When he was a freshman, Tyler Homan was the lone member of the Joseph Eagles boys track and field team to qualify for the state track meet, and he did so in the 1A boys 3,000.
Three years later, Homan came off the track at Western Oregon University in Monmouth as an individual champion in the 1A boys 300 hurdles — and, more important, as part of the best finish the Eagles have ever had.
Boosted by Homan’s win in the hurdles, an effort in the pole vault that saw three Eagles reach the podium and two additional top-three finishes, Joseph scored 48 points to take second place at the 1A state meet, a mere five points behind state champion Dufur.
“This year by far was my favorite, but it’s been cool to see kids excited to come out,” Homan said. “Track is growing. Everybody knew we had a chance to get one of those team trophies. Everybody was willing to put in that work. Through the years there have been more and more kids come out and be excited (for track).”
Homan said his performance in the finals of the hurdle race wasn’t as clean as his preliminary race, but his time of 41.06 seconds was still good enough to win by nearly a full second.
“It felt good to finally get a first-place medal. I’ve put in a lot of work,” Homan said. “This is my fourth time going to state. I’ve gone for plenty of events.”
After running at state in the 3,000 as a freshman, Homan ran the 800 at state as a sophomore before settling into the 300 hurdles, taking fourth a year ago before winning this year.
“It’s great. It’s what we were wanting,” head coach John Roberts said of Homan’s title. “He’s strong, and the hurdle coach has him (doing well) over the hurdles.”
He also ran on both the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams on Saturday, with the 4x400 team of Homan, Bayden Menton, Juston Rogers and Trey Wandschnieder placing eighth in 3:42.33.
But he was hardly alone in helping lift the Eagles to second. The biggest boost might have come from seniors T.J. Grote and Kade Kilgore and junior Carsen Littlepage in the 1A boys pole vault as the trio took second, fifth and sixth, respectively. Grote cleared 12 feet 6 inches, while both Kilgore and Littlepage made it over 11 feet 6. Littlepage, in fact, set a personal best by 18 inches in the event.
“Since all three of us have been doing so well, we all just push each other,” Grote said of the threesome that netted Joseph 15 points on Friday to help the Eagles take an early lead in the team standings.
“They hit their (stride) this year and started vaulting well,” Roberts said. “The bottom vaulter (Littlepage), he just started this year and got 11-6, and he got on the podium.”
Grote added that the whole team has taken a supportive approach.
“It’s been a fun team to work with. Everyone works hard, everyone cheers for each other (and) picks each other up. (We) worked hard to get second. It’s been awesome.”
Grote also credited Homan’s leadership role in galvanizing the team.
“He helps everybody out, not just in his event,” Grote said. “He pushes everybody and makes everybody work harder. He’s been a great help to the team.”
Freshman Henry Coughlan turned in a big weekend to help the Eagles’ surge, individually taking second in the 3,000 Friday in 9:07.05, and following Saturday by taking fifth in the 1,500 in 4:16.58.
“Running is his passion (and) I’m excited to see where he goes,” Homan said, adding that the younger runners on the team “have a lot of potential.”
Rogers and Menton rounded out the scoring for Joseph in the 1A boys 800, with Rogers, a sophomore, placing third in 2:02.82 and Menton, a freshman, fifth in 2:05.52.
“They’ve done a great job, (from the) younger boys all the way up to the senior boys,” Roberts said.
Homan added that he hopes the Eagles’ move to the top level of the state isn’t a brief one.
“I hope we’ve got kids who can see past the workouts and how painful it is, (and realize it) really is a team sport. I hope kids look past that and see how fun it can be, and the satisfaction about it,” he said.