An amazing streak is on the line for Lauren Brouse and Amy Jones at Friday’s district track finals.
Lauren and Amy are on the Lady Celts 4X400 relay, and have been since their freshman years. They have never lost to a conference foe while on the same 4X400 relay, ever. That streak will be tested by South Salem and Redmond.
“There’s some great 4X4 times in our league right now,” said Amy. “It’s going to be a close race. I’m excited for it.”
“I don’t feel more nervous than usual because of it,” said Lauren of the streak. “I’m excited for the competition. I’m excited to have that close race and see what happens.”
The seniors will be joined by freshman Laura Donaldson and sophomore Averi Wing in the race.
Lauren and Amy are on the 4X100 relay. Lauren competes in the 200m and 400m, and Amy in the 800m. They are the top seeds in each of these events.
As seniors Megan Hingston, Lauren Brouse and Amy Jones go, so goes the Lady Celts varsity track team at this year’s district finals.
“It’s going to be hard to see them go,” said McNary Coach Kelley Borresen of the trio. “They’ve been varsity contributing members since the time they were freshmen. I think they’re all positioned to have a real successful district meet, and it’s exactly what I hope for them.”
The finals, which began yesterday (Thursday, May 20), conclude today. They are at Sprague High School with field events starting at 3 p.m.
The top two finishers from each event automatically advance to next week’s state meet in Eugene.
Hingston is seeded first in the 110m hurdles and shot put, second in the 300m hurdles and fourth in the javelin. She will battle Kelsey Moe of South Salem, who is seeded second in the 110m and first in the 300m hurdles.
Depending on what happens at district, it’s possible Hingston will end her high school career having qualified for six different events at state: both hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put and javelin.
“That’s an incredible statement, for one person to make,” said Borresen.
Brouse is the top seed in the 200m and 400m while Jones has the fastest time in the 800m.
Brouse and Jones will pool their talents in the 4X100 and 4X400 relays, both of which have the fastest times heading into districts. This is Jones’s first year on the 4X100.
“The team has had fast sprinters in previous years,” said Jones. “So now they’re pulling a distance runner up for the 4X100 relay … It’s definitely a different race, just because it’s over so quickly. The shortest thing I do is an entire lap. So I feel as soon as I start. I’m done.”
Brouse, who has been one of the district’s top 400m runners since her freshman year, and is a sprinter to boot, is quite familiar with both distances.
“The 4X4 has my heart,” said Brouse. “I love that race, just because it’s a team effort., and for the past three years our girls have taken first. It’s kind of a thing here.”
Senior Rachel Fast and sophomore Averi Wing are also on the 4X100, which enters district tied with North Salem for the top seed. Wing and freshman Laura Donaldson are on the 4X400.
Jenna Quesnal, a junior, leads the CVC pack in pole vaulting with a qualifying mark of 10-0.
Chelsea Scott, a senior, is seeded third in the discus and eighth in the shot put.
While chock full of potential district champions, the Lady Celts are thin elsewhere in their ranks.
“I expect us to be in the top three,” said Borresen. “I think we’re going to have a difficult time catching South (Salem), although that’s not impossible … But are numbers are limited. In years past we’ve had kids who could pick up seconds, thirds, and we’re a little short on that this year.”
The fact David has rocked Goliath before is not lost on the McNary varsity softball team.
The highly-rated Celts, who went undefeated in CVC play to earn the league’s top seed, open the playoffs by hosting fifth-seeded Gresham at 4:30 p.m.
Gresham is a member of the Mt. Hood Conference. That’s fifth in an eight-team conference.
“We take one game at a time,” said Celts’ starting pitcher Erin Hento. “We can’t get it in our heads that they’re number five and we’re number one. I mean, they’re from a different conference and we don’t know what they faced. We shouldn’t be overconfident when we go into this game. If we keep playing like we’ve been playing, we’ll be fine.”
McNary Coach Jeff Auvinen has been coaching softball for a number of years. One thing he’s learned is that the unexpected happens.
“You just never know in softball,” he said. “Softball and baseball are tough sports to forecast because there are so many unexpected things that happen out there. All it takes is a bad bounce.”
McNary catcher also preaches caution.
“I don’t know much about Gresham,” said Bennett. “But they’re a playoff team, so they should still be pretty good.”
Bennett will be calling the pitches for McNary. Her strategy is a simple one: Go with strength.
