Bellarmine Prep's Hannah Derby scouts 400-meter competition

Staff writerMay 25, 2014 

As she has gotten older, and as she creeps closer to a bit of Washington state high school track and field history, Bellarmine Prep’s Hannah Derby has gained a whole lot of perspective.

She is the reigning three-time Class 4A girls 400-meter state champion, in pursuit of becoming the first girl in the largest-school classification to win four in a row.

But the obstacles in front of her are big (figuratively), and very young and fast (literally).

Derby got her first view of the speedy Merriweather twins from Evergreen of Vancouver. In what easily could be a preview of the state 400 finals next week at Star Track in Tacoma, Jai’lyn Merriweather won the first showdown Saturday at the close of the West Central/Southwest bidistrict championships at French Field in Kent.

The Merriweathers, both ninth-graders, swept the top two spots. Jai’lyn won in 56.41 seconds. Her sister, Dai’lyn, was second in 56.76. Derby ended up fourth in 57.97 behind chief district rival Chante Spotser of Todd Beamer (57.76), who was third.

Now before anybody overreacts to this outcome, it appeared none of the girls were really showing much in the race, waiting for when it counts next weekend at Mount Tahoma Stadium.

“Those (Merriweather) girls are good ... but I’ve run as fast as them,” Derby said. “I don’t know — we’ll see. I haven’t been fresh against them yet, so I am excited to see how it turns out.”

Federal Way swept the team titles Saturday. The Eagles’ girls, led by sprinter Hannah Cunliffe’s victories in the 100 and 200, won with 1001/2 points over Camas (73). And the boys got great balance in scoring 117 points, easily outdistancing Beamer (55) and Gig Harbor (53).

Both Federal Way teams are the defending 4A state champions.

Other highlights:

• Senior Keenan Curran will go down as one of the best leaders Federal Way has ever known. And his words got the best out of one of the emerging sophomores in the state in Tyson Penn.

Penn set the all-time sophomore triple jump mark with a personal-best 48 feet, 81/2 inches to edge Curran (47-61/2) for the bidistrict title. It also is the top mark in the state this spring.

“Keenan pushes me to a certain point where I have to do that,” Penn said. “He knows the things to say to make me work hard — inspirational words. I felt nice. I felt everything worked ... in all phases.”

• The last thing the state’s best sprinters need is to see Cunliffe mad and motivated.

In the blocks for the girls 100 finals Saturday, an official’s gun signaled a false start — and Karis Cameron, Cunliffe’s teammate, was disqualified.

Cunliffe blistered the field, winning in 11.78. A couple of hours later, she recorded a season best and the state’s fastest time in the 200 in 24.29.

“I always notice false starts and flinches ... and I didn’t see anything,” Cunliffe said. “I was upset. I threw my hand down on the track right before I got in the blocks, I was so angry. This will definitely motivate me to run better.”

• Rogers’ Eric Simpson and Emerald Ridge’s ShaRaya Quinn still rule the high hurdles in the WCD. Both came away with convincing victories — with Simpson winning the 110 hurdles in 14.34 and Quinn claiming the 100 hurdles in 14.47.

Quinn was not close to her personal-best time of 14.21 in Friday’s preliminaries, which not only set a school record, but turned out to be a top-10 all-time mark in Washington.

“I was really tired. My legs are tired,” Quinn said. “I had a long day (Friday) — four races in 31/2 hours.”

• Then there was Camas phenom Alexa Efraimson, who stole the show Friday with a 4:37.85 in the girls 1,600 on Friday — an all-time record.

A day later, she stayed right behind Central Kitsap’s Rose Christen for the first lap, then ran away with a win in the 800 — in 2:06.03, her best time ever.

“I felt bouncy ... and pretty fresh (after the 1,600),” Efraimson said. “Earlier in the season, I would feel flat. But I am feeling good and getting into that rhythm again.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442

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