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Rangers send three to state

Olson notches first-ever district title; Darden and Selzer qualify with second-place finishes

Dufur's Austin Olson follows through on his shotput attempt in a recent event in The Dalles this season. Olson participated in the 1A Big Sky District Track and Field meet Saturday and set a personal record and won a district title with a top toss of 42-feet-6.50 inches to hold off Arlignton's Elvis Mustafic (42-06) by a half an inch.

Dufur's Austin Olson follows through on his shotput attempt in a recent event in The Dalles this season. Olson participated in the 1A Big Sky District Track and Field meet Saturday and set a personal record and won a district title with a top toss of 42-feet-6.50 inches to hold off Arlignton's Elvis Mustafic (42-06) by a half an inch. Photo by Mark Gibson.

— Those precious minutes dwindled down – the longest stretch for Dufur High School track standout Austin Olson.

The junior, who entered 1A district track action Saturday as a No. 1 seed had just set a personal record with a throw of 42-feet-6.50 inches in his second-to-last attempt, but his competition still had one toss apiece to get back on top.

They tried, but could not get over the hump, as Olson won his first district championship by a half a foot over Arlington’s Elvis Mustafic (42-06).

“It is really exciting. I have worked hard all year and it finally paid off,” an excited Olson said. “A half foot is a half foot. I will take it.”

The top half of the field proved to be tough and added to that, there was extra incentive to take down Olson, who had led the district in distance for the duration.

“There was some good competition here and I reacted to it,” Olson said. “I was able to match what they did to come on top. I have been working hard to improve. I just went out there, had fun, and just threw. There was no pressure.”

With a new coach, former Dufur track and field star McKenzie Henderson by his side, Olson shattered his final throw of 2012 at state (42-0) to go up to 42-3, set at the Mullen-Leavitt track meet on March 16 in The Dalles, until Saturday’s surge.

He is first to acknowledge that the skills acquired from his coaches is a big reason why he was on the top wrung of the ladder.

“McKenzie has been helping all year and I have been getting better and improving,” Olson added. “I am very thankful that we have had good coaches here this year to help and support us.”

Olson was the only male trackster to punch his ticket, and there were several others, who were in the mix.

Also in the shotput, freshman Keith Blake made a big jump to end up in fourth place with a 38-05.5 and senior Brandon Thenell chalked up seventh with his 36-6.5. Sophomore Jake Little added fourth-place recognition to his totals in javelin where his best toss of 143-11 put him less than 10-feet behind Spray’s second-place finisher, Dylon Tankersley (153-6).

Olson ended up fourth in discus with a final distance of 115-04 and he tacked on 12th in javelin at 119-0.

Alec Smith had a 17.58 in the 100, Steven Bailey churned out a 13th slot in the 200, both Jon Buntin (1:03.38) Wendell Jim (1:04.14) crossed the 400-meter finish line in the top-15 and Blake notched 10th in the 800-meters with his 3:06.22.

Dufur scored 22 points as a team for 11th place, but the girls, led by the duo of Taylor Darden and Bethany Stelzer rattled off 29 points for eighth place.

Darden earned a state berth in the shotput and discus, while the senior Stelzer, in her first season as a track athlete, finished second in the 300-meter hurdles.

After scoring a district crown last season in shotput with a 36-7.5, the sophomore placed second Saturday where her toss of 34-5.75 finalized her invite.

Darden placed second in shotput, but she rose from fourth-place last season in the discus up to second place this year with a 103-10 for an exceptional final run.

She has come close in the past two seasons, but Dufur head coach Connie Harvey said the goal is to make it to state, and then it is time to unleash the fury.

“She has a really good attitude. Her mindset is on finishing either first or second place. If she gets No. 1 it is great, but her emphasis is on just getting to state and proving herself at the show. She is ready for this. I think she will be just fine.”

Harvey said Stelzer has been a consistent force all season in her first try at track, setting personal records every time she stepped on the pavement.

Saturday, the senior set three personal records, and in the 300-meter hurdles, she shaved more than a second off her best time with a 53.79 to tally her state trip.

She finished 1.52 seconds behind Ione’s freshman district champion, Jessie Flynn (52.27).

Stelzer end up 11th in javelin at 71-03 and she garnered eighth in the long jump with her distance set at 13-04.

“It is pretty exciting stuff. For her and for me,” Harvey said. “If I would have had her for four years, given what she did in one season, I think being that she had never done track before, with some fine-tuning, she could have been a very good champion. She is coachable and picks up on everything. It is a testament to her hard work.”

Another senior, Nicole Johnson, is someone who is near and dear to the heart of the long-time Ranger coach.

Johnson has been an instrumental element to the program, a leader and the most inspirational athlete according to her teammates.

Saturday, she chalked up ninth with a discus toss of 68-0 and she placed 12th in shotput with her best throw hitting the dirt in 23-09.

She was also penciled in at the 1,500 where she stopped the clock in 8:38.55 and the senior pulled out a 4:06.11 in her final attempt at 800-meters.

Harvey admitted it was both a sad and happy moment to watch Johnson participate in her final meet.

“She has stuck with it for four years and she epitomizes Ranger heart,” Harvey said. “She is supportive of her teammates and is a good person. To have her has been a real pleasure and a real honor.”

Dufur heads out to Eugene tomorrow for the start of preliminaries on Thursday.

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