A clean pass of the baton can make a relay team.
Graham-Kapowsin High School’s 4x100 relay team is built for speed. That baton part has been the work in progress.
But it all came together Thursday on the opening day of the 4A West Central District track and field championships at French Field in Kent. That G-K team comprised of Aaron Wright, Kevin Dudley, Luke White and Chukwudi Onwumere finished in first place with a season-best time of 42.08 seconds to secure a trip to next week’s state championships.
“We can all run fast legs,” said Dudley, who also owns the third-best 100-meter time in the state at 10.74. He finished second in the 100 on Thursday to Rogers’ Kyler Ooley.
“But it’s just about passing the baton.”
Dudley runs the second leg of G-K’s now third-best-in-the-state 4x100 relay team.
It’s the first year the four have run together.
Kentwood has the state’s second-best time, but its strategy is different from Graham-Kapowsin’s. Bailey Paladin is the fastest, so he runs the Conquerors’ anchor leg; Connor Benson starts it off; Brandon Stribling runs the second leg; and Kaleb Swain runs the final corner before handing the baton to Paladin.
“We want our fastest guy at the end,” Stribling said. “We want to finish it strong.”
Kentwood holds the state’s second-fastest time (at 42.07 seconds) but finished second to Graham-Kapowsin on Thursday at 42.13.
“At the beginning of the season, we kind of exploded and did better than we thought we would,” Paladin said. “Then we kind of mellowed out. Right here, it’s like a jump again.
“But hopefully we haven’t hit the ground yet and we keep it going into state.”
The difference for Kentwood on Thursday, like G-K, was all in the baton.
“We call it gelling,” Benson said. “A good or bad handoff can be the difference between going to state and not.”
Federal Way girls track and field coach Quinn Gillis said he would have been happy if Mariyah Vongsaveng got past the fourth hurdle in Thursday’s 100-meter hurdles race.
Despite a strained quadriceps muscle in her left leg, Vongsaveng, who has won a state hurdles title in each of her previous three years, finished in first place in 14.81 seconds to qualify for the state meet for a fourth time.
“I got off of the blocks and my leg kind of tightened up pretty bad,” Vongsaveng said. “I was hurting the entire race. My momentum carried me, through.”
She clipped the last hurdle, lunged into the finish and dropped to her back after crossing.
Gillis carried Vongsaveng to a trainer’s table underneath the grandstands.
“Just … she’s got a heart, man,” Gillis said. “She is just a tough kid.”
She learned early this week that what she thought was a cramp in her quad suffered early in the 100-meter hurdles race in last week’s 4A SPSL championships was really a strained quad.
Vongsaveng said the pain level was between 8½ and 9 (out of 10) during Thursday’s race.
“I was worried, but I would rather, I don’t know. … I would rather give it my all,” Vongsaveng said. “Whether I fell or hit the hurdle, I would have left with my dignity even if I finished last, as long as I finished the race.
“If I had to crawl to get there, I would have.”
Federal Way’s Chico McClatcher jumped 22 feet, 10 inches on his first long jump attempt, but scratched on each of his next two jumps because of what he said was tightness in his hamstring.
He still advanced to state, placing third. Kentwood’s Stribling took first with a mark of 23-9½ that toppled McClatcher’s previous state-best effort set last week at 23-7½.
“Two weeks ago I was trying to recover from it and then last week I jumped really good,” said McClatcher, a University of Washington football signee. “It came back a little bit today, but I’ll be cool for next week.”
The injury kept him out of the 4x100 relay and Federal Way missed the state cut with an eighth-place finish. The top six in each event advanced to state.
Alexis Ellis set the state’s top mark in the triple jump.
Ellis’ top triple-jump mark — and what would be a state freshman record at 42 feet, 5¼ inches — doesn’t appear as the top mark in the state on Athletic.net because an employee of the site wrote in an email to Curtis coach Sarah Hannula last week, “that is a very unlikely jump.”
Ellis jumped 41 feet Thursday to take first place in the district meet and advance to state.
Even without her 42-5¼, Ellis’ 41-foot triple jump she set Thursday is still the state’s top mark.
“After today, he should have to validate that mark,” Hannula said. “But if he doesn’t, there are a lot of people here who said they are going to be contacting him.”
David Johnson, who works for Athletic.net, responded to an email last week from Hannula. The coach was inquiring as to why the mark Ellis set at the Lake Washington Invitational was not appearing as the state’s best (and at the time the nation’s best) on Athletic.net.
Johnson said it was because Ellis, a freshman, had beat her personal record by three feet and that it would have had her leading the country in the event by two feet.
“That never happens,” Johnson wrote. “If she’s truly made a breakthrough and can magically jump that far, then she’ll do it again and we’ll revisit this.”
Johnson had not responded to an email from The News Tribune sent May 15.
Ellis said that her 41-foot mark set Thursday was more satisfying for herself than anything.
“I’m really happy with the way I jumped today,” Ellis said. “The 41 was definitely nice validation for me.”
The Bellarmine Prep girls 4x100 relay team took first place with a time of 48.81 seconds, a personal record for the quartet and now one of the state’s top times. … The Lions finished the day with the team lead at 48 points to Curtis’ 34. … Tahoma held the lead on the boys team side with 47 points to South Kitsap’s 43. … The district meet finishes Saturday at French Field.