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Less Is More As Athletes Sprint To Districts

INDEPENDENCE — Central track and field coach Eli Cirino has a different message for his team ahead of the Mid-Willamette Conference district track and field championships Friday and Saturday at Lebanon High School — it’s time to get selfish.

“We didn’t feel like we had a great chance to win the meet, so we’re focusing on getting our athletes the best possible chance to perform well in their top event,” Cirino said. “Hopefully we can advance a few to state, and we felt like competing in too many events would diminish their opportunity to get through.”

The Panthers have numerous athletes who will be in contention for a trip to state.

Isaac Burgett is ranked first in the MWC in the 400-meter run. Peter Mason is second in the long jump. Sterling Hutchinson (200) and Zach Meyer (800) are also ranked second.

For the girls, Bethanie Altamirano is ranked first in the 400 and second in the 200. Sophia Henke is first in the high jump and triple jump.

“The key to their performance at district, assuming they are healthy, is mostly dealing with the mental aspects of preparation and performance,” Cirino said.

Competition will be tough, and Cirino expects each event to be hotly contested by several teams.

“Our league is one of, if not the, top leagues in the state and it’s going to be a great meet,” he said. “We have tremendous athletes on all the teams.”

No matter what an athlete’s ranking is, Cirino is quick to point out that anything can happen, and once you step onto that track, rankings count for little.

“Matt Raines, Zach Meyer, Aaron Padilla, AJ Morales, Jaydon Aydelotte and Bailie Hartford are all athletes that, on paper, are not favored to make it to state or score high in their events,” Cirino said. “But all these kids are running or jumping really well right now and could surprise at district. Anything can happen. We’ve had eighth-seeds win league titles.”

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