Seven girls and one boy will represent Ashland High at the Class 5A state track and field meet, Thursday through Saturday at Hayward Field in Eugene.




The busiest Grizzly will be junior Jordan Kling, who will compete in four events: the 100-meter dash, the 200, the long jump and the 4x400 relay. But Ashland's best chance to come away with a state title might be in the distance races. Juniors Matt Miner and Aria Hemphill both are considered title contenders in the 800.




Hemphill took fourth in the girls' 4A race last year in 2 minutes, 19.06 seconds and has the second-best qualifying time this year (2:22.04). Miner didn't qualify for state in 2006, but enters this year's race with the fifth-best qualifying time (2:00.10).




"On a good day, they both could potentially win," Ashland head coach Ron Graham said after Tuesday's practice.




Hemphill's qualifying time is less than a second off the pace of the No. 1-ranked runner coming in, Hermiston's Melissa McKinley (2:21.43). The girls' 800 also should be one of the most competitive distance races at state, with the top seven qualifyers separated by just four seconds.




"The field is pretty darn tight and the first through fifth seeds are pretty close," Graham said. "Really, it's anybody's race. (Hemphill's) pretty consistent with her speed. Her strategy is to out-gut them."




Miner, equipped with a big finishing kick, likely will implore a different tactic.




"That's a new facet of his game," Graham said of Miner's ability to finish strong. "If they have a slower first lap, that would benefit him."




Also competing at state for Ashland will be Haley Beal in the 3,000, Savannah Julian in the triple jump and Paulina Belsky in the pole vault. Freshman Carolyn Thomas and junior Mya Kass join Kling and Hemphill to make up Ashland's 4x400 relay team, which enters the meet with the sixth-best qualifying time (4:07.25).




Kling enters the meet with the fourth-best mark in the long jump (16-feet, 11&

65279;1/4 inches), the fifth-best time in the 200 (26.01) and the 10th-best time in the 100 (13.10). Her best shot at a state title is probably in the long jump. Though Kling's top mark this year is well short of the top-qualifier's (Ashley Potter of Thurston leaped 17-8 3/4), Kling jumped 17-6 as a freshman and has scratched in several 17-plus jumps this season.




"She's at the peak of her game right now and she's really coming around," Graham said.




Beal is ranked eighth in the 3,000 (11:15.47) and Julian, whose appendix was removed only weeks before her second-place jump at districts, is ranked 10th (32-10).




Belsky took a non-traditional road to Eugene. The junior walked into the AHS athletic office about a month ago asking if it was too late to join the track team. Graham, who happened to be standing there, let her join and quickly taught her how to pole vault. A well-trained gymnast, Belsky quickly picked up the discipline and wound up second at districts after clearing 7-4.




"It was completely wide open for somebody to take the second spot," Graham said, "and she took advantage of it."




Three-day state meet tickets cost $20 for adults and $14 for students; two-day tickets cost $13 and $9. The complete schedule of events is at .




Sports editor can be reached at 482-3456 x 224 or joe.