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Southern Oregon owns the sprints: South Medford's Andrew Walker (100, 200), North Medford's Nathan Rider (400) combine for 3 state titles at 6A track championships

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, North Medford v. South Medford, the two fastest kids in the state.”

By René Ferrán | Photos by Taylor Balkom 

Never before in the history of the Class 6A boys track and field state championships had Southern Oregon swept the sprint titles. That changed Saturday afternoon at Hayward Field in Eugene. 

With South Medford junior Andrew Walker winning the 100 and 200 meters and North Medford senior Nathan Rider taking home the 400 title, bragging rights for the title of the state’s fastest runner headed south on Interstate 5 for the first time since Tyren Wolfe of North Medford won the 100 and 200 at the 2016 state meet.

Wolfe almost swept all three sprints, with Tigard’s Braden Lenzy denying him by 41-hundredths of a second in the 400 final.

Before that, you had to go back to 1964 and Mike Diebele to find a sprint champion from Medford. 

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, North Medford v. South Medford, the two fastest kids in the state,” Rider said before his head-to-head showdown with Walker in the 200. “I’m just excited to be a part of that.”

Just as Walker had in their six previous meetings this season, he got the best of Rider in the final, winning in 21.33 seconds (Rider ran a personal-best 21.50 in placing second) to finish the season undefeated in the event against in-state competition — his only defeat came to Patrick Ize-Iyamu Jr. of Chaminade (West Hills, Calif.) at the Arcadia Invitational.

“I just love the 200,” Walker said. “I like the curve, and it’s a little longer, so I can stride out. My curve was a little slower than I’d like today, but I made up for it on the stretch.” 

Andrew Walker South Medford Taylor Balkom

Walker also had to shrug off the disappointment of a bad handoff in the 4x100 to come back for the 100 final. It helped that he had something besides that flub to focus on as he prepared for the race.

“I’d had a couple of bad starts the past couple of weeks, so I just focused on that,” said Walker, who led wire-to-wire to win in a wind-aided 10.61. “I came out good today. I just had to hold it.”

Walker wasn’t sure entering the season that he could be a double state champion by season’s end. One meet — when he cut one-third of a second off his 2021 best in the 100 and a half-second in the 200 — was all it took to shake that doubt from his mind.

Then, his focus turned to beating Rider, whom he considered his main competition for the titles.

Meanwhile, Rider turned his focus from the 100 to the 400, an event that the Sacramento State signee hadn’t run since his freshman year.

Nathan Rider North Medford Taylor Balkom

He ended the season undefeated in the event, finishing it off in Saturday’s final by speeding out to the lead from the start, then holding off state leader Fuad Omer of Westview down the homestretch to win in a personal-best 48.96.

“I just love how it really challenges me mentally,” Rider said. “I love the feeling of utter exhaustion at the end. I love that feeling, as terrible as it is, that I can look back and say, ‘Yeah, I did that. I accomplished this in one of the hardest races to run.’”

Best photos from Day 2 of 6A, 5A, 4A Oregon high school track and field state championships