It'll be all-out-or-nothing this Friday for Columbia High athletes when they travel to Woodland High School for the 2003 SW Washington District 2A Track and Field Championships.
The CHS boys are the defending champions, but, according to Bruins Coach Doug Miller, they will get a stern test from a strong Montesano team during the 13-team meet, which gets underway at 3:45 p.m.
"Montesano's going to be tough," Miller said. "They're strong in areas we're not, and vice versa. It's too close to call who's going to win (the district championship)."
Friday's competition is the state qualifying meet for SW Washington's 2A athletes.
The top four in every event will advance to next weekend's state meet at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
Columbia's boys team is coming off a successful defense of its Trico Division title last week at Woodland.
The Bruins scored 93 points in a tightly contested seven-team meet.
They got first-place points from Adam Neff in the 100- and 200-meter sprints; Wes Blankenship in the discus; Brett Schutt in the pole vault, and the 4x100 relay team of Neff, Blankenship, Andrew Culp and Will Brasuell.
The rest of their points came from a mish-mash of efforts in running, jumping and throwing events.
Those efforts included a personal-record time of 11.4 seconds by Culp in the 100. That time was good for third place and a spot in Friday's district race.
"Andrew's turning into a powerful, competitive sprinter for a freshman. He's getting faster as the season progresses," Miller noted. "If he can keep it up, he'll be a force to be reckoned with next year."
District qualifiers for the CHS boys also included Schutt in the 300 hurdles; Neff and Matt Lovrin in the 400; Lovrin in the 800; Blankenship in the shot and javelin; Chris Davis in the long and triple jumps; and Kevin Groeneveld in the 1600.
CHS girls qualifying for district were Kristin Janney in the 100, 4x400 relay, and triple and long jumps; Katie Mansfield, triple jump; Alexa Williams, high jump and 4x100 and 4x400 relays; Abby Zuck, 200 and relays; Jeni Stembridge, 400 and 4x400 relay; Anna Zuck, 3200; Alycia Rohwer, 300 hurdles and 4x100 relay; and Meghan McCutcheon, 4x100 relay.
Last Friday, Columbia's girls team finished a distant sixth -- with 63 points -- behind a powerful Woodland squad, which dominated the throwing events on its way to a meet-high 145 points.
Only Janney, with season-best 34-foot, 9.5-inch effort in the triple jump finals, won an event.
Three Bruins, though, established career bests during the competition.
Mansfield jumped 32-8.5 in the triple jump to set a new PR for herself and place fourth in the event.
In the girls shot put, Krista Bakke threw 27-6 to reach a new PR and the girls finals on May 14. The junior thrower fell short of qualifying for district by six inches, however.
Rohwer, a freshman, got her PR in the 300 hurdles, with a best-ever time of 51.2.
"Alycia has been a valuable member of this team," Miller remarked. "She ran a pretty decent 300 hurdles race and will be even more competitive next year once she gets the technique down."
Columbia will be taking two of its youngest squads in recent years. The only seniors are team captains Neff and Janney.
Still, the Bruins will bring plenty of talent to bear on the task of qualifying for state.
"All of the kids I expected to make it to the next level did so," Miller said. "But they can expect the competition to be a lot tougher at district. There won't be any room for margin of error or giving less than 100 percent."
At this stage of the season, the boys have emerged as the stronger of the two CHS teams, though the girls are more than capable of pulling off some big surprises at district, according to their coach.
"The goal for both teams remains the same: to capture a top-four trophy at state," Miller noted.
Injuries to top performers could severely hamper CHS's trophy bids, however.
Lovrin, one of three talented CHS sophomores, is dealing with a serious hamstring injury, which limited him to a sixth-place finish in last Friday's 800, his best race.
But Lovrin showed his competitive nature by finishing third in the 400, in the same time (51.7) as Neff, the school record-holder in the event.
Miller called Lovrin's effort in the 800 "a real gutsy performance.
Lovrin has been undergoing physical therapy and hopes to be closer to top form by race time Friday.
"Matt wants to get back to state in the 800. He's also in the hunt for a state berth in the 400," Miller said. "If there's an athlete on this team capable of rising to the occasion, he's it. He has an incredible pain threshold."
Neff (hamstring), Janney (ankle) and Williams (foot) also are trying to overcome nagging injuries.
Neff had his streak of sub-50-second 400s snapped during Trico competition as he tried not to aggravate the injury.
Williams, likewise, held back in the high jump, posting a district qualifying mark before retiring from the competition.
Janney, meanwhile, finally appeared to be over an early-season ankle sprain by winning the triple jump, placing second in the 100 and taking fourth in the long jump.