I had a chance to get to the District 9 meet in Clarkston yesterday, mainly by ignoring my usual activities like work. It wasn't the best weather for a meet-the wind was definitely a factor, gusting to 20 mph-but I'm sure the athletes weren't complaining about the mid-60 temperatures. Almost any of the seniors can rattle off a list of races where the skies soaked them with 35 degree rain, pelted them with hail, or lit up the skyline with lightning. A little wind can be tolerated pretty easily, even a headwind into the home stretch.
I snuck in early, Goldfish in hand for the Asotin gang, and settled into the stands to watch Coach Sal Lopez directing the kids on getting the field events set up. He had them organized and the 'work' ended early, leading to a couple of athletes tossing a football in the infield. Turns out that the girls can throw a pretty tight spiral.
The meet started on schedule with a unique opening by Lucas Johnson, one of the English teachers at Asotin (most of the volunteers were Asotin teachers and parents since they were hosts.) I pestered him, and he agreed to let me print it, so it's below, in its entirety.
“Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome this fine spring day to the district 9 1B/2B track meet. I am the illustrious and ever-humble DJ Johnson, the voice of Panther Athletics. Join me and my melodious voice as I narrate the trials and tribulations of the dozens of talented athletes you see before you today. You can expect to see running in an oval pattern, various dangerous projectiles being hurled (usually in a safe direction) and even those brave souls who hurl THEMSELVES forward in gravity-defying acts of valor. It is my hope that you will make some noise as these athletes battle gladiator-style for honor, prestige and glory with the ferocity of warriors, but with the respect, sportsmanship, camaraderie and humility that makes the events of track and field all the more special and unique. Give these fine folks a hand!”
Probably a good time to slip in a disclaimer. I'll be doing these posts this year in preparation for setting up a website to do cross country. Essentially, these are practice posts. It took something over a nanosecond but less than ten minutes of the meet to figure out that track and field can't be covered by one person. I didn't get to all the events and, since I'm not yet very good with my new camera, I have some pictures but not many really good ones.
On to racing. The first race was the lady's 4x200m relay. Asotin won the race but the athletes battled for the remaining placements. Pictured are of TO-GP in the yellow unis, with of St. John to the right and WWVA in maroon to the left at the second exchange. It was the first of a host of solid hand-offs. No one dropped a baton or missed a handoff in the transition zone all afternoon.
Field events were going on simultaneously. I missed a lot of these, unfortunately, though I did watch some of the discus (my event in high school) while the women's 3200m race was under way.
The 3200m was a little thin on competitors with Heather Siegel of St. John winning, a result she's familiar with. Several of the Asotin runners that normally participate were spread out in other events. WWVA didn't have a runner in the 3200m, nor did Rosalia. (Rosalia, which used to be part of the TOR - Tekoa, Oakesdale, Rosalia - has formed their own team this year. Garfield and Palouse join Tekoa and Oakesdale to round out their side, hence the TO-GP.) Zoe Robertson of TO-GP took second place.
Men's and women's hurdles came next. I always considered hurdles to be the NASCAR part of a track meet. Lots of speed and grace, with a constant threat of catastrophe lingering. Part of playing around with the camera led to the discovery that head-on pictures of hurdlers are tough to nail and a good side on picture can be pretty darned good. Even if it was a "what the heck" attempt from the far side of the track. No disasters to record. Walla Walla Valley is very strong in the hurdles with Wesley Hendrickson and Abbie Underhill winning both the high and intermediate hurdles.
Back to discus. Results were announced and Asotin dominated both the men's and women's result. Coach Sal Lopez, a former collegiate thrower proves that he has a knack for imparting the technique to his younger athletes. Dirk Whitmore won with a nice throw of 131'6", edging his teammate Jacob Swearingen. Piper Loop won the women's side with a hurl of 104'10".
Over in the long jump pit, Nate Prior won both the long jump and triple jump on the men's side. The women were split, with Abbie Underhill winning the long jump to complete a trio of first place finishes while Olivia Pakootas of TO-GP edged her out in the triple jump.
