Kendall Mays and Krista Hoffman engaged in perhaps the day’s silliest celebration at the Eastern 3A Regional track, a bit of impromptu wrestling in the pole vault pit after a 1-2 finish.
And then the two juniors from North Central made a serious point: their jumps of 10 feet, 10 inches would have won the 4A meet, too.
“We can compete at any level,” Mays insisted.
But 3A seems to be a perfect fit for the Indians, who nosed out West Valley of Yakima by a mere point-and-a-half for the girls team title and qualified 11 girls for next weekend’s state meet in Pasco – or 11 times as many as they advanced a year ago out of the 4A regional.
“So, yeah, I’d say it’s working out pretty good,” laughed NC coach Darren Nelson.
NC and East Valley made the move to the 3A ranks last fall and it certainly changed the face of this weekend’s meet. The Knights, behind wins by high jumper Chris Shearer and their 4x400-meter relay team, beat NC 116-100 for the boys title, qualifying seven for state, and finished third among the girls.
“The 3A thing has been huge,” said Nelson. “We have competitive girls, but this gives them a real chance – it gives them something tangible to shoot for. I’m just thrilled for them.”
Of course, with all the joy comes some heartache, too – and that was driven home especially hard for NC in the boys 1,600 meters, where Prosser’s remarkable sophomore Nectaly Barbosa ran away from the field.
That left NC teammates Luke Graesser and Caleb Jahey to duel for the second available state berth – and duel they did, inching ahead of each other on alternate strides in the final 100 meters. The photo said Graesser got to the finish line .01 of a second ahead of his teammate, though it looked as close the other way from the stands.
“We’ve talked about this – we knew it was probably going to be the two of us,” Graesser said. “We tried to keep it kidding around, but we knew it was serious. You can’t let it affect you just because you’re friends.”
Added Jahey, “I just don’t think either of us thought it would be that close.”
If the circumstances weren’t cruel enough, Jahey had finished third in Friday’s 3,200, his kick failing him at the end. He’s also a senior. And next year, three runners from this regional will advance to state.
Barbosa’s stranglehold on half the state berths in his specialties – he won the 800 in 1:52.54 – was mimicked in several events. West Valley’s Rashad Toussaint won both horizontal jumps despite a bothersome heel injury – his 45-93/4 win in the triple jump was 5 feet short of his best. The Eagles got another win from junior Marc Smith in the 400, who picked off two goals in one race.
“I broke the school record – it’s been 49.9 for 35 years,” he said after his 49.61 effort. “Now I guess I’ll have to go after the 800 record next year.”
On the girls side, Cheney’s Katie Kimball was a comfortable winner in both hurdles races, as was NC sprinter Anna Walters in the 200 and 400 and Ellensburg’s Devon Cresse in the discus and shot put.
But Cresse’s competitors in the shot had a Plan B. Behind runner-up Karen Chase of WV-Yakima, three girls – West Valley’s Emily Sasse and NC’s Ashlee Michelson and Lucy Carlson – all topped the state qualifying standard of 38-73/4 to earn additional berths.
But nothing epitomized NC’s day quite like the vault finish, especially after the Indians saw three girls top 10 feet last weekend. Mays and Hoffman upped that incrementally to 10-3, 10-6 and finally 10-10 Saturday, with some decent attempts at 11-1. This from two vaulters whose bests coming into the season were 9-6 and 8-9.
“It’s incredible,” said Hoffman. “You have your goals and hopes and dreams and to actually reach them, then set more goals and meet those and set even more goals – it’s just amazing.”