FOREST GROVE - Big meets always deliver a few surprises, and the 2009 Cowapa League track and field championships were no exception.

Held at a first-class college facility this year - Lincoln Park Stadium at Pacific University - the '09 district meet was exciting from start to finish, from the Astoria boys chasing down a state meet berth in the mile relay, to the Banks girls winning the team title by one-half point over Scappoose.

The Lady Braves and the Scappoose boys walked off with the league title trophies, while the rest of the league showed that the Cowapa could be making quite a splash in the Class 4A portion of the state meet, which begins Friday at Hayward Field in Eugene.

And the North Coast will be a big part of that.

While the usuals (Laura Bobek and Charlene Harber of Astoria, Seaside's Ashley Mayfield) picked up their league titles as expected, the Astoria boys qualified six athletes for state, and Seaside stunned the sun-baked crowd on more than one occasion, as the Gulls will have 12 athletes competing in Eugene.

Mayfield was Saturday's headline act, as Seaside's senior runner was at the top of her game in her final league meet.

Mayfield won the 800- and 1,500-meter finals, and ran the anchor leg on Seaside's winning 1,600-meter relay team.

Seaside coach Neil Branson gave Mayfield the option of running the 1,500 to keep her league championship streak intact, even though she will not enter the event state.

"For the 1,500, I'd won it the last three years," Mayfield said, "and Branson said, 'What do you want to do?' And I said, 'Well I don't want to just give it up.' So I wanted to win that.

"And for the 800, I was just trying to get my teammates to state," she said. "I wanted to be on the outside and let them come with me, and at the end they could do what they had to do."

Mission accomplished. Mayfield won the 1,500 for the fourth straight year, while teammates Linsey Johnson and Taylor Davis took second and third, respectively, in the 800. Davis missed the qualifying mark for state.

Sophomore Carlie Gilligan placed third in the 1,500 with a qualifying time of 5 minutes 6.06 seconds.

"To get those guys to state is awesome," said Mayfield, an experienced competitor at Hayward Field in Eugene. "Carlie is going, and Linsey Johnson is going, and they really don't have an idea of what it's going to be like, so it's going to be fun."

As for Mayfield, she will compete at state in the 800 and the long relay, along with Davis, Riley Tadei and Johnson.

"I really want to win the 800," she said. "That's my main focus right now."

Also making her first appearance at state will be sophomore Kai Davidson, who cleared 4 feet, 9 inches for second in the high jump.

Bobek set for stateThe meet program doesn't list Bobek as holding the meet record in any event (yet), but Astoria's senior thrower now holds both meet records in the discus and shot put.

Her winning discus throw of 141 feet, 9 inches improved her existing meet record, and her shot put toss of 45-81/2 beat the meet record held by Jean Melson of Tillamook (45-1), set in 1977.

"I actually already had the meet record," in the discus, Bobek said. "I PR'd my sophomore year, then I broke it last year, too. It's OK - one of these years they'll put it in there."

Her marks were "not at all what I was looking for," she said. "I actually throw better when it's raining or cloudy."

Joining Bobek at state will be teammates Clara Weidman (second in the discus) and Charlene Harber (second in the shot put with a 38-7).

"I was really excited for both," Bobek said. "Like when Jamie (Coggins) went last year, it's a lot of fun to have somebody else there with you."

Meanwhile, Bobek will be gunning for her fourth straight state titles in both events. She is such a heavy favorite that winning more first-place medals is not even her primary goal.

"That's not really my goal," she said. "I really just want to throw farther than I have been. I just want to do my best."

Astoria coach Lynn Jackson said, "Laura was disappointed with her performance, but like I've told her, that's what all the hard work and dedication is for - so you can get to the point when you have an off-day, you're still good enough to win."

Harber will again be a favorite in both the long jump and triple jump events.

Her winning marks in this year's league meet were 16-11 in the long jump, 34-33/4 for the triple.

And Harber is still on the mend from a slight hamstring pull.

"She's still nursing a tight hamstring," Jackson said. "It gets real tight on her, so hopefully a week off and some U of O trainers stretching her out will help us."

Finishing second behind Harber in both events was Seaside's Jamie Osburn, who soared 33-5 in the triple jump.

Also heading to state for Astoria will be sophomore Eleni Duret, who took third in the 300-meter hurdles with a qualifying time of 46.68 - one of the best times in the state behind league rivals Kori Bellwood of Yamhill-Carlton (46.18) and Jessica Markham of Banks (46.60).

"We had some amazing races," Jackson said. "In the girls' 300 hurdles, the top three were at 46 seconds, which is pretty good. It wouldn't surprise me if they were 1, 2 and 4 in the state, or something like that.

Astoria's Charlene Harber sails to victory in the triple jump competition Friday.

Photo by ALEX PAJUNAS - The Daily Astorian"I remember when Katrina Sentgeorge ran 52 seconds and made it to state. Sarah Pope took sixth this year with a 50.8. That race was moving."

Duret will also run with Astoria's 400-meter relay squad, along with Natasha Conelly, Melissa Law and Harber. The foursome ran a 51.13 behind Tillamook's 50.15.

The Astoria girls finished second in the team standings in last year's state meet, just one-half point behind state champion Henley.

The Fishermen could once again be right on the heels of the Hornets.

"We'll probably be seeded in the top five - in fact we could be seeded second," Jackson said. "A lot of it depends on the health of the hamstring of Charlene Harber.

"Henley is going to be tough," he said. "They just load up, and will probably be favored going into the meet. But if we show up and have a good meet, we'll be in the mix.

"We may not necessarily have a lot of people going, but they're ranked very high in their events."

Berkman wins twiceSeaside - which won a state title in 2001 - is a long shot, but could be in the mix on the boys' side.

The Gulls literally jumped their way to four individual victories, including two for Elrycc Berkman (high jump and long jump, where he soared 20-11/2), while Justin Laird and Jackson Meyer went 1-2 in the triple jump. Ben Wittman won the 300 hurdles in 42.01.

Favorite Apostolis Bakouros of Scappoose stumbled over the last hurdle, allowing Astoria's Jesse Boord to finish second in 42.42.

"It wasn't Jesse's best race, but you keep running because you never know what's going to happen," Jackson said.

With plenty of spring in his step Friday, Seaside's Elrycc Berkman pulled out victories in the long jump and high jump during the Cowapa District Meet at Pacific University in Forest Grove.

Photo by ALEX PAJUNAS - The Daily AstorianThe Gulls could also be getting more points from Cole Willyard (second in the 1,500) and Wittman (second in the 110-meter hurdles).

"Seaside had a great meet, just all around," Jackson said. "They have a lot of kids going down, and they're kind of young in general. That's what's impressive about our boys league. Banks is primarily sophomores and juniors."

Berkman placed third in the javelin, and Cory Rice and Willyard were third and fourth, respectively, in the 800.

Astoria provided a little excitement in the last race of the meet, as the boys' 1,600 relay squad of Boord, Alex Eterno, Justin Gagnon and Alex Smalley finished less than a second behind Banks for a spot at the state meet.

"You run a mile, and only a second-and-a-half separates you and two others - that was an exciting race for us," Jackson said.

"Over the course of the day, we actually had 27 PRs," he added. "So it was a sound meet. We had some slips that we didn't anticipate, but some others made up for it.

"If you want to look at the best meet performance, it was Daniel Mathre, who had a two-foot PR in the triple jump, a three-foot PR in the javelin, and he also had a foot-and-a-half PR in the long jump. He had six feet in PRs."

Mayfield interview:

Bobek interview: