Highlights shine again: Stayton dance squad second at state

April, 2018 Posted in Columnists & Opinion, School, Sports & Recreation

The Stayton Highlights dance team took a new path this season, but the outcome was the same: more sustained excellence.James Day

The Highlights, who had a run of 12 consecutive state titles from 2003 through 2014, entered the show division this season. The show class means competing against schools of all sizes and it also allows squads to use props.

“Show was a great experience but extremely different,” Highlights coach Robin Meier told Our Town. “Show division is almost all Class 6A schools so for a 4A school to come out and get second place their first time out really is a huge accomplishment.”

Meier said that working with, transporting and storing the props was a “huge undertaking.” The squad had to rent a U-Haul truck for every competition.

Canby, a Class 6A school, won the state title with 96.37 points. Stayton was second with 91.65. Philomath, which finished ninth, was the only other 4A school competing.

Stayton has finished first or second at state for 17 consecutive seasons, with its seven senior captains – Roni Heagy, Nicole Witherell, Breanna Culbertson, Alli Jordan, Erin Ball, Jazlynn Simmons and Courtney Griffith – taking home three seconds and one title in their four years.

Witherell, Culbertson and Heagy were named to the all-state team, and Heagy was awarded an Oregon Dance & Drill Coaches Association scholarship.

Also on the roster, the largest in school history were: Ariana Aceves, Reighlee Allen, Julieta Arreola, Savannah Baker, Sierra Baker, Abbie Beattie, Alyssa Black, Ashley Bush, Laura Camacho, Kalissa Clark, Youcelyn Diaz, Brylie Digesualdo, Karissa Flatman, Macey Frost, Bailey Fuson, Madison Fuson, Luciana Garcia, Daphne Gaul, Silvia Gomez, Kaelyn Hill, Jasmin Johnson, Ashley Kintz, Sarah Lackey, Valeria Navarro, Megan Oliver, Sophia Piccirilli, Isabella Ruvalcaba, Kaitlin Sandall, Abby Schneider, Emily Sheehan, Hailey Searles, Emily Smith, Chloe Stinson, Roxanna Trujillo, Milee Weitman, and Charly Woodley.

Meier was assisted by Alyssa Russell and April Hermann.

Football: Dustin McGee, who engineered a remarkable turnaround at Santiam, has left the program to return to the South. McGee, who came to Santiam from Arkansas, is the new coach at Ezell-Harding Christian School in Nashville.

McGee took a team that was 2-7 in 2014 and went 4-5, 7-4 and 11-2 in his three years, culminating in a runner-up state finish in Class 2A last November.

“We loved Oregon and really enjoyed our time here, McGee told Our Town, “but we have been so far from the people we love and wanted to get back closer to them.”

Junior lineman Dustin Keys, one of the captains of the 2017 squad, told Our Town that McGee was “a tremendous man on and off the field. He impacted a lot of lives over a very short amount of time. For me McGee wasn’t just a coach. He became a father figure and a great mentor.”

Santiam Canyon School District Superintendent Todd Miller, meanwhile, praised McGee for the “energy and excitement” he brought to his work and the school. “Our students are better off for the time he spent at Santiam.”

Girls basketball: Oregon West rivals Cascade and Stayton wound up facing off in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state tournament in Forest Grove. The Cougars won a hard-fought defensive battle 22-18 and wound up taking on Marshfield for the state title.

The Pirates pulled away from a 38-38 tie on a 10-1 run and won 48-41 despite 27 points from Cascade senior guard Halle Wright. Wright, a first-team all-tournament pick, was fourth in the tournament with 49 points, second in rebounding and first in offensive boards. Teammate Kelsey Molan earned second-team all-tourney honors.

The second-place state finish was the sixth for veteran coach Mark Stevens, who also won the 4A title in 2011.

Stayton, meanwhile, battled into the fourth-place game with a 50-46 win against Hidden Valley before falling 37-35 to Valley Catholic. The Eagles’ three tournament games were decided by a total of 10 points.

Senior post Alexa Bender was a second-team all-tournament choice after scoring 31 points and leading the event in blocked shots with nine.

“I was really pleased with how hard the girls played,” second-year Eagles coach Darren Shryock told Our Town. “We had a real shot at fourth, but anytime you bring a trophy home from the tourney it is a good year.”

Shryock, also the Stayton athletic director, said he plans to coach the girls again next season because he wanted to limit how many coaches the athletes wound up playing for. “Beyond that, we will see,” he said.

OSAA: The battle between Cascade High and the Oregon School Activities Association continues. The OSAA placed Cascade in Class 5A at the end of its lengthy reclassification and redistricting process last fall. Cascade appealed the decision and won a favorable ruling in February from a hearings officer. The OSAA board, however, reaffirmed its view that the school should remain in Class 5A. At Our Town’s press time the next step in the process, a new hearing, had not been set.

“Cascade’s contention is that we should be at the 4A classification,” Cascade Superintendent Darin Drill told Our Town. “We are hopeful that the second hearing will take place soon so that all parties can move forward with planning for games next school year.”

Follow me on Twitter.com @jameshday.

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.