Titans have ruled the track

05/21/2017 13:06

By Jarrid Denney | For The Register-Guard

When the Lane Titans head to Gresham for the Northwest Athletic Conference Championships on Monday, it will mark one last championship chase for Lane coach Grady O’Connor.

After 19 years at the helm of one of the top junior college programs on the West Coast, O’Connor will step down after the season.

The Titans will be gunning for their fifth consecutive NWAC title on the men’s side. In the women’s race, they will battle for their eighth title in school history after missing out by five points in 2016.

“Probably one of the most talented teams we have ever had on the men’s side,” O’Connor said. “But not the deepest, and that has me worried. Spokane will bring the depth. … It is going to be a tight battle.”

Lane is stocked with talent in the men’s sprints and jumps and could possibly pull 28 points out of the pole vault alone.

They could also receive an added boost from freshman sprinter Jacoby McNamara in both the 100 and 200. McNamara, a former multiple state champion at Redmond, is only seeded to score two points, but his personal-best times from high school would make him the fastest in the conference in both events.

The Titans have a long tradition of securing titles in the multi-event championships weeks before NWACs take place. This year was no exception on the men’s side as sophomore Grant Shurtliff, a former Thurston standout, won the conference decathlon title for the second straight year May 1.

Shurtliff’s win gives Lane a 10-point boost before they set foot in Gresham, and he will be plenty busy throughout the rest of the meet as well.

Shurtliff will also compete in the long jump, high jump, triple jump, pole vault, 110 hurdles and 400 hurdles for the Titans. He took on the same workload last year when he racked up 38 points and was the high-point scorer of the meet.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Shurtliff said.. “I’m here to compete; I’m here for the team. I’m gonna go out there and give it my all. … It would be great to have another one.”

Lane will have to break the form charts and find ways to steal points if they hope to chase down meet-favorite Spokane on the women’s side.

The Titans have the advantage of unleashing sophomore Emilie Viuhkola, who will take on the rare task of running the 400, 800 and 1,500 in one meet. She owns the NWAC’s fastest times in the 400 (57.32) and the 800 (2:12.15) and the third-fastest in the 1,500, despite only running the race once this year.

“We wouldn’t run her in all three if we didn’t think she was capable of it,” O’Connor said. “We’ve built her up to it and it’s something we watch her do every single day in practice.”

Viuhkola, who has signed to run at Fresno State next year, believes that with a bit of planning and strategy, she can win all three.

“I know I’m not gonna go out there and PR,” Viuhkola said. “But I’m gonna race to win and do what I can for my team.”

Photo Credits: Coach Grady O’Connor oversees the Lane Community College Track & Field team. (Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard)