Mason Sallee is trying to keep a streak going for the Federal Way High School track and field team.
A Federal Way jumper has won the past three 4A state triple jump titles, including Sallee last year. He’ll try to qualify for state in that event on Saturday, but on Thursday he qualified in the long jump, winning the 4A West Central District title with a leap of 22 feet, 9 inches at French Field in Kent.
Sallee has the best long jump in the 4A classification this year to go alongside his state-best triple jump mark of 47-11 3/4 he set at the Oregon Relays. He didn’t qualify for state in the long jump last year.
“Now that the long jump has become a factor, it’s actually helped me get better in the triple jump,” Sallee said.
The top seven in each event qualified for the 4A state championships, which begin Thursday, May 26, at Mount Tahoma Stadium.
Sallee won the state triple jump title last year. Tyson Penn was at Federal Way when he won the triple jump title in 2014. And former Federal Way athlete Keenan Curran won it in 2013.
Sallee still fondly recalls his sophomore year, when all three competed for Federal Way together, and how Curran and Penn helped shape Sallee not just into the athlete he is now but also as a team leader.
“As soon as I won as a junior, I knew I wanted to be a two-time state champion,” Sallee said. “But the fact I could add to Federal Way’s legacy and make it a four-time triple jumping school definitely added to it.
“I wouldn’t say there’s pressure because I know I have the ability to do it. I’m ready to go and I’m ready to do it. This year will be about hitting a (personal best), not just win. I need to PR,” he laughed.
Federal Way coach Chris Williams said Sallee is capable of competing at the Division-I level for track and field next year, and he’s considering some Pac-12 offers.
But it was after that sophomore season that Sallee said a switch flipped.
“There was a point in time when I was getting yelled at for not practicing hard enough,” Sallee said. “It finally clicked. Once I started practicing hard, I started seeing the results. I finally started really taking it seriously and practicing hard. Practice, practice, practice, practice — it’s key.
He is also, for the first time, competing on Federal Way’s state-best 4x100 relay team. It didn’t hit its PR Thursday of 42.23 seconds, which it set last week, and that allowed defending state champion Graham-Kapowsin to edge Federal Way for first place in 42.35 seconds.
Graham-Kapowin’s relay features 6-foot-5 Chukwudi Onwumere and his younger brother, 6-foot-7 Nonso Onwumere. Chukwudi, who goes by J.C. and whose parents were born in Nigeria, also won the 100 in 10.97 seconds.
Aaron Wright, a Central Washington-bound football player, is also part of that relay. His 5-foot-9 stature was dwarfed by the Onwumere brothers when he stood between them after the race.
“They have God-given talent,” Wright said.
“A lot of people think I’m slow just because I’m tall,” J.C. said. “You don’t think a big object is going to move that fast.”
The most stunning development of the day was in the girls triple jump, which didn’t include Curtis sophomore Alexis Ellis, who holds the fifth-best mark nationally at 41-9 1/4 (as of Thursday).
She scratched on each of her three attempts in the 4A SPSL meet last weekend, so she didn’t qualify for this week’s district meet. That means she won’t compete in state, either.
“I, like, went into shock,” Ellis said. “It was just such an off day. Never scratched three times before, but I guess it happens.
“My mind just went completely blank. But then I started laughing. I was like ‘this is not happening.’ I couldn’t even believe it was happening.”
Saudia Heard, the defending 4A state champion, won the district triple jump title Thursday with a leap of 37-10, edging Kentwood’s Brittany Woke, who hit 37-05.
But Ellis is also competing in the long jump and as part of Curtis’ 4x100 relay team, which won the district title on Thursday in 48.81 seconds to edge second-place Tahoma — which was hoping to top its PR of 47.13 (the third-best time in state history) and beat the state record.
“When you are that close to the record, you have to get it,” said Tahoma’s Tierra Wilson, who competes alongside her freshmen twin sisters Aliya “Nami” Wilson and Alisha “Miya” Wilson.
Clinching a trip to state was pretty cool, too.
“Oh yeah, it’s so exciting,” Tierra Wilson said. “We’re like a bunch of little children. That’s the first thing we’re excited about. Then it’s us trying to overachieve and want to beat the state record.”
1A Southwest District track and field championships
The Cruisers cruised to two district titles. Eatonville’s boys (89 points) and girls (136) swept the team competitions at Tumwater District Stadium on Thursday night.
Josehia Hotz won the boys 400 (51.88), while Ray Springer secured an individual title in the long jump (21- 1/2).
The girls team won titles in two relays. Natasha Henley, Alexa Graddy, Skyler Simon and Brailee VandenBoom won the 4x100 (51.79), and then they went on to win the 4x200 (1:50.03), as well.
VandenBoom has qualified for the 1A state meet in four events. She rounded out her night with a first-place finish in the high jump (5-2) and second-place finish in the 200 (26.9). Madeline Madison also took first in the pole vault (8-0).
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Staff writer Lauren Smith contributed to this report.