By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

SALEM—McNary senior Paige Downer took last track season off to play AAU basketball.

She’s returned looking like she never left.

After setting a 1-foot personal record of 10 feet in the pole vault at Forest Grove to open the season, Downer cleared 9-08 on Friday, April 6 to place fourth at the Titan Track Classic at West Salem.

The 10-foot jump is the best in the Greater Valley Conference this season and would have been good enough for second at last year’s district meet.

“I knew I was going to come back and vault but I didn’t know it would be like this so far. It’s exciting,” Downer said. “I have hope for myself and I think that if I can keep working and putting in time during practice then I can achieve great things. I’m kind of the underdog.”

Three Bend girls tied for first, vaulting 10-08.

“They vault all year long so they have an advantage but they’re very good athletes as well,” Downer said. “It makes me want to work harder. If I want to get up top, I have to look like these athletes. I watch them to see what I can work better on, what they’re doing right and that I can critique and fix.”

Last season’s GVC champion, West Salem senior Alyssa Premo, tied for fifth at 9-02.

Downer also ran on McNary’s girls 4×100 relay. Seeded ninth, Downer, Kailey Doutt and freshmen Ashlin Samples and Leah Doutt finished fourth in 51.44 seconds.

“We knew we had some young girls but they come out and compete and they’re good athletes,” McNary head coach Franklin Gauntz said. “It was nice to see the time they put down and they’re only going to get better. It was really exciting.”

Kailey Doutt won the 800 in 2:27.36. Freshman Kennedy Buss placed sixth in 2:31.74.

Kailey, Leah, Buss and Haley Hughes teamed up to finish seventh in the 4×400 relay in 4:24.32.

McNary senior Victor Zavalal set a goal to throw 160 feet in the javelin. He’s almost already there. At West Salem, he made it 157-07, a 6-foot PR, to place fifth in the event.

A knee brace might have been the difference.

“In the back of my head, I just have that thought of hyperextending my knee so I wore a brace and it gave me a little bit more confidence,” said Zavalal, who has the second best throw in the district this season.

McNary junior Sabella Alfaro placed second in the girls javelin with a throw of 110-07 in just her second track meet ever.

“I came here from softball so I thought that would be an easy transition into track for me,” Alfaro said. “It seemed really fun, too. It’s pretty technical and it’s also slightly different from throwing a softball or throwing anything really. I picked it up very quickly, obviously. The coaches have been really great, too. They put a lot of focus on technique with me because they knew I was new to this. A lot of the other throwers help me out, too.”

Senior Brian Gragg had a PR of 41-08 to finish eighth in the shot put. His previous best was 39 feet last April.

“This year I hadn’t been able to break 40 and it was really making me mad,” Gragg said. “It was just frustrating. My two teammates, Tim (Kiser) and Bo Rahm), they were breaking 40 on first meet and I was just getting really fed up with it.”

Gragg described the feeling of finally breaking 40 as “pure bliss.”

“I was very amped up about it,” Gragg said. “I was very excited. My teammates, Tim and Bo, have been really supportive of me. They’ve been really on me about things I’m doing and just making sure I’m being the best that I can be and coaches, too. Mr. (Shawn) McCarthy, it’s amazing what he does, just making sure I’m staying motivated and sure of myself.”

Gragg wants to break 50 feet next.

“That’s going to be really hard to do but I think I’m capable of it and I’m certainly going to put in the time and effort to do that, too,” Gragg said.

Kiser placed fourth in the discus in 130-11 and Rahm took seventh in 124-06.

After tying his PR of 16.93 seconds in the 100 hurdles, McNary senior Casey Toavs set a new mark in the 300 hurdles, finishing sixth in 42.50.

“I felt like I was going at a good clip,” Toavs said. “I got into the corner and I felt like I was going strong and when I came out of the corner I felt really good. I think it was just a mindset thing. After having a race under my belt already, I was telling myself I’ve got to go, this is my senior year, every race I’ve got to throw it out there. I think that definitely helped contribute to my success in that race.”

McNary freshman Ella Repp finished sixth in the girls 1500 in 5:14.41. Lucas Garvey placed eighth in the boys 400 in 53.38.

With 151 points, Bend won the girls championship. West Salem took the boys title with 132.5. McNary’s girls finished seventh out of 13 teams with 36 points. The Celtic boys placed 10th.

McNary is competing in the Willamette Falls Invitational at Pioneer Memorial Stadium in Oregon City on Saturday, April 14.