The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Andrew Christiansen

Pirates win State track and field title


Andrew Christiansen

ICING ON THE CAKE: Nathan Powers passes the baton to Kyle Underwood in the 4x400 meter relay, the final event of the State track and field meet. The Bickleton boys won the State title by 2.5 points over Odessa-Harrington.

Bickleton's boys came home from Cheney this weekend with the State 1B Championship, the school's first team championship in any sport. It was a fitting cap to the high school careers of several seniors who led the way.

It is hard to pin down a single factor that makes for a team championship in a sport that is mostly individual competition. Certainly you need to have enough athletes and they need to be spread over enough events to have a shot. Bickleton wasn't one of the biggest teams, but they had contenders spread over many events and they were one of the most mature teams with five seniors and two juniors at State. It is easy to pick out key individuals. Nathan Powers collected the most individual points with 28 of the team's 56.5 points, including the only wins as he repeated as State Champion in the 110 meter hurdles and he won the high jump at 6-feet, 2-inches. Andrew Gannon also collected points in three events with two second place finishes in the 1600 meters and 3200 meters and a fifth place finish in the 300 meter hurdles for 20 points. Riley Brown, a junior, contributed a point in the triple jump. The team added two points in their final, and only team event, the 4x400 relay, but the win was secure by then.

Then there was Troy Roberts. He was one of the group of runners that got Bickleton to State in cross-country in 2011, where they were 12th as a team. It seemed that would be Roberts' destiny, running distance races. Indeed, he was seventh at State in the 3200 as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore. But, something changed before the next track season. Teammate Andrew Gannon began to beat Roberts in cross country. By the 2015 track season, Roberts was in search of an event. He dabbled in the discus and focused his running to relays and the 800 meters, where he had a 2:15.35 PR, not enough to scare anyone. He also took up pole vault.

By the end of his junior year, Roberts had gone from 7-6 to 9-6, indicating maybe he was getting the hang of it. Roberts opened the season with a 10-foot jump, then 10-6. He fell back for a while and then the magic moment came when he cleared 11-feet on April 30, at Condon. It may have been that key moment that would get the Pirates over the hump for a team victory. He broke a pole prior to the District meet and jumped just 9-feet, but it was enough to get to Regionals where he nailed it with a jump of 11-6, equaling the winning height by Josh Showalter. He also won the 800 meters in a blistering PR of 2:08.27.

This past weekend, Roberts won his heat of the 800 meters, guaranteeing he would score points in the event for the Pirates. He didn't have anything left for the finals and settled for one point for eighth place. But, he matched his PR in the pole vault, tying for fourth place and adding a crucial 4.5 more points to the Bickleton total.

The team entered Saturday afternoon's events in fourth place. But, things looked good as they had athletes in seven of the remaining nine events. Odessa-Harrington was in first, but had contenders in just four of the remaining events. Only Mt. Vernon Christian posed a real threat with a chance to score in five of the remaining events. Evergreen Lutheran had six athletes in five of the events, but didn't look strong enough to pull it out. Powers' second place finish in the 300 meter hurdles and Gannon placing fifth moved Bickleton into third place. They jumped past Evergreen Lutheran for good when Powers won the high jump. Mt. Vernon Christian scored points in all five of their chances, but nothing higher than third place, leaving them out of the picture.

Odessa-Harrington had two final events to save the day, the 200 meters and long jump. They settled for two points in the 200 and watched Bickleton go on the attack. Gannon came through with his best time of the year in the 3200 meters for second place and eight points, giving Bickleton the lead.

The finals of the long jump and the 4x400 relay were remaining. Sage Elder, of Odessa-Harrington pulled out a great, senior performance, shattering his PR in the long jump with a 20-2.5 inch leap. It was 2.5 inches behind the winner, leaving Bickleton on top by .5 points. The relay team of Powers, Roberts, Kyle Underwood and Joseph Cummings with Michael Bowers as alternate, added two points to the final total with their seventh place finish. Perhaps knowing they had just won, the team ran the best 4x400 in school history.

Andrew Christiansen

TJ: Riley Brown scored a point for the Pirates in the triple jump.

Underwood was just outside the points in the high jump. His 5-8 jump was equal to the sixth place finisher, but he placed ninth based on misses. There was just one other boy on the Bickleton team this year, freshman Michael Gannon. It will take a lot of retooling to defend their title next year, losing Powers, Roberts, Gannon, Underwood and Bowers to graduation. Cummings, Brown and Michael Gannon will have a tough act to follow.

Coaches for the Pirates are Chris Venema, Mark and Maurine Baugham. After the meet, Coach Venema breathed a sigh of relief. "To be honest, I held my breath until I saw the word "final" written on the results sheet in red ink.  I felt like we were in a great position during the long jump, then the boy from Odessa took second place and they got within .5 points.  It made for great finish to an epic season," said Venema. The fact that the 4x400 relay team set a school record was significant. The team had battled Lyle-Wishram all year long and made steady strides.


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