ONTARIO — A lot of things have changed in Ontario over the past year. Businesses have opened and closed, the Ontario splash pad is taking shape and there’s a new class of city officials running the town.

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the level of expectation surrounding the Ontario girls 4x100-meter relay team. With a returning cast including senior Jazmine Ware, and sophomores Lexy Jordan and Meagan Houston, the Tigers have their sights set on retaining their Greater Oregon League district championship and grabbing state gold.

The first stop on the Tigers’ 2019 tour was on Friday at the Ontario Ice Breaker. Ontario took first place in the event, finishing in 52.29. At last year’s Ice Breaker, the team of Abbey Wood, Ware, Nora Williams and Houston finished in 52.37. Jordan would later take the spot as the third leg on the team.

With three of four members returning, Ware didn’t hesitate when discussing the Tigers’ confidence early in the season.

“Oh yah,” Ware said. “I’m feeling pretty confident. I think Sophie [Draper], being the new member she was a little nervous today but she’s doing fine.”

Despite their excitement level, Houston said the Tigers are still hungry this spring as they have some unfinished business from last year.

“I do feel very confident,” Houston said. “We want state. We want that gold. And we want that relay record that we didn’t get last year.”

The Tigers did lose longtime girls 4x100-meter relay member Abbey Wood to graduation. Wood spent four years as the first leg of the relay team. On Friday, Draper (a junior who ran on the girls 4x100-meter relay team as a freshman) was slotted in the first leg.

Briona Romayor, who is also a junior, was unable to compete at the Ontario Ice Breaker due to injury. Romayor ran the second leg of the girls 4x100-meter relay in the place of Ware at the district and state championships last spring when Ware was unable to compete.

Another thing that the Tigers have had to replace this spring is the leadership that Wood brought to the team. While she said she’s always thought of herself as a leader on the track team, Ware said she’s had to step up her game this spring to fill that void.

“It makes me want to step up and really be the leader more,” Ware said. She said the Ontario girls are eyeing a time in the 50s and maybe even as low as 49 seconds. The Ontario High School record is 49.50 seconds, which was set by Cory Neiberger, Ranae Hall, Janis Ford and Sheryl Florian in 1981.

The four Ontario relay members also dominated the girls 100-meter dash. Ware took first place in 13.64 seconds. In third was Houston in 13.87 and Jordan took fourth in 13.94. Draper took eighth in 14.70 seconds.

NO LONGER UNKNOWNS

Jordan and Houston were surprise stars last spring to everyone except those who are avid followers of middle school track and field.

Now that they’re sophomores, Jordan said they’re not going to catch anybody by surprise now. But the approach to getting better doesn’t change, she said.

“It’s a little different,” Jordan said. “I think people know Meagan and I now. Like people know who we are. But we’re just going to try to keep doing better than last year.”

And Jordan said keeping that energy has been easy for the group.

“Me and Meagan, we’re best friends outside of track and outside of school,” she said. “And I’m so grateful for Jaz as well. I have a state placer to practice with every day. And pushes me at practice every day.”

Houston said another key for the sophomores this season is that they actually enter the season knowing who their top competition is already. Fortunately for the Tigers, La Grande and Baker both competed at the Ice Breaker on Friday so everyone got a good look at their GOL competition early in the season.

“Going into last year, I didn’t really know the competition. But now I know who the competition is,”Houston said. “Like, Katie Brown from La Grande who runs the sprints. Now I know names. I hope people know mine.”

SEASON GOALS

In the hurdles, Ware said she wants to get her time down into the 15-second range (and finally pass Logan Davila’s record of 15.81). Ware’s personal best on 16.30 seconds is fourth-best in school history. In the long jump she’s trying for 18 feet. Last year, Ware reached 17 feet, two inches, which is fourth-best in Ontario history.

Jordan said she is spending a lot of time focusing on the 100-meter events early in the season (including hurdles). In the 110-meter hurdles she wants to get down to the low-16s or even get into the 15s. The school record for the 110-meter hurdles is 15.40 seconds, a time shared by Christy Winninger and Neiberger. Jordan’s personal best as a freshman was 16.66, which is fifth-best in school history.

While she said she hasn’t practiced the long jump in a while, Houston wants to reach 17 feet, six inches by the district tournament and she wants to make 18 feet for the state tournament. The Ontario record is 17-5, which was set by Karel Breach in 1981. Houston reached 17-3 as a freshman, which is second all-time.

In the 100-meter dash, Houston wants to get her time to the low 12s. The Ontario record is 12.10, a time shared by both Cindy Bones and Susan Storck.

Top local finishers from the Ontario Ice Breaker:

Boys 100 meters:

1. Roberto Amezquita, Nyssa: 11.71

3. Mario Gramajo, Nyssa: 12.10

Boys 200 meters:

1. Roberto Amezquita, Nyssa: 24.17

3. Mario Gramajo, Nyssa: 24.86

Boys 400 meters:

2. Clay Ready, Adrian: 57.48

3. Isaac Roberts, Ontario: 57.89

Boys 3,000 meters:

2. Chase Johnston, Adrian: 9:28.62

Boys 4x100m relay:

2. Nyssa (Jose Sanchez, Ethan Draper, Caleb Benson, Landon McDowall): 47.74

Boys 4x400m relay:

2. Nyssa (Diego Arizmendi, Kelvin Pascacio, Myo Castro, Pedro Chavez): 3:58.21

Boys shot put:

1. Jose Sanchez, Nyssa: 42-09.00

3. Logan Lewis, Ontario: 37-03.00

Javelin:

2. Jose Sanchez, Nyssa:135-00

Girls 100 meters:

1. Jazmine Ware, Ontario: 13.64

3. Meagan Houston, Ontario: 13.87

Girls 200 meters:

2. Shayla Griffin, Adrian: 29.47

Girls 100m hurdles:

1. Jazmine Ware, Ontario: 17.09

2. Madisyn Hartley, Nyssa: 17.18

3. Lexy Jordan, Ontario: 17.73

Girls 300m hurdles:

3. Alexis Hernandez, Nyssa: 59.89

Girls 4x100m relay:

1. Ontario (Sophie Draper, Jazmine Ware, Lexy Jordan, Meagan Houston): 52.29

3. Adrian (Riley Lucas, Zoe Nelson, Kenzie Sorrell, Shayla Griffin): 55.97

Girls shot put:

1. Marly Ausman, Nyssa: 32-08.50

2. Katie Adams, Ontario: 31-01.00

Girls discus:

1. Katie Adams, Ontario: 96-05

2. Mary Ausman, Nyssa: 88-00

Girls high jump:

1. Britain Hartley, Nyssa: 4-10.00

Girls pole vault:

1. Sara Stephens, Nyssa: 9-06.00

2. Kenzie Sorrell, Adrian: 7-06.00

3. Easton Hartley, Ontario: 7-00.00

Girls long jump:

1. Madisyn Hartley, Nyssa: 16-10.50

3. Jazmine Ware, Ontario: 15-11.00

Girls triple jump:

t1. Cynthia Gonzalez, Nyssa: 30-06.00

t1. Tiffany Nelson, Ontario: 30-06.00

3. Easton Hartley, Ontario: 29-08.00

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Nik Streng is the sports reporter for the Argus Observer. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 2015 with a master's degree in journalism, after graduating from Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in creative writing.

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