Highlights in top form: Perennial powerhouse prepares for state

March, 2017 Posted in Columnists & Opinion, Sports & Recreation

James DayThe Stayton Highlights are once again chasing history. The dance squad has finished first or second at state the past 15 years, including a phenomenal 11 consecutive titles from 2003-2014.

“We have had an amazing year so far,” said Coach Robin Meier, who has been involved in all 15 of those seasons. “We have taken first at all of our competitions. Our scores have been great and our routine is getting a lot of positive feedback from judges and the audience”

The state meet routine is called “Uncomfortably, comfortable” and is inspired by Zen poetry about risk-taking.

“I’ve seen so many people cry watching the team dance this routine,” Meier said. “And it’s so wonderful to see that they are really invested in the story and the performance in front of them. It’s been a special year for sure.”

The Highlights have 34 members, including four boys, a first for the squad. Makenzie Schwarm, Faith King, Roni Heagy, Gracie Tabor, Abbie Schafer and Courtney Griffith are the captains. Meier is assisted by Alyssa Russell and Belle Meier. The Highlights will perform Saturday, March 4 in a competition at Centennial High and will offer a free performance at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 12 at Stayton High. The state meet is March 16-18 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

Hoops: Veteran Cascade girls Coach Mark Stevens has joined a select group of state coaches by recording his 500th victory. Win No. 500, a 68-45 victory Jan. 24 at Newport allowed Stevens, in his 27th year, to join Brad Smith (Oregon City), Gary Lavender (Sheridan, Lake Oswego), Marty Ballard (Myrtle Point) and Dave Wakefield (North Clackamas Christian, Damascus Christian) in the girls hoops 500 club. Stevens won a state title in 2011 and has finished second four other times: 1997, 1998, 2004 and last season. This year’s Cougars are ranked No. 1 in Class 4A and just finished a 10-0 Oregon West Conference season. Cascade will host a home playoff game March 4, with a win pushing the Cougars into the state tournament at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

Stayton hosted Hidden Valley on Feb. 25 in a play-in game after finishing 6-4 in league under first-year coach Darren Shryock, the former boys coach at Silverton. In Class 2A Regis traveled to Gold Beach for a Feb. 24 round of 16 game. A Rams win would put them in the state tournament in Pendleton.

In boys basketball Santiam and Regis came into last weekend needing one win to advance to Pendleton. The No. 4 Wolverines hosted Weston-McEwen on Feb. 24, with No. 10 Regis visiting Oakridge. In Class 4A Cascade goes to Estacada and Stayton visits Banks in the play-in round.

Wrestling: Cascade finished third in the Special District 2 championships and sent eight wrestlers to the OSAA Class 4A championships in Portland.

District champions for the Cougars included Kane Nixon (113), James Van Agtmael (195) and Louie Sanchez (220). Asa Alexander (145) and Kade VanDeHey (152) took second, while David Villegas (4th, 106), Joe Baxter (4th, 113) and Macoy Christman (3rd, 285), earned spots in the state meet.

Cascade totaled 244.5 team points, trailing only Sweet Home (407) and North Marion (300.5). Stayton, meanwhile, finished seventh with 121.5, led by Levi Summers, the district champion at 170 pounds. Also going to state for the Eagles were third-place finishers Ryan Ninman (120) and Cleveland Smith (160).

Swimming: Stayton’s Eric Steitz took fifth in the 100 breaststroke at the Feb. 17-18 OSAA Class 4A-1A state championships at Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham. Steitz, who broke his own school record by swimming 1:04.51, also combined with Chris Linton, Josh Placek and Braden Ballard to take 10th in both the 200 medley relay and the 400 free relay. Other Eagles participating included Sadie Mak (7th in 500 free, 8th in 100 free), Linton (10th in 500 free, 11th in 100 fly) and the 400 free relay team of Sadie Mak, Hannah Mitzel, Megan Mak and Sydney Maurer, which finished 10th. Cascade’s Min Wei, meanwhile, earned the Cougars three team points by finishing fourth in the 100 breaststroke in 1:11.18.

Football: Senior lineman Dominic Federico of Cascade is one of 16 Oregon student-athletes to receive scholar-athlete recognition from the National Football Foundation. Federico, who was among 89 individuals who applied for the honor, was honored along with the other winners at a Feb. 26 banquet. The award includes a $1,000 scholarship. Federico, a three-year starter for the Cougars, helped lead the squad to the Class 4A quarterfinals in 2014, a state title in 2015 and a semifinal berth in 2016. Federico was named first-team all-state this past season while also earning second-team honors on defense. He was the Oregon West lineman of the year. Federico carries a 4.15 grade-point average with 12 AP course taken. He plans to study business at the University of Oregon.

Cheer: Regis took home fifth in the Feb. 11 OSAA Class 3A-2A-1A cheerleading competition. The state champion was Delphian, runner-up Cascade Christian, third-place Central Linn and fourth-place Willamina.

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