The Gig Harbor girls track team may not be quite as deep as some of the best squads coach Kevin Eager has had in the past, but where the team lacks quantity, it makes up for tenfold with quality.
Two girls on the team, in particular, are already establishing themselves as some of the state’s best ever.
Junior Hannah Carroll won the Class 3A state championship in the 400-meters last season, clocking in at a personal record 55.52 seconds.
That put her well ahead of second place finisher Tessa Fujisaki from Redmond High, who finished at 57.85 seconds.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Carroll’s time last spring put her in the Top-30 all time in the event’s history in Washington state. The fastest time was set by Gig Harbor’s own Ericka Harris in 1981: 51.45 seconds.
Carroll knew she had a shot at the title last season, but maybe didn’t expect to be quite as dominant as she was in the event.
“There were some really good competitors,” Carroll said. “I knew going into it, this was going to be a really tough race. I just gave it all to God and asked him to carry me through it. I was really excited but I was also really nervous. It was a big experience, especially being a sophomore. I can’t even put it into words how amazing it felt, knowing all my hard work paid off and knowing that I just gave it to God.”
Eager said Carroll has a unique work ethic to pair with her natural ability.
Before the West Central District III meet last spring, Carroll was emotional before the races even got going.
“She’s such a high achiever,” Eager said. “She was literally broken down crying before districts last year, because she has so much desire to be awesome. It’s like a fountain, every pore is excellence.”
Carroll was supposed to take it easy that day in the 400 meters, and run hard in the 200 meters. She went on post a 55.66 in the 400, blowing away the competition.
“She went out and hammered it,” Eager said. “And it wasn’t her defying what we wanted to do — it was an emotional release.”
Maybe it’s what makes Carroll so good. She’s tough on herself. She demands perfection from herself.
“She’s the most coachable kid I’ve ever had,” Eager said. “I’ve had so many awesome kids here. She’s a level above, in terms of coachability. She does everything I ask her to do. She’s such a perfectionist, I’ve had to get her to lighten up a little bit. She just doesn’t want to let anyone down.”
That drive, barring any injury setbacks, is sure to get Carroll back onto the podium in the 400 again this year. She’s also competing in the 200 and 800 events, as well as participating in relays.
“The main thing for me is just to stay healthy and compete,” Carroll said. “Compete for myself, and not put too much pressure on myself.”
Carroll isn’t the only returning state champion. Senior Hadassah Ward, who will be throwing at Eastern Washington University next season, is a two-time returning shot put champion, winning the past two seasons. She’s hoping to win the discus state title this year also, after taking fourth a season ago.
“I want to go for both,” Ward said. “Right now, I’m ahead of where I was last season.”
Ward has naturally gravitated toward shot put since middle school, but believes she can win both this year.
“There’s little things that I need to fix with technique,” Ward said. “But most of it is there.”
Shot put remains her bread and butter, though. Ward’s motivation this season, with the competition scarce? The all-time state record: 51 feet, 4 inches, set by Shorecrest’s Lynette Matthews in 1971. Ward threw 44’ 4.5” to win the title last year.
“If I get the technique down, start weightlifting and getting stronger, I think I can get it down and throw it that far,” she said.