Coach John Roberts of Joseph, 15-year veteran of the Eagles track program, took 18 competitors, including seven freshmen, to Umatilla on Friday for an early taste of track and field. As with most meets, there were great efforts and not-so-great efforts.
The Eagles girls saw the return of only junior Julie Butterfield, while the boys saw eight returning competitors, including seniors Clay Hayward, Kyle Hook and OSU-football-bound Michael Marks.
Hook's throwing arm seems to be in fair shape following basketball, and he took first in the javelin with a throw of 160 feet, 7 inches. Junior Lane Bailey set a new personal best at 147 feet, 5 inches, passing his old mark by 27 feet.
Marks took first in the discus with a throw of 143 feet, 1 1/2 inches, but had a harder time with the shot, finishing second with a throw of 44 feet, 10 inches. Roberts noted that Marks' technique needed some work, and that he's losing a lot of his potential power on his efforts, but seemed confident that Marks will improve as the season progresses.
While neither of the boys relay events saw a win for Joseph - not surprising with the graduation of speedsters Randy Eschler, Cory Otten and Cole Jeffords following Joseph's strong showing at the state track meet last year - they did turn in a fourth in the 400 meter relay with a time of 48.16 and a second in the 1,600 meter relay, finishing in 3:49.02, over three-and-a-half minutes behind Grant Union. The girls relay team also showed promise, but couldn't quite find the tape first, finishing third in the 400 meters with a time of 55.40 and second in the 1,600 meters with a 4:29.41.
Freshman Megan Yost placed third in the javelin, with a throw of 100 feet 2 inches.
Junior Tristan Patton, last holdover from 2004's state relay team, beat everyone to the tape in the 100 meter dash with a time of 53.86. Patton also took third in the 300 meter hurdles.
Having a young team, at least on the girls side, may present some challenges to Roberts in technique and experience, but he says the team has plenty of heart.
"The freshmen are tough. Tough, disciplined and tough-minded. They don't like to lose. Being young they will get beat - but they'll learn along the way," he said.
Did the new Enterprise-Joseph combined softball team lure away potential team members from Joseph's girls track?
"Down the road it will for sure," Roberts said. He pointed to schools like Nyssa, which plan around crossover sports athletes and stagger scheduling so students can, and do, play both softball or baseball while also competing in track.
Rather than worrying over competition with softball, Roberts expressed his continued concern over the size of the league that Joseph competes in for track and field, pointing out that there are approximately 20 schools all competing for two state slots. "We've got to split it," he said, adding that resolutions have been sent to the Oregon School Activities Association, but that a decision is likely a year or two off.