“What are the pitcher’s strongest pitches. What’s on that day, and who we’re facing,” said Bennett on the factors that go into calling pitches. “It depends on the batters and what their tendencies are.”
But what about when you’re facing a team for the first time like Gresham?
“I watch the batters. I also watch the coach to see how he’s coaching them,” she said.
Bennett added: “You play to their weakness.”
Bennett’s battery mate figures to be Erin Hento, the league’s most valuable pitcher. She enters the playoffs with an earned run average of 1.24 in league play.
“Erin is very fast, very fast. So I have to be fast,” said Bennett, “and if I don’t call a pitch fast enough, she’ll just go with what she likes. I know Erin.”
The two go back five years. They play summer ball together.
Hento respects her catcher.
“I have confidence in her to call the right pitches, because she’s been doing this for forever. And I think she knows that I can hit my spot. Whenever I warm up, I warm up all my pitches, and she can tell me which one’s working and which one’s not working at that time.”
In the game against West Salem, the one that clinched the team’s perfect regular season, Hento relied on her rise ball.
“The rise ball was working, so we called a lot of that,” Hento said. “I just trust what ‘Netta calls because she’s seen me and she’s seen what’s working and what’s not.”
The righty is also working on a new pitch: the change-up.
While Auvinen doesn’t want any opponent overlooked, he still wants his team to remain relaxed and confident.
“I told them one day that if you’re not cocky as a hitter, you’re not going to be a very good hitter. You have to go in there saying ‘I own this pitcher.’ Because if you don’t, you’re hitting a round object with a round object, and it’s traveling ‘round 60 miles an hour from 43 feet away,” he said. “The best teams are also a little cocky. I think they feel good about their chances. I don’t think it’s a pipe dream in any facet; I think they have a realistic shot (at making the finals).
“Now, could that come crashing down with the first game? Yes. We need to take it game by game. And that’s been our motto all year long, and there’s no reason to change it right now,” concluded Auvinen.
Zach Moeller, the senior pitcher who led McNary to the state championship a year ago, turned in one of his best performances of the season one week shy of his team’s Class 6A playoff opener. Last year, he won three games and saved one in five playoff games.
“I think Zach is pitching real well,” said McNary Coach Craig Nicholas. “Zach, the other night, was great.”
In that Friday, May 14, outing, the lefty pitched a one-hitter against West Salem to lead McNary to a 5-0 win in the regular-season finale for both teams. The Celts clinched their conference’s third seed with the win.
Moeller struck out 15 and walked three. The Titans’ lone hit came in the sixth inning.
“I was just hitting my spots. I didn’t have overpowering stuff,” said Moeller. “Wherever Coach Nicholas called it, I was just putting it on the black, so my location really helped.”
Moeller also got it done with his bat, driving in two runs with a walk and hit. Spencer Rice added a double and two singles.
“Against West Salem, I thought it was the first time all year that we looked like we were somebody. Put up a run here and a run there, made plays and had fun doing it,” said Nicholas.
The team’s timing couldn’t be better, not with do-or-die looming.
“We’ve just got to have good pitching and then good hitting. I think our defense will pick it up during practice, as playoffs come. As it gets more important, we play with greater importance,” said third baseman Zach Olpet. “As long as our pitchers do well, I think our hitting and fielding will come through.”
Olpet added now is not the time to leave any part of your game on the bench.
“Every game, I’ve always gone hard and played hard,” said Olpet. “But now that we’re in the playoffs, I think we’ve got to turn it up a little and take it up another notch. It’s time to play.”
While not as deep last year, Nicholas said the team has the weapons to get the job done.
“Realistically, we have two pitchers (Moeller and Rice) who are real good,” said Nicholas.
“We play adequate defense and we hit the ball around. Anything can happen. I’m just glad we got into the playoffs, because there was a point I didn’t know if we would or not.”
McNary also has experience.
“A lot of these kids were around last year, and even though they may not have played much, they’ve seen it,” said Nicholas. “As long as you don’t make errors, as long as you don’t run yourself out of innings, baseball is not as tough as everybody wants to make it out to be.”
The Celts play at Reynolds in today’s opener. Reynolds is the third seed from the Mt. Hood Conference.
In league play, Moeller led the staff with an earned run average of 2.13 while Rice notched six wins.
No other pitcher on the staff had an ERA lower than 4.50 or more than two wins.
McNary also lacks a Nick Phillips, last year’s reliable closer.
What the Celts do have is confidence.
