Cottage Grove, Sports Zone

Bengtson, Lions on the prowl

COTTAGE GROVE – Cottage Grove High School held its annual Wally Ciochetti Invitational for track & field last Friday, with some of the top competition in Class 4A in attendance. One of those attendees was Cottage Grove junior Carter Bengtson, who set a personal-record 4:06.56 in the boys 1500 to win the race – beating out three of the top six 1500 runners in 4A in the process.

“The plan was to just let them take it out. (Coach) Knutson told me to go at around 500, and when I saw we had one lap to go, I just went,” Bengtson said after the race. “I knew I could hold on for the last 400; I was just seeing how much they would catch up to me. But it felt pretty good, I thought that was definitely an improvement from last week, and I feel much better.”

Bengtson also has the top time in 4A in the 3000m race, but decided to focus on the 1500 at the Ciochetti Invite because of the stout competition he and his coach knew would be there. 

“We were expecting that he was gonna be able to run something faster because of what we’ve done the last couple of weeks in the 2 mile and 3200. We knew the potential was there; it was just fun to finally get in a fast 1500,” Lions head coach Ricky Knutson said. “We knew it’d be a good opportunity for him to dip under that 4:10 barrier. And I kept teasing him because he wasn’t on the top-10 board for Cottage Grove yet, but he broke through that today.”

Bengtson’s time moved him all the way up to 6th place in the all-time CGHS 1500 rankings, and it was the fastest time a Lions boy has run since Ken Scoggin in 2005. Bengtson said he still feels uncertain at times.

“Cross country I felt amazing and I felt super confident. But then, like over the wrestling season and coming into track; I don’t know – I’m finicky like that,” Bengtson said. “I did not come in with a ton of confidence. I build my confidence off of how I perform, and I’m performing well, but I still feel like I can perform better.” 

Knutson said he often notices an adjustment period coming into the spring – even if an athlete had a successful cross country season. That said, he does feel that Bengtson’s been building in the right direction this season.

“I think that sometimes the transition from winter to spring can be a little bit tough. You know, coming off wrestling, and then (Carter) went to Europe for a week for a school trip, so I think it’s just about him getting his rhythm back,” Knutson said. “I wouldn’t say (his confidence) was gone, but we are kind of reestablishing it. He’s definitely feeling good the last few weeks though.”

Cottage Grove head coach Ricky Knutson (right) gives Bengtson encouragement during Bengtson’s 1500m race.

If there’s any time for Bengtson to be feeling good, it is now. The Lions head to North Bend High School this Friday and Saturday, with the boys attempting to three-peat as Sky-Em League champs.

“We try not to talk about the outcome that much. We try to focus on the day-to-day process and just get the kids to buy into the fact that what we’ve done, it has been working. If we show up each day and we work hard … the outcome will take care of itself,” Knutson said. “The first goal is to defend the district title next week. We have to just make sure we take care of the little things because that’s gonna be tight with Marshfield. After that, we’ll kind of see.”

One week after the league championships is the state championships at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field. Bengtson, who finished third in state in the 3000 a season ago, said he still has some unfinished business at Hayward.

“I want to win the 3k at state, and that’s been a goal going into this season. And then we have our school record that I’m like eight seconds off of,” he said. “It’s basically just a second a lap, so I feel like it’s within reach. If I’m gonna hit it somewhere it’ll be at state. I want to be able to say I broke our school record as a junior.”

Although Knutson and Bengtson said the team doesn’t talk too much about overall team outcomes, the Lion boys are also trying to build off last season’s third-place finish as a team – the first team podium finish at state for Cottage Grove in 46 years.


Creswell also raced at the Wally Ciochetti Invitational. Sophomore Kylie Leonard had herself a day, recording a personal-record and 3rd-place finish in the 400, finishing 2nd in the 300m hurdles, and running on the 4×400 team that finished 3rd. … Pleasant Hill raced at Willamette last Wednesday as sophomore Ryan Thomas continued her stellar season. Thomas has the fourth-best time in Class 3A for the 100m dash, and won the event last week with a time of 12.81. Freshman Gage Roper won the 1500 for the Billie boys.



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