A RECORD-BREAKING RELAY

Hermiston freshman Sierra Schultz takes the handoff from Briawna Mueller in the 4x400-meter relay at the Class 4A state meet in Eugene. The Bulldogs broke the school record in Friday's preliminaries and took sixth in Saturday's finals.

By Ben Reynolds

Herald sports editor

EUGENE — It's almost funny how in the matter of a week, the Hermiston High girls 4x400-meter relay team went from just wanting to qualify for the state meet, to believing it could win a state title.

Last Saturday, the goal was just to make the state meet.

They did that by placing second at the Intermountain Conference district meet.

Friday, the goal was to make finals after entering the state meet seeded 13th.

They did that by winning their heat, with a record-breaking time of 4 minutes, .94 seconds to enter the finals with the second fastest time.

Saturday, their goal was to run under four minutes and put themselves in contention for a state title.

But the memorable state run for Laura Von Arx, Briawna Mueller, Sierra Schultz and Kristina Gibson-Ely came to what they called a disappointing end.

The four could not duplicate or improve on Friday's historic run and took sixth with a time of 4:02.58 at the OSAA Class 4A state track and field championships at Hayward Field in Eugene.

"I am not at all happy," Mueller said after the race.

Coach Dave Rohrman said that disappointment didn't last more than a couple of minutes, and by the time they all stepped on the bus they realized what they had accomplished.

"They were hoping for a shot at the top 2 or 3 or maybe winning it," he said. "It just didn't work out for us."

Grant, which entered the finals as the top seed, won the title with a time of 3:56.19.

The Bulldogs' run for one of the top spots hit a snag in the final handoff as Gibson-Ely had trouble making the exchange with Schultz. Gibson-Ely was forced to come to a complete stop during a race that was on pace another run at a record.

"I just wish our last race was a little cleaner," Gibson-Ely said.

Hermiston, which finished second to Mountain View at the IMC district meet, set a season-best time of 4:05.68 in that race.

Less than a week later, Hermiston ran its best race of the season in Friday's preliminaries to not only make the finals, but break the school record by almost four seconds.

"They went out and went nuts," Rohrman said.

"Gibson-Ely added, "We came out and put our hard work to use."

For Gibson-Ely, the relay was not the only event for her to emerge at state.

The Hermiston senior, seeded 16th coming into the 400 meters, posted a time of 58.53 seconds to take second in the third flight and earn a spot in the finals.

There, she ran a 58.56 and placed fourth.

Leah Worthen of Marshfield won the race with a time of 56.99 seconds.

"I wanted to do better, but I am happy with what I got," Gibson-Ely said after the race. "Consistent.

"I wanted top-5 and I got that. I am very excited for myself."

A spot in the finals was a new experience for Gibson-Ely who missed the finals both her freshman and sophomore year.

As a junior, a foot injury hampered her entire season and she did not qualify for state.

And now competing at state as a senior and placing near the top, has made her final experience one to remember.

"It has made me appreciate being here," she said.

Gibson-Ely did not make the finals in the 200.

Mykael Bothum, who took second at state in her rookie season in the shot put, placed eighth Saturday with a throw of 38-5.

"She still has a ways to go yet and she knows that," Rohrman said.

Emilee Strot of Gresham came in seeded first and left seeded first, winning the event with a throw of 46-2 3/4, more than 3 1/2 feet better than her nearest competitor.

Mueller did not qualify for the finals in the 800 or the long jump. She finished 10th in the high jump at 4-11.

The 4x100 relay team of Chelsee Harmon, Gibson-Ely, Jakki Maxwell and Alma Aguiar finished 19th.

Hermiston placed 21st in the team standings with nine points. Benson won its sixth straight girls title with 84 points.

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