North Medford's Drew Jordan poses with his first-place medal after winning the Class 6A 3,000. - Matthew Aimonetti

With speed to burn, Jordan takes 3,000 title

EUGENE — It would be difficult to sell someone on the notion that, once upon a time, Drew Jordan lacked speed.

Not after his convincing finish en route to the Class 6A boys 3,000-meter title at the OSAA track and field state championships Friday at Hayward Field.

Jordan blended in with the pack for 71/2; laps, then turned on the afterburners to win going away.

The two-time state cross country champion added the first track gold medal to his collection, winning in a career-best 8:40.37. His previous record was 8:42.70.

Coach Piet Voskes remembers when Jordan was a sophomore. The coach wouldn't consider putting him on a mile relay team, for which speed is required. Not even a JV team, said the coach.

"No way," he said, shaking his head.

Now, Jordan runs on the 4x400 relay group that entered this meet with the state's best time, even though it didn't advance out of preliminaries Friday.

"This is basically a kid who has turned himself into a kid with speed," said Voskes. "It wasn't necessarily there as a freshman, but he found it, he developed it."

And he showed it off in one of the marquee races for the Southern Oregon contingent.

Like Jordan, Josh Elliott of Crater was favored in the 5A boys 3,000, but a slow pace that didn't suit his style left the event up for grabs, and he came in third behind winner Daniel Winn of Cleveland and teammate Max Runia.

Last year, Jordan was fourth in the 3,000 and seventh in the 1,500. But those less-than-desirable placings didn't motivate him for this weekend.

"I didn't focus on last year at all," he said. "Obviously, as an individual, I wanted to win. But our whole boys team, we have a shot to win the thing. That was really my motivation."

The last time a big-school Medford team won state was in 1964.

The Black Tornado is in first place after Day 1 with 19 points, getting 10 from Jordan, five from pole vaulter David Formolo and four from discus thrower Will Kunkle.

"He's a team-oriented kid," Voskes said of Jordan. "And he understands that by doing everything he can, it sets up success for the team. He finds his motivation from knowing what he's capable of and racing at that level, no matter what's happened in the past."

The game plan for Jordan, if the pace was slower than expected, was to hang with the pack until 800 meters were left.

Then it was go time, and he went.

"It was hard, but it felt pretty good, actually," he said. "I started my kick a lot earlier than I normally do, and I was paying for it the last 15, 20 meters."

He took the lead with 800 to go but turned it on with 700 left.

"He wanted to break it open and not give anyone the opportunity to sneak up on his shoulder," said Voskes.

Kevin Kavanaugh of Beaverton was second in 8:44.92.

Jordan will compete in the 1,500 today, where he'll come across competition that is fresher.

"But," said Voskes, "he's quick and he's confident, and that's a deadly combination."

Speaking of combinations, Runia and Elliott were a formidable one in the 5A race, racking up 14 points that has the Comets tied for fourth entering today.

Runia, a junior, hadn't before beaten Elliott, a senior and two-time state cross country winner.

"I was just trying to concentrate on beating him because he's the only one, running-wise, I knew," said Runia.

Winn triumphed in 9:03.35. Runia, in 9:04.18, and Elliott, in 9:04.77, were in hot pursuit.

The race pace was slow, and Runia and Elliott both thought they'd be able to adapt.

"The first lap was 80 (seconds), and just hearing that, I thought, this was setting up to be a kickers' race at the end," said Runia. "I had pretty good confidence in my kicking ability, and Josh has a really good kick."

But neither could run down Winn in the final 300 meters.

Elliott expected Winn to take the race out fast. When he didn't the Comet thought someone else would. No one did, so he was left to fend for himself in the middle of the pack.

"There was a lot of bumping and it was really slow," said Elliott. "I was a little disappointed because I wanted to run a fast time."

He didn't push the pace because, he said, "That's not my style. I never take it out."

Elliott and Runia are also in the 1,500 today.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or e-mail

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