Two years ago, the Cove girls track and field team took one athlete to the state meet.
Now, the Leopards are state champions.
Behind a two-victory, two-runner-up performance by Sophia Pettit and two wins by Maggie Ledbetter, Cove finished with 74 points to earn the program’s second Class 1A state championship — and first outright — Friday night at Hayward Field in Eugene.
“It’s crazy. We have worked super hard this season. We didn’t even know we were going to be in the running for it until the week of districts,” Ledbetter, the only senior to compete at state for Cove, said. “We finally made it happen. For the whole team to be a part of it — each point counts. It’s amazing.”
Cove shared the title with
Condon/Wheeler in 2013, then endured its share of struggles, especially during a two-year stretch when it moved up to Class 2A. It was during the final year of that time period that Cove took only Alisa Fox, then a freshman, to the 2A meet in 2016.
Now a junior, Fox has witnessed and been part of the resurgence of the girls track program.
“We’ve had a few rough spots trying to get coaches to even come. Last year we didn’t have coaches until the first day of practice,” Fox said. “Now that we have them back (they’re) getting more kids interested. It’s been amazing to see the kids grow and come together as a family. And it really makes me happy to see how much involvement they have and that they’re enjoying it, too.”
The infusion of Ledbetter prior to the 2016-17 year and Pettit for the 2017-18 season — both as transfers — definitely helped. The two combined for 56 of the team’s points, on their own, outscoring every other team in the classification.
“It’s really nice to have an encouragement like those two,” said sophomore Austin Kendall, who herself was part of a tie for fifth with teammate Allie Best in the high jump Thursday to help the cause. “They always make the team want to push themselves, especially Sophia. Looking at her times and jumps, I know that makes me want to do better.”
Pettit, who was named the 1A girls most outstanding athlete for scoring 36 points, added a title in the 1A girls 100 and second-place finishes in the 200 and triple jump to her long jump championship from Thursday.
The junior clinched the 100 championship for the third year in a row in a time of 12.35 seconds, just 0.02 off her meet record in Thursday’s preliminary round. She then almost simultaneously took second in the 200 (25.86) and in the triple jump (34-feet-1-3/4). The only thing, perhaps, that kept Pettit from a title in the 200 was having completed three jumps in the triple jump only minutes before the 200 final. She finished just 0.37 behind St. Stephen’s Sydney Radigan, who repeated in the event with a meet record time of 25.49.
“I’m not disappointed with my race. I ran a good time,” Pettit said. “The girl who won ran a phenomenal race and I was not fresh from triple jumping. I did the best that I could do.”
Ledbetter added a title in the shot put with a mark of 37-feet-0-1/2, dominating in an event she hadn’t even tried until a year ago.
“I went to Iron Wood Throwers Development Camp. To throw disc there you have to throw shot as well,” she said. “I decided to pick it up and it ended up being something I enjoyed.”
Ledbetter’s top distance through her first two meets of the season in shot was 26-feet-8. As soon as she started picking up more skill in the event, her distances took off.
“(When the coaches) started teaching me technique and form, it just came together,” she said. “I really enjoyed it.”
She set a personal best on her final two throws Friday.
Pettit and Ledbetter provided enough points for Cove to win on their own, but the supporting cast gave the Leopards what they needed to turn the meet into a runaway. Cove’s 74 points was well ahead of runner-up Adrian (52) and third-place Hosanna Christian (50).
In fact, all six athletes who qualified for state for Cove placed. Fox took fourth in the 800 in 2:31.43 and seventh in the 1,500 in 5:15.71 Friday, while Mykiah Overton (109-feet-1) and Best (101-feet-6) placed third and eighth, respectively, in the javelin Thursday.
“Maggie and I both knew coming in we were going to have to perform pretty well, but we had Alisa and Austin and Allie and Mykiah all score points, and that was really helpful,” Pettit said. “It’s an awesome thing to be part of a team where we’re so competitive and so highly placed in our events that we can score at the state meet.”
It’s also a close-knit group. Many of the athletes on the team spoke of the group’s familial nature, and Kendall and Best both said Ledbetter has been like a big sister to the team.
“She is so awesome. I don’t even know how to explain it,” Best said. “She is everybody’s big sis, and she encourages everybody.”
Head coach Daniel Johnson agreed, calling the team a close group.
“Being in a small school, they’re with each other every day. It just transfers right over to the track and field,” he said. “We have a lot of fun together. We do team dinners, (and) we invite the kids over and hang out at our place. And the girls, they love each other.”
Cove’s perch at the top of the 1A ranks may not be short lived, either, with the team losing just Ledbetter
of the state contenders and what Johnson said is a promising eighth-grade class coming up.
“We’re looking ahead to a strong track team in years to come,” he said.