“Obviously, making another run would be awesome. We just don’t want to beat ourselves,” said Moeller. “If we play McNary baseball, and play hard all seven innings, then there’s nothing we can do about that if we lose. But if we play bad and just a give to someone else, it’s obviously going to leave a sour taste in our mouths.”
The Whiteaker Middle School (WMS) concert choir placed first for the second consecutive year at the prestigious Best in the Northwest Choir Festival.
What’s more, Claggett Creek was third at the same event and McNary was first in the high school division.
In claiming the top spot, WMS bested a field that included 16 other middle and junior high concert choirs from throughout Oregon and Washington.
The festival was held Thursday, May 13, at the University of Portland and was sponsored by its Performing and Fine Arts Department.
The choir earned a perfect 100 from one of the three judges, a rarity in competitions at this level.
“They practice hard. They perform with intensity and heart. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from them,” said Andy Thomas, the school’s choir director. “I am so proud of them for what they accomplished.”
The choir sang “Kaki Lambe,” a traditional song from Senegal; “Helig” by Felix Mendelssohn, “Deo Dicamus Gratias” by G. A. Homilius, “Drink to Me only With Thine Eyes” by Andy Thomas, featuring Emily Wade on the viola; and, “Worthy to be Praised” by Byron Smith.
The Wolverines peaked at the right time.
“The last couple of weeks we really came together as a team,” said student Zach Wehrli. “We worked really hard for this competition and did the best that we were capable of doing.”
Still, anxious moments persisted while awaiting the judges’ decision.
“I was in the audience crossing my fingers with my friends, and when we heard our name we jumped up hooting and hollering and hugging,” said student Teryn Ferrando. “It was such a great feeling to know our best was the best.”
But the middle school accolades didn’t end at Lockhaven Drive.
“(The students) were excited for the honor,” said CCMS Choir Director Rolland Hayden. “It’s always an honor to bring home anything from the Best in the Northwest, especially a plaque.”
Hayden noted his choir members deserve the lions’ share of credit for their success.
“This choir is full of self-driven individuals who always pushed me to work harder for them,” Hayen said. “I’m happy for them and their accomplishment.”
CCMS eighth grader Rose Pigsley said Hayden deserves credit as well.
“We were pushed by our director. We had a lot of focus, and the result was that we learned our music faster,” she said.
Pigsley is ready to become a Celtic.
“I can’t wait to sing with the McNary choir,” Pigsley said. “I can’t wait for the next challenge.”
In winning the title, she bested a field that included 21 other contestants. First Alternate was Rebecca LaPorte with Ali Zuro the Finalist.
Nelson said winning the title wasn’t her primary reason for entering.
“I did this because I thought it would be fun; I wasn’t doing this to win,” she said. “The other girls in the program were so fantastic. They were so sweet. They were my buds.”
Nelson wowed the audience with her rendition of “I Feel Pretty” from “West Side Story.” The song was written and composed by Leonard Bernstein.
Nelson noted she chose this particular song because it was light-hearted and could be played with on stage.
She was more confident with the talent portion of the program than she was with the other categories – Fitness and Self Expression – also spotlighted Saturday night.
“I was a little nervous heading into fitness,” Nelson said.
In Self Expression, Nelson was asked the question: What does pride mean to you?
“My answer wasn’t fabulous, but it was coherent, and that’s a start,” she said.
The program’s other categories were Scholastic Achievement and Interview Skills. Judging of these took place prior to the program.
Nelson’s scholarship and awards included a Junior Miss medallion and silver iris pendant from Boucher Jewelers, $1,500 scholarship award and an additional $2,000 from Ted and Susan Anagnos of Edward Jones and Company.
Nelson also received $300 each for winning the Scholastic Achievement, Interview and Talent categories, for a net total of $4,400.
The McNary junior is the daughter of Cindy and Ross Nelson of Keizer.
She wants to attend Brigham Young University and major in political science and/or music education.
Her cousin, Cassidy Nelson, was Keizer’s Junior Miss two years ago.
Scholarships also went to: Hannah Patterson, Self Expression ($300); Spirit, Missy Anderson ($300); Finalist, Zuro ($500), Fitness ($300), “Be Your Best Self” essay ($500), and First Alternate ($700) for LaPorte.
“Saturday’s program went very smoothly and surprisingly fast, considering the number of contestants participating this year,” said Cathy Williams, its coordinator.
News keeps getting better and better for the McNary High School concert choir.
The choir placed first at one of the region’s most prestigious competitions less than a week after placing second at state.
