Karlee Stueckle walks into her lane and stands among her competition. It’s in those brief moments leading up to her races that Stueckle admits she’s nervous.
She regains her composure with a deep breath and positions her feet in the starting blocks. And then the freshman for the Emerald Ridge High School girls track and field team takes off.
Stueckle took first place in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles Saturday at the Tacoma Invitational at Lincoln Bowl. She finished the 100 hurdles in 15.58 seconds, ahead of Peninsula’s Josie Self and Gig Harbor’s Alison Corsi, and beat Corsi in the 300 hurdles with a time of 44.80 – the second-best mark in the state.
Stueckle has the genes. Her oldest sister, Kayla, won five state titles in her career and was .01 seconds off the state’s all-time 300 hurdles record when she ran a 42.13 in 2009 (Rainier Beach’s Ginnie Powell still holds the record).
Karlee’s other sister, Kimberly, was a state competitor in both hurdles events, too, and now competes for the University of Washington like Kayla did.
“I really just don’t get nervous that much,” Karlee Stueckle said. “I do before the race, but when I get down into the blocks, it just goes away.”
She helped Emerald Ridge (114 points) take second in the combined boys and girls team scores, out of 32 total teams, behind Gig Harbor (131). Curtis took the girls title with 73.5 points to Gig Harbor’s 69.
And for the first time since the event was renamed the Tacoma Invitational from the Lincoln Invitational in 1986, the Lincoln boys won the team title with 83.5 points to Emerald Ridge’s 71 points.
“It means quite a bit because most of our coaches are Lincoln alumni,” Lincoln coach Duane Lee said. “We aren’t back to the power we were in the ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s, but we are starting to rebuild the program. … Our whole program is coming around right now.”
Curtis surprised on the girls side, winning despite not having Saudia James-Heard and Alexis Scott-Ellis, who were both competing at the Arcadia Invitational in Arcadia, California. The Vikings got wins in from Lexi Bates in the 100 (12.92), Jennifer Power in the long jump (16 feet, 91/2 inches), and took first in the 4x100 relay (50.86).
“I was really just coming in hoping we’d get some (personal records) and give kids a chance to improve,” Curtis coach Sarah Hannula said. “I just couldn’t be prouder.”
The invitational gave Eatonville’s Justin Kaelin his first look at big-school competition. He took the shot put title with a throw of 57-81/4 and placed second in discus (141-10) behind Gig Harbor’s Charlie Dahlstrom, who won with a mark of 144 feet.
With a tough wind swirling and intermittent rain falling, Kaelin didn’t quite match his 15th-best mark in the nation, according to dyestat.com, of 59-51/2 inches — the best mark in the state.
“I’ve got some stuff I need to work on technique-wise,” Kaelin said. “I’m trying to get to 60 (feet), but I just need to work on a couple of things like keeping my shoulder back.”
He, along with many of Saturday’s competitors, plans to travel to the Oregon Relays on Friday at Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. He won last year’s shot put title there.
On if he could win it again, the humble senior who lives on a 20-acre farm in Eatonville gave a humble answer.
“It would be a good accomplishment, I guess,” Kaelin said.
Gig Harbor’s Brenna Peloquin took first place in the 1,600 in 5:02.34. But you couldn’t tell by her walk off of the track.
The time clock stopped as Garfield’s Isabelle Olive passed it. Peloquin didn’t realize it, so she believed Olive’s pace was actually hers.
She figured it out by the next lap and spent the next two trying to pick up for the lost time.
“I didn’t execute the way I wanted to,” Peloquin said. “I know I’m a lot faster than 5:02, so I was pretty upset.”
Her twin brother, Tristan Peloquin, didn’t race because he has been sick. But Brenna said he hopes to return to the track for this week’s Oregon Relays.
Lincoln junior Walker Flynn won the boys 200 (22.66) and 400 (50.91) and helped the 4x100 relay team to a first-place finish of 43.84. Abes senior Dehonta Hayes took first in the long jump (21-5) and second in the triple jump. … Wilson’s Trevon Powe won the 100 meters (11.06) and the 100 hurdles (15.23).