In 2013, both the Lane men’s and women’s track and field teams were crowned Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges champions for the first time in nearly two decades.
The men claimed their first title since 1996; the women earned their first since 1997 and both put an end to the winning streaks of the Community Colleges of Spokane Sasquatch men and women that began in 2004.
The Titans men and women’s squads both graduated several All-American sophomores when their academic eligibility expired, including Jemiel Lowery and Allie Church, both of whom won NWAACC titles in the 100-meter dash.
However, this season, they welcome a loaded freshman class, and return one of the most talented groups in recent memory.
Four Titans sophomores have already signed letters of intent to compete at Division I schools next year: pole vaulter Zach Olivera at University of Tennessee, decathlete Kara Hallock at Oregon State University, thrower Leah Wilson at Boise State University and thrower Madison Seaman at Wyoming State University.
The Titans men and women will both be in the mix for another championship this season with the Sasquatch as their top competition on both sides. Titans head coach Grady O’Connor shared his outlookon the season with The Torch.
The Lane distance team is formed around a freshman core consisting of all new athletes, anchored by Katy Potter, the runner-up at this year’s NWAACC cross-country championship. Freshman Nicole Maurmann and Alli Cross also placed 10th and 17th respectively at the cross-country championship. Freshman Laura Donaldson also has the potential to score at the NWAACC championships.
“Last year’s NWAACC title we won going away without any distance runners,” O’Connor said. “We’re excited to change that.”
Potter, Maurmann, Cross and Donaldson will all run in the 1,500-meter and up.
This year’s Titans 4×400 relay team has the potential to break the school record, O’Connor said.
“It’s simply potential right now, but on paper it should be a pretty outstanding group that could and should threaten the school record of 3:52,” he said. Sophomores Jahzelle Ambus and Macaulay Wilson, alongside freshmen Kristine Dunn and Jalen Timms, will form the Titans’ crew in the long relay. Ambus is the Titans’ top returner in both the 100- and 200-meter events. She finished second in the 200 and third in the 100 at last year’s NWAACC championship. Dunn is a former state champion at the high school level and has the potential to contribute in the 100, 200, 400 and 800, as well as both relays.
Losing throwers Hannah Person and Kaimi Zablan isn’t slowing the Titans’ throw team down. Incoming freshman Megan White, from Spray High School, will make an impact. Sophomores Leah Wilson and Madison Seaman will compete this year, but both have signed at Division I schools.
“They’re both poised to not only defend their titles, but also to threaten both school records,” O’Connor said. Both will compete in the hammer, shot and discus. However, Seaman’s speciality event is discus while Wilson’s is the shot. Sophomore Gabrielle Head placed seventh at the NWAACCs in the javelin throw last year.
“(She’s) a great team leader,” O’Connor said. “She should make some great strides in the javelin this year.”
Sophomore Kara Hallock, who was the Titans’ high-point scorer at last year’s NWAACC championship, is the early favorite to capture titles in both the triple and long jump. She will also compete in both hurdle events and the heptathlon. She placed second in all three events at last year’s championships. Kristin Clark is the NWAACC defending champion in the triple jump and runner-up in the long jump. Mackenzie Folkerts, a freshman from Newport, will also compete in the high jump and the heptathlon.
Returning sophomores Anna Jensen, who won at NWAACC last year with a height of 11’8″, and Kayla Vasquez, who placed second with 10’10.25″, are the Titans’ top returners from last year. Newcomer Anna Loken, who currently has the highest personal best, will also join them. Sophomore Janelle Noga was an NWAACC All-American in 2012, and redshirted 2013, but will be returning to compete this spring.
“Anything could happen in the vault, but potentially all four could win,” O’Connor said.
Sophomore Paris Piva, who placed fifth at the NWAACCs last year, with a height of 9’4.5″, will also compete.
The Lane men’s cross-country team turned heads this fall with a surprising second-place finish at the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championship in November. Two of the top five runners from that squad will not return for track season.
However, twin freshmen Jonathan and David Cornish will carry the Titans’ distance crew on the track this season. Jonathan finished third at the fall cross-country championship, and David finished sixth.
“The Cornish brothers are tremendously talented and great team guys. They are going to carry a pretty heavy load in the upper distance events for us,“ O’Connor said.
Freshmen Efrain Jamie, Buddy Myers, Cirilo Herold and Andrew Davalos will combine to fill out the 1,500-meter and 3,000-meter steeplechase for the Titans.
Jemiel Lowery and Justin Browne finished first and third respectively in the 100-meter dash at last year’s championship. Both are gone this season, leaving O’Connor with a talented, but inexperienced, sprinting group.
Jesse Goodier, the 100-meter 5A Oregon School Activities Association state champion from Springfield High School, will play a huge role for the Titans in the same event this season, and freshman Rohan Cain could contribute in both the 200- and 400-meter events.
“We definitely have youth, but I like our talent levels in the sprint events,” O’Connor said. Sophomore Sean McGetrick captured last season’s NWAACC title in the 110-meter hurdles in a time of 14.92, was runner-up in the 300-meter hurdles, and is hoping to have the same impact for the Titans this season.
The Titans’ throwing group is young and relatively unproven, but welcomes two former high school state champions in Trevor Walker, a shot put champion from Central Linn High School, and Tanner Easterlick, a discus champion from Crow High School. Eastlick had a personal best of 15’7.00″ in the discus, while Walker threw the shot 56’6.00″, the farthest of any athlete in the state of Oregon.
The top recruit of the Titans’ incoming class is high-jumper Dakarai Hightower, a freshman from Curtis, Wash., who leaped 7’3.00″ at the 2012 Junior Olympics and set the highest mark in the nation.
Sophomore Alex Sattley could also make an impact in both the long and triple jump; he won both events at the OSAA 6A championship in 2006. Sattley, who starred for the Titans on the basketball court this year, is now hoping to transition back to the track after a year off.
“If we can make that hoops to track transition and keep him healthy, he has a lot of raw potential,” O’Connor said.
O’Connor said this is the first group of athletes he has coached with this kind of depth, and that the Titans vaulters have the potential to sweep the top four spots at the NWAACC championships. They welcome back four All-Americans, including last year’s NWAACC champion Zach Olivera, as well as Eric Jorgensen, the 2012 champion, both of whom are sophomores.
“We do develop and redshirt more athletes in the vault, due to the very technical side of the event,” O’Connor said.
Sophomores Connor White and Luke McKay are also returning All-Americans.