EUGENE -- Central's boys 1,600 relay team entered the state track meet May 20-21 at Hayward Field with the fastest qualifying time of any Class 3A squad in the state.
The Panthers then also had the second-fastest 1,600 relay time during the preliminaries on May 20. But wait. Does that give you more confidence entering the finals, or does it just create added pressure?
"It's kind of both at the same time," said Cody Prescott, who ran the anchor leg as Central took first with a time of 3:24.71. "We knew that we were faster than everybody else. But we knew that everybody else was capable of running faster, too. We had run fast before, but we knew we had to do it again. It was tough, but we pulled it off."
Tim McElravy gave Central the lead on the first leg of the race, and the Panthers led the entire way. Devin Conklin ran the second leg and handed to Michael for the third. It got just a bit close at the end as South Umpqua took second in 3:27.60.
"That was the way we hoped it would go," Central coach Tim Conley said. "I actually expected South Umpqua to be closer earlier on. It ended up being close at the end, but I was surprised to have that big of a lead going into the final leg. I think we could have run even faster if there had been somebody in front of us."
Prescott had to hold off South Umpqua's Tyeson Wood, the winner of the 100 and 200 who ran the anchor leg for the Lancers.
"I didn't feel him," said Prescott, who finished a step or two ahead of Wood. "Along the backstretch I could hear people yelling that he was gaining. I knew he was their fastest guy, and I knew he'd be right there with me. But I couldn't feel him, and I couldn't hear him. It was too loud.
"It's a great feeling knowing your team is the fastest in the state. It was pretty exciting crossing that finish line. I don't know how else to describe it. I'm really proud of our team, and the coaches did a good job getting us there."
It was Central's first track championship since Zeb McGarrell won the second of two pole vault titles in 2003.
"We knew we had a good chance to win coming into it," Phillips said. "(South Umpqua's) second guy and last guy ran really fast. Their first and third legs were not as fast as Devin and Tim. I knew I had to get a lead for Cody. It was nice to get him a sizable lead. I knew it was going to be close at the end."
A little bit too close for some.
"Once Michael handed the baton off to Cody, it clicked in my head we were going to win," Conklin said. "It brought tears to your eyes kind of. Then, with about 100 meters to go, the South Umpqua guy started catching us. All of the excitement turned to fear. I realized we might get caught at the end. But it turned out great for sure."
Prescott also medaled in the 400, taking fourth with a time of 51.42. Phillips took fifth in the 200 with a 23.04 clocking.
Phillips and Prescott joined with Ethan Muncrief and McElravy for a sixth-place finish in the 400 relay with a time of 44.93. Central entered the event with the ninth-fastest qualifying time.
Andrew Cleland took 10th in the discus with a throw of 128-1. Justin Cuellar, battling an elbow injury, placed 15th in the javelin with a throw of 147-10. Both are sophomores
"His elbow just wasn't going to work for him," Conley said. "He really hadn't throw for three or four weeks on a consistent basis, and I think it all caught up with him. The good news is he's a sophomore and he'll be back."
Overall, the Central boys placed 11th of 41 teams with a total of 22 points.
Central's Sara Cole, also a sophomore, took fifth in the discus with a throw of 114-0 and fifth in the javelin with a toss of 129-06. Cole scored all eight of Central's team points, and the Lady Panthers were 28th of 44 teams overall.
Central's Hannah Wilson finished her high school career by taking 13th in the 3,000 in 11:39.02.
"It was fantastic," Conley said. "It was a perfect way to end a great season. Winning the (1,600 relay) was a big, old exclamation point. That was my favorite event in high school, and it was fun to see them do that well. It was fun to bring home that many medals, too."