PASCO – It was a small ensemble the West Valley Eagles brought to Star Track XXIII – a jumper, a discus thrower, a quarter-miler and some relay mates, along with coach Jim McLachlan’s 33 years of stories, successes and almosts.
Now there are no more almosts and McLachlan has his best tale – the Eagles are the State 3A boys track and field champions.
Led by another state-record performance by Rashad Toussaint and aided by a catastrophic baton drop by Columbia River, the Eagles nailed down their first state track title Saturday with a second-place finish to rival East Valley in the 4x400-meter relay – a bit of payback for the one that got away from McLachlan in 1999.
“We lost to Lakes by half a point,” he recalled. “We didn’t have a mile relay and they had the state champion in the 400. He went from seventh to third on the last leg and all we could do was watch it get away.”
This time the Eagles had that finishing hammer. Though they couldn’t run down EV, the quartet of Wes Riehle, Chris Vennum, Curtis Fitzhugh and Marc Smith (who was third in the 400) did shave 2 seconds from their collective best for the second week in a row. Columbia River, needing to stay within three places of the Eagles, was in fourth place when anchor Eric Cramer couldn’t collect the baton from Connor Tarr and wound up last, losing the team title 40-38.
North Central’s girls were almost that close to a championship themselves – coming up four points short of Holy Names, 48-44, to finish second in their first year as a 3A school and the second straight year a Greater Spokane League girls team was state runner-up.
“It’s so hard to win this thing,” said McLachlan, whose team also got a third-place finish from Kevin Lemieux in the discus. “The window has to be open and it was for us. We knew there wasn’t a real dominant team and we got some help. O’Dea had some setbacks and Columbia River had the screw up in the relay.
“And of course you’ve got to have a centerpiece, and for us that’s Rashad.”
Toussaint, who set the 3A long jump record of 23 feet, 10 ¾ inches on Friday, topped that win an all-class record in the triple jump of 49-11 ¾ on Saturday. Actually, he broke the 3A record three times – with an opener of 48-7 ¼ , then a 49-3 leap on the first round of finals and finally the big one on his final jump, which at first showed 50- ¼ on the optical device before the official tape measurement knocked it under 50.
That after River Ridge’s David Holman had fouled by less than two inches on his last jump, which was measured at 50-2.
“But you know,” said McLachlan, “if that had been 50-2 fair, Rashad would have gone 50-4 or 50-6 on his last jump. I’d bet on that. He’s that kind of competitor that I would have no qualms making that statement.”
Toussaint wound up erasing the 3A record of 48-6 ½ set by Timberline’s Johnny Taylor in 1986, and also topped the 4A mark set two years ago by Kyle Jenkins of Jefferson at 49-8 ½ .
“I wanted 52,” Toussaint said, “but I feel pretty good knowing how I jumped so badly at districts and regionals. It was a rough season at times, but two records is a pretty good feeling. And I’m very proud of our team. These guys work hard and it’s great to be a part of that.”
The “centerpiece” the Eagles had turned out to be the one ingredient missing from NC’s recipe – although the Indians did collect big points from four runner-up finishes by Shantel Haugen (javelin), Kendall Mays (pole vault), Ashlee Michelson (discus) and Anna Walters (400 meters).
Haugen’s finish was a copy of last week’s regional meet, in which she was topped by West Valley-Yakima’s Lynnea Braun – but a throw of 129-11 on Haugen’s last attempt moved her up from third. Mays, half of NC’s 1-2 vault finish last week, continued her rise by clearing 11-6 – an 8-inch improvement – which required a 12-0 leap by defending champ Laura Schvaneveldt of Interlake to beat.
It wasn’t but three weeks ago that Mays hadn’t yet topped 10 feet. That’s how high the bar was when she and teammate Krista Hoffman, who finished sixth, entered the competition.
“Lex (pole vault coach Katich) wanted us to save our energy and not take unnecessary jumps in this heat,” said Mays. “I’ve never done that before, but I figured if I just stayed with what I knew I’d be OK.”
The Indians came to Pasco with notions of winning it all, as they did at regionals, so there was some regret in second – even if it was the highest finish by a Spokane girls team in the second-biggest classification in more than two decades.
There was no moment more poignant than Walters’ collapse at the finish line of the 400. The fastest qualifier out of Friday’s heats, the NC sophomore had run a strong first 300 only to feel her legs turn to lead coming out of the last turn. As she tried to hold off the charge of Mercer Island’s Laura Vogel, a wobbly Walters threw herself at the finish line in desperation. Overwhelmed by the disappointment, she had to be consoled through her tears by father Kelly, NC’s boys coach,
“I’ve worked so hard this year,” she explained. “All the winter training and running the hills until you’re ready to throw up, and all of that comes down to a moment like this. Coming down that last straightaway, I could feel a goal slipping away and that hurts.
“I can’t be upset – I raced as hard as I could and gave it absolutely everything I had and it’s been a great season.”
That’s the kind of perspective NC girls coach Darren Nelson thinks will take hold within his team – at least a few days from now.
“Right now they’re looking at a point here and a point there and maybe it’s a different outcome,” he said. “But this is a great accomplishment for the girls. They competed very well in the GSL all year against 4A schools and I think that prepared them for this. We took 40 to districts, 25 to regionals and 12 to state and that’s a great track season for anybody.”
Slightly lost among the team hoopla was the performance of a smaller team – East Valley’s boys 4x400 team, which held off West Valley by less than half a second in 3:23.53.
The big move came on lap two by Anthony Laborin. Nominally a 200 runner – he was sixth in Saturday’s final – Laborin took the baton from leadoff man Sam Hale and brought the Knights from the middle of the pack to first, which Matt Tannini and Keith Holt made stand up.
“Jog the first 200 and sprint the last 200,” Laborin laughed. “That’s the way I’ve done it all year.”
But while he was happy to have the lead, Holt noted that it was problematic, too.
“Running ahead all the way messes with your head,” he said. “You don’t know where anybody is. You know they’re coming, but you don’t know if it’s time to kick it in a little harder or what.”
The victory helped EV into the top 10, the Knights scoring 31 points to finish sixth.
“I think this is the third time we’ve raced West Valley and we’ve beaten them every time, which is nice,” said Holt. “Marc Davis and I are good friends and it’s always great to race against him. It makes you want to give that extra effort.”
The day’s other top efforts from area 3A athletes came from Cheney’s two hurdlers, Tyreil Poorsi and Katie Kimball.
Poorsi finished second in the boys 300 intermediates, looking strong into the curve but eventually giving ground to Yelm’s sensational Jake Hanson – finishing in 39.40 seconds.
Kimball took fourth in the girls 300 in 45.68 seconds.