Rachel O’Neil didn’t know if she had won the finals of the Class 4A girls 100-meter hurdles.
The Auburn Riverside junior believed she held off defending champion Sadie Sparks of Skyview at the line Friday at Mount Tahoma Stadium. But the finish was so close, she couldn’t be certain.
So, when it was confirmed to O’Neil that she was the winner, she burst with genuine emotion, hugging a stranger and screaming for joy.
“I’m just so happy,” she said between sobs. “I never thought that I was going to be No. 1 for anything.”
O’Neil won by two-hundredths of a second, winning with a time of 15.02 seconds on the second day of Star Track 30.
She led from the start, but Sparks crept closer in the final 20 meters and nearly reeled in O’Neil, who said she knew Sparks was closing on her.
“I just stayed with my rhythm,” she said, “and I wanted to make sure whoever was on my side wasn’t going to get me.”
A year after failing to qualifying for even the West Central District meet, O’Neil succeeded. All it took was a renewed dedication to training. One that included change of diet and lifestyle.
“The difference this year is that I was making sure that I passed up dances and parties to train and made sure I ate the right stuff,” she said.
The only downside to O’Neil’s victory was that she couldn’t get her first-place medal until today. A 30-minute lightning delay pushed back awards ceremonies for all the girls 100 hurdles finals.
O’Neil was one of three Auburn Riverside athletes that won state titles Friday. Brandi Williams defended her state title in the girls long jump with a mark of 19 feet, 61/2 inches, and Andrey Zadneprovskiy was first in the boys 110-meter hurdles.
Williams’ win came with plenty of drama.With one jump left, she trailed Kentwood’s Madelayne Varela.
“It was terrifying,” Williams said.
On the runway, she cleared her mind before taking off.
“Power off the board, use my form and just take it,” she said. “I got a lot of height on my jump. It kind of freaked me out because you’re not supposed to get that high.”
Her winning jump turned out to be the best in the state, regardless of classification, this season.
Zadneprovskiy’s race provided intrigue before it began when one of the favorites – Rogers’ Eric Simpson – was disqualified after a false start. On the restart, Zadneprovskiy was a surprise winner, beating four runners with faster seed times and crossing the finish line in 14.69 seconds.
Wenatchee sprinter Isaiah Brandt-Sims had no trouble in the boys 100 and 200 prelims. The defending champion in both events, the sophomore said he came into the meet with a clear idea of what to expect on and off the track.
“I’m used to the level of competition at state and the big audience,” he said. “Last year it was all new to me.”
Curtis high jumper Dakarai Hightower enjoyed a new experience, winning the boys high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 10 inches. Hightower, the state leader in the event, tried to top 7-0 but missed on all three attempts.
“Seven-feet has been elusive,” he said.
AROUND THE TRACK
Mead’s Courtney Hutchinson won her second shot put state title, winning with a throw of 44-83/4. The state leader in the triple jump, Cascade’s Tay’lor Eubanks won with a leap of 47 feet. Curtis’ Kennadi Bouyer is the top seed in the girls 100 (11.98) and 200 (24.78). The Gig Harbor boys 4x100 relay team posted the fastest time in the state when it went 42.18 in the email@example.com 253-597-8271 blog.thenewstribune.com/preps @DougPaceyTNT