TO-GP women javelin throwers came close to matching the standard set by the Asotin discus throwers. Annie Bailey of St. John-Endicott won but the next five placements were all TO-GP. The Asotin men toss javelins nearly as well they do the disc with Dirk Whitmore winning with a throw of 145'3" and the Asotin men taking the top three slots.
The most competitive race of the day took place in the women's 800m. The two young ladies paced each other around the track and jockeyed for the lead coming out of the final turn with Madeline Eggleston swinging wide to pass her sister, Lucy Eggleston. Lucy matched the kick, though and won by a half second. The next finisher, Katarina Stephenson of Asotin, was 17 seconds back of the Eggleston sisters, holding off Katie Holbrook of TO-GP.
The duel between Katarina and Katie was a repeat of the 1600m. Both of these runners are underclassmen so we should have a lot more to look forward to over the next couple of years. Lucy Eggleston won the 1600m in a time of 5:42.
The men's side was far less competitive with Chandler Teigen winning handily in both the mile and 800m. Asotin took the top three spots in the 800m and the top four in the 1600m with Thomas Weakland placing second 800m, and Brian Strobel and Spencer Williams taking second and third respectively in the 1600m.
The top three finishers in the 100m, 200m, and 400m for the men followed the same pattern. Eli Richardson of Rosalia won all three, closely followed by Caleb Atkins of Walla Walla Valley. Chasing them in all three races was Jacob Koerperich of Asotin.
The women's races were a little more diverse. Julia Ristau won the 100m while Rebecca Reyes of WWVA took second, beating out her teammate, Rachel Thiel. Sarah Nicholas from Asotin won both the 200m and 400m with Reyes pulling another second in the 200m and Megan McCain from Asotin taking third. Second place in the 400m went to Maddie Bogenrief from TO-GP. Alyssa Hendrickson was third.
The wind made for a tough day high jumping but Olivia Pakootas, state runner-up last season, seemed to be the only one unaffected and slightly limited by gravity as she easily won the high jump to add to her win in the triple jump. Jessica Ford of Rosalia and Rose Debruin (Asotin), competing in the event this year for the first time, rounded out the field.
I somehow managed to miss the men jumping but Connor Madden (Asotin) won with two TO-GP jumpers, Tanner Dingman and Tristan Smith, pulling second and third.
The highlight of the meet, though, didn't occur in any single event. Brady McKay of Asotin raced and won the 3200 meters in 10:46. I checked with him after the race as he was grabbing his knees but he said he was just "a little tired." Understandable. What he did next was more impressive than his race.
He started cheering for his competitors, not just his teammate Brady Mulikin, but all the other athletes in the 3200m. He was loud and enthusiastic, drifting down the track to meet them as they finished. It reminded me of a small snippet from Born to Run by Christopher McDougall who tells the story of Scott Jurek, one of the truly great ultrarunners. Jurek won almost every ultra he ran but would wait at the finish line, wrapped in a sleeping bag in cold weather, to cheer every one of the competitors to the finish. He'd be out there hours after his race ended. It also reminded me of the Asotin coach, Tim Gundy, who I've had the pleasure of joining on a couple of relays teams.
Brady McKay was, whether he knew it or not-and I think not because he looked surprised when I high-fived him for being so classy-was exemplifying sportsmanship. I don't think it crossed his mind to behave any differently.
And he wasn't the only one. I saw a couple of the WWVA ladies doing the same thing. Ditto for a TO-GP runner.
And those were the ones that I saw or heard. I'm betting that others, our of my earshot, acted just as openly, honestly, and enthusiastically in supporting their fellow athletes.
This is my first effort at writing up a track meet. The plan is to build a website for cross country that will give race reports, course information, and a little bit of recognition for these young athletes throughout the Inland NW. If you like what you see, or have suggestions for making it better, please let me know. Leave a comment or send me an email at thatguy at paulduffau dot com. Just insert the appropriate symbols - many, many thanks. Paul Duffau