High School Sports

Three-peats, two-peats, meet records on second day of Star Track XXXIV

Emmanuel Thornton of Franklin Pierce doesn’t clear 6-foot, 6-inches, but he won the AA boys high jump on day 2 of Star Track at Mount Tahoma Stadium.
Emmanuel Thornton of Franklin Pierce doesn’t clear 6-foot, 6-inches, but he won the AA boys high jump on day 2 of Star Track at Mount Tahoma Stadium. phaley@thenewstribune.com

Just look at that title haul.

South Kitsap’s Nolan Van Amen is Star Track XXXIV’s 4A boys discus champion — that’s his third title, with a chance next year to be the first in state history to win four in a row.

Tumwater’s Peyton Russell won the 2A girls triple jump on Friday at Mount Tahoma Stadium — her third title in a row.

Mason Sallee became a back-to-back 4A boys triple jump champion — an event Federal Way athletes have won four consecutive years.

“It was way better than the first one,” Sallee said. “The first one I didn’t even know I won.”

Franklin Pierce’s Emmanuel Thornton won two titles on Friday alone. And Gig Harbor’s Hadassah Ward now has 1  1/2 titles, as she put it.

Rogers’ Jelani Heath set a meet record for her 4A state long jump title — and it wasn’t even her best jump.

She broke the 1977 meet mark held by Yelm’s Patsy Walker with a jump of 19 feet, 10¾ inches. Heath then topped that mark on her last jump, hitting 19-11½, but it was wind aided, so it doesn’t count for the official meet record.

“It’s like getting a box of doughnuts unexpectedly,” Heath said. “I’m just so jittery. That’s so cool.”

The closest competition of the day — that was between Gonzaga Prep’s Nick Johnson and Kentridge’s Tanner Conner, who was .04 seconds from winning the 4A 110 hurdles title.

Johnson, who earlier this year tied Rainier Beach-to-UW-to-NBA player Nate Robinson for the No. 2 time in state history at 13.85 seconds, won in 14.05 seconds.

Conner took second to Johnson last year, too, by .11 seconds. He was leading this one with three hurdles to go.

“I really thought I was going to win,” Conner said. “But God seems to put obstacles in my way every time. It’s just about how you overcome them.

“I think I did the best I could have done. Nick Johnson is a good runner.”

They will race again Saturday in the 300 hurdles, which Conner ran in 37.98 seconds. That is tied River Ridge’s Josh Braverman’s time as the best in the state.


The first blood-curdling grunt. That’s signature Van Amen.

But his throw of 183 feet, 6 inches felt so good, the South Kitsap junior flexed his arms and did one more.

“The second grunt only comes on those types of throws — where I PR by 9 feet,” Van Amen said.

It was actually by 9 feet, 1 inch. He later even topped that, hitting 184-8.

This came after Van Amen fell short in defending his 4A state shot put title on Thursday, placing third behind Tahoma’s Deszmon Humphries and Gig Harbor’s Connor Jost.

He wanted to make sure it was off his mind before Friday’s discus. He spoke to his father, but also felt like he needed to speak to his mom.

“My mom passed a few years back and yesterday about 9 p.m., it was dark out, I really felt like I needed to go and visit her,” Van Amen said. “So I went over there to talk to her and whatnot, got everything off of my mind and went home with a clear head.

“I came out today and I knew she was watching over me and helping me along the way.”


Sallee thought back to 2010, watching his older brother Michael compete at Star Track.

But six years later, it was his brother watching him as Sallee won his second consecutive 4A state triple jump title – becoming the first to do that since Skyline’s Kasen Williams (2010-11).

Sallee’s last jump was a personal-best – 48 feet and ½ inches.

“I remember I came here in 2010 to watch my brother compete in state (for Thomas Jefferson) and he didn’t even get a medal. That was just big for him to get to state,” Sallee said. “But for me to come out here and win it twice, and place fifth as a sophomore, that’s big.”

That gives Federal Way four consecutive champions in the triple jump. Keenan Curran won it in 2013, Tyson Penn in 2014 and now Sallee the past two years.

Sallee placed fifth in the event his sophomore year when he, Curran and Penn were teammates.


Franklin Pierce’s Thornton was six inches short of his 6-foot-10 high jump mark – but still won the 2A title. He then hit 46 feet in the triple jump for that title.

“I just wish I had one more year,” Thornton said. “This has been fun. I worked very hard all four years of my high school career and I’m very thankful for all I accomplished.”

Ward was a freshman at Gig Harbor last year when she tied Tahoma’s Ginny Mehl for the top mark in the 4A shot put. But Mehl won the title because of her second-best throw.

In her mind, Ward gave herself half-credit. But the sophomore credit got full credit for this one, edging Mehl with a personal-best throw of 44-2.

“Today was just huge for me,” said Hadassah, whose name comes from the Bible — same for her six siblings. “It’s a great step for me to move on.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677, @tjcotterill

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