SPIRIT LAKE, Idaho — He’s back.
And except for the expandable wrap and athletic tape around his left hamstring, Timberlake High sprint standout Caleb Cazier appeared to be in top form Saturday afternoon.
Cazier, who says he’s not quite 100 percent yet, shaved another three-tenths of a second off his school record in the 400 meters as the senior led Timberlake to a runaway victory in the 3A District I state-qualifying meet at Van Tuinstra Memorial Field.
Timberlake’s boys finished with 204.5 points, nearly 100 ahead of runner-up Bonners Ferry (115).
Bonners Ferry’s girls didn’t win by nearly the same margin, but the Badgers were impressive nonetheless as they piled up 159 points, topping runner-up Timberlake (111.5).
The top three placers in each event and the winning relays advance to state, which will be held Thursday through Saturday at Boise State University. Some at-large individual and relay berths in all classifications will be determined today as state officials finalize seeds for the state meets.
Timberlake coach Brian Kluss suspected that Cazier’s time was faster than the announced 48.84, which rounded up for state-qualifying purposes to a 48.9, because his friendly rival, Chris Person of Priest River, was clocked in 48.85 and there was more than a one-hundredth of a second separation between the runners at the finish line. More like 3 to 4 feet. Certainly nothing close to a photo finish. In that event, a video review of the finish would have been required.
Two coaches at the finish line unofficially timed Cazier at 48.7.
“There’s no way those guys were within (one-hundredth of a second) of each other,” Kluss said. “He’s not 100 percent, but he’s pretty darn close to 100 percent. He wasn’t feeling any pain today warming up.”
Cazier, who broke his district meet record he set last year (49.5), drew even with Person as the runners began the final 100 meters. With about 50 to go, Cazier pulled away. Person won the 100 and 200 easily as Cazier held back and exerted only enough effort to qualify for state.
Person cruised to an all-time best of 49.5 last week when he beat the injured Cazier in the District I Meet of Champions for the first time. Cazier and Person finished one-two in the state meet last year.
Cazier held off his throttle in preliminary heats in the 100 and 200 on Friday and again Saturday in the finals.
“That corner still bit on me a little bit,” Cazier said, pointing to the first turn near the 200-meter mark, the same area at the District I meet where he stumbled and almost fell when he felt pain in the hamstring. “That was a blast. Both Chris and I agreed that was one of the funnest 400s we’ve run in a long time against each other.”
All Person could do is praise his friend for his comeback Saturday.
“Caleb and I were vocally pushing each other around the 200,” Person said. “We ran some pretty damn good times. I pushed myself harder here than at the Meet of Champions. Around the last corner I leveled out with him, and we stayed together until about the last 50. He had another kick that I didn’t. He beat me and I appreciate his ability as an athlete, but it was a great race. He’s got a deeper reservoir of being able to gut it out. I admire that. He’s got my total respect and admiration for that.”
Cazier is more excited for the team than himself headed to state. He’s won gold personally. His hope is his team can capture a state title.
“You’ve got to keep it on the down low, but we want to take state by storm,” Cazier said. “They might know about me, but they don’t know about our throwers, our distance runners, our (jumpers). We have stars all over the place. We have people in every event.”
Other double-winners Saturday were Adam Tardie of Bonners Ferry in the 110 (15.4) and 300 (41.0) hurdles; Jenna Hays of Bonners Ferry in the 100 (16.0) and 300 (47.5) hurdles; Jamie Brower of Kellogg in the 100 (13.2) and 400 (59.9); and Lynsie Seltenreich of Kellogg in the 800 (2:23.5) and 1,600 (5:30.4).
• Kootenai’s girls defended their 1A Region I championship at Kamiah High School. The Warriors finished with 142.5 points.
The Collins sisters led Kootenai. Amy, a senior, took first in the 800 (2:22.7) and 1,600 (5:27.7) while Darcy, a sophomore, won the 100 hurdles (16.5) and 300 hurdles (49.2). Teammate Nikita Amy won the discus (109-1) after winning the shot put on Friday.
Mullan junior Anali Carrico recorded three victories: the 100 (13.0), 200 (27.4) and 400 (1:01.7).
Nezperce repeated as the boys champ with 121 points. Kootenai tied for second with Deary with 80.
Jesse Dyer of Kootenai won the 100 (11.5) and triple jump (40-6) to go with his win in the long jump on Friday. Teammate Tony Kraack won the pole vault (11-0).
Mullan won the 400 relay and Clark Fork captured the 800 relay.
The top four finishes in each event and the top two relays earn state berths. State will be held Thursday through Saturday at Boise State University.
• In the 2A Region I meet, Wallace senior Gretchen Bailey took first in the 200 (26.2) and second in the 100 (12.6). She took first in the long jump on Friday.