Federal Way high sweeps 4A boys, girls titles at Star Track

Staff writerMay 31, 2014 

About the only close Star Track XXXII moment in the Class 4A team chase came at the end of the three-day meet at Tacoma's Mount Tahoma Stadium.

And Federal Way barely edged ... well, Federal Way.

After they spent the first two days distancing themselves from the rest of the state in their respective divisions, the Eagles boys' and girls' only competition was between themselves Saturday.

The boys edged the girls, 73-72. Both went out big winners regardless.

It had happened only one other time – 1985 – when the two teams from Garfield High School defended their 4A crowns. The Eagles now join that short list.

“Everyone showed up,” Eagles star sprinter and now two-time 4A champion (100, 200) Hannah Cunliffe said, “and did their jobs.”

Across the board, the 2014 state track and field championships will go down as one of the best meets – for times, records and career achievements.

The Bellevue boys and Kamiakin girls were three-peat champions in the 3A team race. In fact, behind Ellie Heiden’s 11th and 12th career track titles, the Braves broke their 3A girls meet record for points scored (123).

With victories in the Class 4A boys 100 meters (10.76 seconds) and 200 (21.38), Wenatchee’s Isaiah Brandt-Sims became the first boy in any classification to win those two state races in four consecutive seasons.

Then came the latest jaw-dropper by Camas standout Alexa Efraimson, this time in the 4A girls 800 finals. Chased closely by Central Kitsap’s Rose Christen for most of the race, Efraimson finally pulled away to win in 2:04.10 – the fastest time by a high school girl this season.

For Federal Way, it was one wild ride this spring – one that started a year ago when both squads sent out retiring coach Sam Beesley as a winner.

Chris Williams was hired as the Eagles' boys coach, and Quinn Gillis became the new girls coach. Between the two teams, seven new assistant coaches were brought on board.

“We lost 67 points from that boys squad that won (in 2013), but we had the majority of our girls back,” Gillis said. “We held a ton of coaches meetings to sit down and figure out what else we could do to put our athletes in a position to have success.”

They began trying some of their standouts in other events. Keenan Curran picked up the 300 hurdles. Tyson Penn added the triple jump.

“They kind of gave us the freedom to gauge what we could do and couldn’t do,” Curran said. “They trusted our decision-making ... and we managed to put it back together.”

The race of the day was the 4A girls’ 800. As Efraimson made her move during the first lap, Christen stayed right with her.

As they made their way into the final turn, Efraimson – who set the national 1,600 record Thursday night – began creating separation.

“She did an amazing job,” Efraimson said. “So I wasn’t surprised.”

Christen finished in 2:05.64, which would have been the state-meet record had it not been for Efraimson. “I used up every single thing I had,” Christen said. “It was a blur down the back stretch.”

Meanwhile, the Lincoln High Abes had plenty to be proud of Saturday in the Class 3A boys meet, finishing third behind the Wolverines and Nathan Hale.

And they crowned a pair of state champions in seniors Therron Randle (300 hurdles) and Ahmaad Rorie (triple jump).

With contrasting degrees of background – Randle has been a four-year member of the Abes, and Rorie came out of track for the first time this spring – both still handled their finals like professionals.

Midway through his 300 hurdles face, Randle began pulling away from the field. He won in 38.15, a personal best, and became the school’s first state hurdles champion since Dave Williams in 1966.

“During warm-ups on the field, I was shaking I was so nervous,” Randle said. “Once I started going over the hurdles during the race, I got comfortable ... and I started thinking in my head, ‘This was going to be something great.’”

In the triple jump, Rorie was the leader through preliminaries. On his second jump of the finals, he went 47 feet, 2 3/4 inches – also a personal best.

Rorie said he is considering doing track at the University of Oregon in addition to playing basketball.

“I am just happy I won.” Rorie said. “That was my main goal in the beginning of the year ... was to win triple jump at state.”

Todd Milles: 253-597-8442; todd.milles@thenewstribune.com; @ManyHatsMilles

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