Freshman Karlee Stueckle’s shadow is only starting to grow, and by the time she’s done with her prep career, that shadow could encompass the state.
This isn’t some story about an Emerald Ridge High hurdler for the Jaguar track team. No, this is one about an athlete seeking greatness between the lanes.
Everything about Stueckle’s track season has led up to this single point in her young career — the start of the journey of champion in year one as a freshman. And if records fall along the way, so be it.
“Yeah, I want to break the freshman records,” Stueckle said last week at practice. “I’m competitive … I want those records and to win (state) titles.”
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Coming into this week, Stueckle ranks third in state in Class 4A in the 300-meter hurdles (43.68 seconds), and she’s ranked tenth in the 100 hurdles (15.29).
Stueckle’s 300 hurdles time of 43.68 seconds is the nation’s second-ranked time for a freshman, which she set Saturday at the West Central District 3 meet. Stueckle finished her heat far ahead of her competition.
“I felt good from the start … I had a real strong start that had me feel like I was cruising,” Stueckle said. “(This) week’s going to have tougher competition.”
This weekend at Mount Tahoma Stadium is where the Class 4A track and field state championship will take place. As the top track stars gather for a chance at glory, Stueckle is aiming for her first shot.
This year was never about greeting the future challengers — it was always about showing that anyone who wanted to challenge Stueckle from here on out will have a fight.
“She’s super competitive,” Emerald Ridge coach Robert Frey said. “All our hurdles team is, as they all want to beat each other … it’s just Karlee has that mentality you want to see as a coach. She believes she’s going to win now.”
If she wins big, she casts a very large shadow over the competition in the future.
“I’m ready for it,” Stueckle said.
There’s no doubting that. The bigger question is whether the state’s ready for her.
Emerald Ridge’s Matthew Wells is set for state in the 110-meter hurdles this weekend. After finishing in third place (14.65) at districts over the weekend, Wells set a new personal best as well as eclipse the state’s top-ten rankings (No. 10).
“I feel loose … I’m just ready for tougher competition,” Wells said. “But I feel like I have hit better times at practice than at meets.”
That’s where Wells reversed the trend at districts when he recorded his best time of the season. If that momentum can carry over to state, he’ll be set to move up the leaderboard.
“If I can take what I do out here at practice, then I feel I could place at state,” Wells said.
Rogers High just might have something with long distance runner Malaina Thacker. After the sophomore picked up a first-place finish in the 800-meter with a time of 2 minutes, 15.49 seconds, she has pushed herself to the No. 7-ranked sprinter in the event.
Now as the talent rises at state, it’s time for the Ram sprinter to step up and prove she belongs on the podium come Saturday.
“(The competition) is definitely intimidating, but I think if I continue focusing on running my race and continue on improving myself, I think I can go far,” Thacker said.