the long jump to expand her margin to a 332 point lead over Collins.
Spokane freshman Maggie Nelson, who started the day in 5th, then won the javelin throw to move her into second place, 516 points behind Bone.
The pair did just enough in the 800 meter run to finish first and second in the final standings while Collins took third.
Bone's total score of 4702 gave her the 7th best Heptathlon score in the history of the women's event dating back to 1979.
In the Decathlon, Spokane sophomore Tyler Blakely, who broke his own meet record in the high jump the day prior with a leap of 6-11, came into day 2 the leader with 3583 points.
Blakely's 36 point lead over 2016 Decathlon Champion Grant Shurtliff quickly evaporated when Shurtliff won the 110m Hurdles to take a 40 point lead over Blakely.
Lane sophomore Wyatt Thompson-Siporen then won the discus throw to move into 2nd behind Shurtliff moving Blakely into third.
Then the battle of teammates was on - Shurtliff took first in the pole vault while Thompson-Siporen grabbed second.
Shurtliff's lead was 136 over Thompson-Siporen at that point.
The javelin throw proved to make things interesting as Shurtliff struggled in an event he normally excels while Thompson-Siporen won the event to narrow Sturtliff's lead to just a slim 10 points going into the final - the 1500meters.
Shurtliff wasted no time capping the 1500 with another win while Thompson-Siporen could only muster a 4th place finish to give Shurtliff his second NWAC Title in the Decathlon.
Shurtliff's final of 6731 points places him 14th all-time while runner-up Thompson-Siporen's score of 6635 puts him 18th all-time in the 70 year history of NWAC Track & Field.
See more of these fine athletes at the 2017 NWAC Track and Field Championships which will take place on May 22-23 at Mt. Hood Community College [website].
Titans sign with Division I programs!
- Grant Shurtfliff, after repeating as the NWAC decathlon champion earlier this week, signed with Eastern Washington University.
- Emily Viuhkola signs with Fresno State University. Viuhkola broke a 45 year old school record this past weekend at the Oregon State High Performance Meet.
- Charles Sudduth III and Austin Torres signs with Univeristy of San Francisco
- Note: Remaining sophomores are looking into future four year institutions/DI programs.