May 20, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

MONMOUTH The Imbler High School girls 4x400-meter relay team went from disaster to celebration in the span of a day.

From dropping the baton in Fridays preliminary race to winning the state title Saturday, the relay team ran the gamut of emotions at the OSAA-U.S. Bank Class 2A State Track and Field Championships. In the end, a third-place team trophy was reason enough to smile.

The girls just went after it, Imbler coach Jeff Larson said. I just cant say enough about their effort and their hard work this year. The talent (at state) is so deep, for our girls to do that is very special.

It almost didnt happen. Imbler was the favorite to win the 4x400 relay, but Amy Clerget dropped the baton while trying to hand off to Rachel Lowe after running the first leg Friday.

Amy was fairly tired; she had just run a prelim in the 300 hurdles, and it was a lack of concentration, Larson said. The baton hit the track, and we all had heart failure, but they were real smart. They picked the baton up without interfering with any other team and they made the pass within the exchange zone.

Lowe, then Christy Tubbs and finally Lizzie Woody completed the race and got Imbler to third place in its heat, good enough to get to the finals.

We got a real bad lane for the finals, but the four girls did what they had to do, Larson said.

Senior Emili Woody replaced Lowe in the finals, and the Panthers never really trailed. By the third leg, Christy Tubbs pulled away, Larson said.

Imbler won in 4 minutes, 10.55 seconds, and the Panthers needed all 10 points in the days final race to get third. Yoncallas Maranda Brownson finished her high school career by winning four events giving her an amazing 16 individual titles in four years. That gave Yoncalla 40 points, one fewer than Imbler ended up with.

It took eight girls to do it, but doggone it, we did it, Larson said.

Emili Woody capped off her career with a second-place finish in the 1,500 at 5:01.86; she had won the 3,000 the day before at a personal-best 10:59.07.

The 3,000 victory was tactically perfect, Larson said. She hung with the leaders and basically when the time came, we knew that she had more speed than anybody else in the field. She took the lead with 75 or 100 (meters) to go. She just timed it right.

Woodys only mistake in the 1,500 was letting the winner, Brooke Urhausen of Harrisburg, open too big a lead. By the time Woody made her kick, it was too late to catch up.

Clerget had Imblers other second-place finish; she was the runner-up in the 300 low hurdles at 48.02. The sophomore had only started running the hurdles during spring break.

I think shes probably run less than 10 300-hurdle races this season, Larson said. She has so much more room to improve.

Lizzie Woody scored Imblers other points. She had a personal-best of 2:24.59 in the 800 for fifth place, which came an hour after taking eighth in the 400 at 1:02.63.

If not for Yoncallas Brownson, Elgin would have brought home a trophy. The Huskies were fifth with 35 points, led by a 2-3 finish from DeLeah Wiles and Ashley Rysdam in the pole vault Friday.

Rysdam also finished fourth in the 100 hurdles at 16.76. Kira Page was fourth in the shot put at 35-6, and the 4x100 relay team finished sixth.

Freshman Amber Looslie scored in three events for the Huskies, however, taking seventh in the 100 (13.41), seventh in the 200 (27.79) and fifth in the 400 (1:01.40).

Joseph hurdler Montana Skovlin was fifth in the 100 highs at 16.79 and fourth in the 300 lows at 48.74.

Wallowa had three sixth-place finishes. Amanda Wilson was sixth in the 400 at 1:01.40, Lynique Oveson was sixth in the 800 at 2:26.19 and the 4x400 relay team was sixth at 4:18.49.