High School Sports

Emerald Ridge's Karlee Stueckle, the last in a trio of hurdling sisters, has etched her name in state history

Kayla Stueckle had a request for her sister, Karlee: Just wait until I can watch you set a state record in the 300-meter hurdles.

Since Karlee Stueckle's freshman season running track at Emerald Ridge High School, her family and coaches have anticipated she might work her way into the Washington record books.

It happened on Saturday, when Kayla was out of town and unable to watch her sister compete at the Class 4A South Puget Sound League championships.

Karlee Stueckle crossed the finish line in 41.76 seconds, crushing the all-time Washington state record in the event, last set by Inglemoor's Darhian Mills (42.06) in 2015.

"It had kind of been a running joke," said Kayla Stueckle, who was also standout hurdler at Emerald Ridge who compete in college for Washington. "I had a feeling it was going to happen. She's been putting in the training like crazy, and she's insanely committed to what she does.

"I knew I couldn't be there, but she's been consistently running faster times. I had a feeling with the good weather."

Last Saturday, the defending state 4A state champion in the 100 and 300 hurdles began her day like she usually does before a meet or soccer game. She had a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast, but then her routine got thrown off.

The weather was hotter than usual during warm-ups for the 300 hurdles, Karlee Stueckle said, and the meet was running behind. The hurdlers were asked to shed their sweats early to speed things up.

During her first run-through before the race, she didn't leap over the first hurdle like she usually does.

"I didn’t feel extremely ready going into (the race), but as I was getting down into blocks, everything settled in," Stueckle said.

The starting gun went off, and the race felt fast. She wasn't sure how fast, though.

Stueckle, who is also now ranked fourth in the nation in the 300 hurdles, is the only girl in state history to run the race in the 41-second range.

"That’s one of the things we’ve talked about all year is being the first girl in Washington to run in the 41s," Emerald Ridge coach Bob Frey said. "That’s a population of one person right now, which is a pretty cool club to be a part of."

When Stueckle crossed the finish line, Frey came sprinting across the infield with his stopwatch to make sure the moment was preserved.

"I didn't know until my coach called me over and told me to come tack a picture by the (electronic timing) board," Stueckle said. "I looked at him and started to tear up, like, 'Are you serious?' I had no idea."

Stueckle was sixth on the all-time list entering Saturday after running a 42.33 at last year's state championships.

She was still behind her sister, Kayla, whose 42.13 in 2009 was the 4A record for several years — and is still the all-time record among juniors.

But, after Saturday's race catapulted her to the top of the all-time list, Karlee Stueckle can forever say she was the fastest Stueckle sister in high school.

Her personal best times in the 100 hurdles (14.24) and 300 hurdles, have passed sisters Kayla and Kimmie, who both went on to compete at UW.

Stueckle said her family's group text was lighting up with excitement following the historic race.

"There was so much pride," Kayla Stueckle said. "I'm so thrilled that she did it, and to be able to watch her this weekend at districts and at the end of the month at state.

"I'm just super proud of the work she's put in these last four years. It's exciting to have that record in the family."

Frey said Karlee Stueckle's intelligence, in addition to talent, is her biggest strength in the 300 hurdles.

"She’s able to navigate this race and she knows she’s going to take 22 steps to the first hurdle," Frey said. "She knows she’s going to take 15 steps for most of the race, until she has to transition to taking 16 steps, and hopefully finish on 16.

"Most people do not have that understanding in high school of that race."

And to hold an all-time record in a sprinting event by three-tenths of a second is remarkable, Frey said.

"I knew I could beat it, but I didn’t think I would beat it by so much the first time," Stueckle said. "I didn't think I would go under by so much."

Stueckle and Frey are still fine-tuning with two meets remaining in Stueckle's high school career. She's working on cutting out steps on her approach later in the race, and thinks she can post an even faster time in the 300 hurdles.

"I just want to make the most of everything," Stueckle said. "I only have two weeks left."

The 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict meet begins Thursday at French Field in Kent, with the 4A state championships following a week later at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.

Stueckle will have those final two chances to chase down herself.

"I'm hoping that record stands for a while," Kayla Stueckle said. "She's earned it. It's awesome."

Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473, @smithlm12