Whiteaker, Claggett conclude track season

Whiteaker trackster Allie Mansur finishes first in the 100 meter dash (Submitted).

It didn’t matter that team scores weren’t kept as Whiteaker and Claggett Creek Middle Schools track and field teams season came to an end on Thursday, April 29th. What did matter was that an outdoor track and field sports season was had at all.

The Keizer middle schools were allowed to compete in head-to-head fashion in two of their three dual meets this season. Athletes, coaches, parents and staff members created top-notch meets, which were held at McNary High School, and the performances of the athletes didn’t disappoint. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and metrics, the track and field season had many hurdles and turns to make it a success.

“There were many days that we would just have to pivot with the team, adjust, and respond to the frequent changes to the guidelines, ” said Brad Kilgroe, Whiteaker’s head coach. “Literally, every week new rules and guidelines were given to us, and we rolled with it.”

Luckily, middle school kids are resilient and handled adversity well.

“Beginning at practice with the kids reminded me that, as long as they didn’t cancel our season, any change was doable,” Claggett Creek head coach Lisa Nichols said.

Each team had a decline in numbers due to the pandemic but that didn’t slow them down.

“Smaller team size did not stop our athletes from representing our schools in as many events as possible. Athletes were challenged by coaches to participate in events they would normally not have tried. Athletes always responded with ‘yes coach,’” said Nichols.

Although the dual meets weren’t officially scored head-to-head, all Salem-Keizer middle schools uploaded their results into a large “city-meet” style database, where athletes and families could see their results in their respective events compared to all other athletes, grades and schools across the city and state..

“We strongly believe that being involved in track and field makes you not only a better athlete but a better person,” Kilgroe said. “No doubt in my mind that every athlete improved since the start, but we were led by a strong seventh grade girls group, who collectively have all the tools to make a great team.”

After all the scores were uploaded throughout the city, Whiteaker’s girls 4×100 meter team (Rylie Smith, Savanna Walker, Kalo Utaatu, and Allie Mansur) emerged with the best overall time (56.54s) in the city as well as the best time in the girls 100m sprint (13.84s) champion in Allie Mansur.

Other outstanding finishers at Whiteaker included Savanna Walker, Kalo Utaatu, and Bella Lucas (top 10 in the 200m), and Jocelyn Schnurbusch was a top five finisher in both the 800m and 1500m events.

Claggett Creek’s Asia St. John won the city title in the girls shot put with a toss of 34-feet-9 inches. Other notable finishers for Claggett Creek were Ashley West (top five for the 100m) and Andrea Maciel Rodriguez and Cassidy Kerner, both top 10 finishers in the 1500m.

“I’ve coached for many years, but this season was just different in that athletes were finally back on campus competing after 13 months of being at home, parents were cheering loudly, athletes were having fun and the loudspeaker seemed to just have a different vibe … without a doubt it was my best season.” said Kilgroe.

“I am grateful that both cross country and track and field were able to have seasons. I have missed working with kids in athletics and I know they’ve missed it too. Our athletes came to practice and gave their all day after day.” added Nichols.