All-Region boys track and field: Resilient Phillips garners top honor

Disappointment doesn't stop Prairie star at state meet

By Micah Rice, Columbian sports editor



It was a big disappointment by the smallest of margins.

James Phillips entered the 2014 state track and field championships with the fastest time in the 110 hurdles among Class 3A athletes.

All-Region boys track and field team

Athlete of the year

James Phillips, sr., Prairie

Phillips ranked among the state's best in the 110-meter hurdles, 300 hurdles and long jump, winning district titles in those events. He placed second at state in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the long jump.

Rest of the All-Region team

JASON BRACKEN, SR., PRAIRIE: 3A district champ in discus and high jump, also top 3 in shot put and javelin. Fourth at state in shot put.

KYLE DEGRAAFF, SR., LA CENTER: 1A state champion in 800 meters, second in 1,600 meters at state meet.

MARCUS GAYLOR, SR., COLUMBIA RIVER: Third in the 100 and 200 at 3A state. District champ in both events.

PEYTON FREDRICKSON, JR., SKYVIEW: Placed third at 4A state meet in high jump with leap of 6-6.

RYAN GUNTHER, JR., CAMAS: Placed second at 4A state in 300 hurdles. District champion in 110 hurdles and 300 hurdles.

BAILEY KING, SO., UNION: Won 4A district titles in shot put and discus. Placed fourth in discus at state.

LUKE MIDDELSTADT, SR., PRAIRIE: Won 3A state title in pole vault, clearing 15 feet, 3 inches.

DEVIN MURPHY, SR., HERITAGE: 4A district champ in the long jump and triple jump. Sixth in long jump at state meet.

KEATON SPILLER, SR., HERITAGE: 4A district champ in 400, 800 and 1,600. Finished eighth in state in 800.

ELI WHITMIRE, JR., WOODLAND: 1A state champion in long jump, fourth in triple jump at state.

PETER ZALK, SR., PRAIRIE: Second in 110 hurdles at 3A state, sixth in pole vault at state.

In his state preliminary heat, Phillips got off to a slow start. It wasn't a big mistake, but enough in a race in which every fraction of second counts. The Prairie senior missed qualifying for the finals by one-thousandth of a second.

Many athletes would have sulked, but Phillips rallied. Shortly after that race, he changed the background screen on his iPhone to a quote by Steve Prefontaine:

"To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."

Phillips' best was on full display over the next two days at the state meet. He placed second in the 300 hurdles and sixth in the long jump.

This season, Phillips ranked among the state's best in the 110 hurdles, 300 hurdles and long jump, winning district titles in those three events. For his efforts, he is The Columbian's All-Region boys track and field athlete of the year.

Though Phillips didn't leave the state meet with a finalist's medal in the 110 hurdles, the way he rebounded after that opening-day setback is something he'll cherish for a lifetime.

"It's not how many times you get knocked down, it's how many times you get back up," Phillips said. "You hear that a lot, but it really means so much more when you've had something to go through. … I hope it's a reflection of my character, or at least what I'm working towards and the man I want to be."

Phillips will attend Concordia University in Portland on a basketball scholarship, but plans to be on the track team as well.

A devout Christian, Phillips said faith plays a large role in his athletic success. He said even when God-given talent isn't enough to win, simply doing your best glorifies those gifts.

"Walking away from my different events, I can tell myself that I did my best," Phillips said. "I left it all on the table."