Top honors came at the Best in the Northwest Concert Choir Festival, held at the University of Portland.
The choir’s trip home was marked by a Keizer Fire Department escort once it reached city limits.
“It was really cool,” said senior Libby Bonn, who added the show of support was appreciated. “It felt like our community cared about our school and how we did at the program.”
Results also reinforced an old adage: Hard work pays dividends.
“It really solidified all of the work we put in throughout the entire year, and it made all of our extra rehearsals and all of our class work 10 times more worth it,” said choir member Kyle Kuhns, a junior.
A third student, Brando Busciglio, agreed.
“I just feel like all the hard work the group as a whole has done, and the seniors have done since their freshman year, I feel like it’s finally paying off,” Busciglio said. “And the McNary choir is being noticed. We’re really making an impact.”
Eagle High School from Idaho was second and Sprague High School was third. Like state, anxious moments intensified prior to the announcements.
“Honestly, I thought that Sprague did better than we did,” said Busciglio. “But you don’t know what you sound like from the audience’s perspective. You just hear what’s around you. I just felt as a whole that Sprague had done better than we did, and I felt the Idaho school did really really good. And I was nervous. I didn’t know what we were going to place.”
With graduation weeks away, Bonn and Busciglio leave the program on a high note.
“It feels real good to leave the program at the level we have for the kids coming in from Claggett Creek and Whiteaker,” said Bonn, “because the program is just going to grow from here.”
Whiteaker placed first and Claggett third in the middle school division of that same contest on Thursday.
Kuhns, a junior, welcomes the influx of new talent.
“I think that it’s awesome that the (McNary) feeder schools are already placing in the top among their competition, and among all the other schools in their district and in the Northwest,” said Kuhns. “… To come out on top and in third place is awesome. I think it’s good that they’re already learning how to work hard and put themselves through something that we put ourselves through.”
McNary competed against nine other high school choirs at Best in the Northwest.
Their set lasted 30 minutes and included seven songs.
The Iris Festival simply wouldn’t be possible without the dozens of volunteers who contribute each year.
While every contribution is valuable, there’s no one who lives and breathes the Iris Festival – and not getting paid a dime for it – like Teresa Walsh, chair of the Iris Festival committee.
This is her third year leading the committee, and her sixth year as a member.
“These people have actually become my extended family,” Walsh said. “These people have become my extended family.”
Walsh wasn’t born around here, but got here as fast as she could. She moved with her family, with her dad in the military, before settling in at West Linn High School.
After meeting husband Richard – an attorney and now a city councilor – the family moved to the Salem area, and after a brief stint in West Salem, moved to Keizer about 13 years ago.
“We were looking around for a community that would fit kids, church and a community feel,” Walsh said. “Keizer was absolutely the best choice. Was thrilled to death when we moved here.”
The Iris Festival fits in nicely with what she loved then and still enjoys now – a small-town feel in a mid-sized town.
“The heart of Keizer hasn’t changed,” Walsh said. “That’s the coolest thing about the festival and Keizer. You’d never know there were 36,000 people here. You can go to the same people and hear stories from 25, 30 years ago.”
Walsh seems like the type to enjoy a challenge. She acknowledged sponsorship was down for the festival this year, as the recession continues to affect Keizer, but said that just means volunteers have to step up even more.
“It’s the Keizer way – you figure out how to do it even without any money,” Walsh said. “There’s two paid staff (on the Keizer Chamber of Commerce), and they do chamber business. … There’s no way to pull off an event like this without many, many volunteers.”
A move credited at least in part with boosting attendance was moving much of the festival to Keizer Station in 2009. While some feared it would hurt River Road businesses, Walsh said the committee has endeavored to bring as much traffic to River Road as possible. The parade is still there, she noted, and added the Poker Run, which will take hordes of motorcyclists through town.
She’s also excited about the Tournament Town event, which ties in with an overall community focus on bringing more youth athletic events to town.
“That could be a whole new direction for the city,” Walsh said.
She gave tons of credit to the rest of the committee, while noting the role of overseeing the whole operation fits her well.
“I multi-task really well, so I can keep a lot of plates in the air,” Walsh said. “Richard says that, when I die, it will say on my tombstone, ‘She’s finally doing one thing at a time.’”
Plus, she says, “I don’t do well with free time. I like to continually stay busy.”
She and Richard have three children: Samantha, 20, Michael, 18, and Kevin, 15.