Puyallup: Sports

Under-the-radar Thacker takes 2nd in girls 4A 800-meter

Rogers High’s Malaina Thacker, center, competes in the 1,600-meter during Star Track XXXIV at Mount Tahoma High School on Saturday.
Rogers High’s Malaina Thacker, center, competes in the 1,600-meter during Star Track XXXIV at Mount Tahoma High School on Saturday. jbessex@gateline.com

Malaina Thacker has a plan.

It’s one that even surprises Rogers High girls track and field coach Ken Zentz from time to time. Before every race, Thacker and Zentz put their heads together. They call it goal-setting.

It’s a practice Zentz does with all his girls, but it’s something always stands out with Thacker.

“She always has a plan,” Zentz said. “Not just have a plan, but she has the ability to go out and execute that plan during the race. I’ve never coached someone like her, who can understand what I’m talking about, and then go use it right away while it’s happening.”

Thacker used that plan to near perfection Saturday in the Class 4A girls 800-meter finals, as the junior found a way take second place with a time of 2 minutes, 15.12 seconds. She also finished sixth in the 1,600 after finishing with a time of 5:02.54.

“Last year as a sophomore, I was kind of naïve coming in and just worked out with the coaches when the season started,” Thacker admitted about last year’s work ethic. “But this year, I definitely prepared a lot more.”

Preparations first started with goals.

Each week, Thacker and her teammates are required to hand Zentz a goal card. It’s a little device to help her focus on the short term while building toward the long term.

“I’ve trained a long harder,” she said. “I definitely done more endurance this year, (as) last year I kind of just relied on my speed more than anything. This year, I feel I can hold (my top speed) a lot longer.”

That work paid off in the finals of the 800, as Thacker used the final 200 meters to pass both Central Valley runners Anna Pecha (third, 2:15.12) and Briegan Bester (fourth, 2:16.02), but ran out of track before nearly eclipsing event winner Sami Corman (2:14.67) of Issaquah.

“She knows exactly what to do when, and who to keep her pace with during a race,” Zentz said. “That what she did in that race.”

Thacker often falls under the radar on Rogers track team, but after her exploding onto the scene on the final day of Star Track XXXIV, it will be hard for her to be overlooked any longer.

“Honestly, placement doesn’t matter to me, as long as I get better,” Thacker said. “I just plan to get better each week, taking it one (day) at a time.”

With another year left, the best is yet to come from the young Rams runner.

Thacker wasn’t the only Ram to reach the podium over the weekend, as Nick Bullo finished in seventh place in the 4A boys 300 hurdles (40.06) and the girls 4x100 relay team took third (48.88).