Pope scorches 2B 1,600 field

Jeff Pope of Valley Christian finally got what he wanted Friday afternoon – competition.

Pope, a senior, defended his State 2B championship in the 1,600 meters at Eastern Washington University’s Woodward Field, and in so doing set a personal best in a time of 4 minutes, 25.66 seconds under scorching skies at the state track meets for the three smallest classifications.

“It’s all about competition for me,” Pope said. “All year, I didn’t have anybody too close. I don’t want to sound cocky or anything. But I knew state would be a challenge.”

While Pope thought the field pushed him, he still won by nearly 5 seconds. Lucas Graham of Northwest Christian of Lacey was second (4:30.04).

Pope topped his previous best by nearly 2 seconds (4:27.15), which was set while running a true mile – about 9 meters longer than a 1,600 – at the Riverside Invite in mid-April.

He was more nervous than usual before the final.

“I was freaking myself out thinking too much about it,” said Pope, who will be out to defend a state title in the 800 today.

“I know I won by about 20 meters, and on the third lap I tried to spread it out. I never really felt him on the last lap.”

Dozens of personal bests were set on the hottest day of the spring for a meet.

Another repeat champion was Lind-Ritzville junior Marshall Fryberger – whose last name was appropriate since by midafternoon it was hot enough to fry a burger on the EWU track.

The heat affected Fryberger in the 2B pole vault for a while.

“I had some dehydration and a headache,” Fryberger said.

He matched his personal best of 13 feet, 6 inches to defend his title. After making 13-6, he took three stabs at 14-1, which would have broken the Broncos’ school record by an inch.

Fryberger used his usual pole on the first attempt then took two tries on a 15-foot pole.

“He’ll either soar well over it or stop short of the pit,” L-R coach Randy Heidenreich said. “He’s just not strong enough yet to be able to bend the pole like he’d want.”

Heidenreich was spot on. Fryberger landed in the plant box on his second attempt and didn’t get his pole in the box in time on the third try.

Fryberger was more than satisfied, though.

“I maxed out my old pole,” Fryberger said. “It was too hot and the (old) pole was too (flexible) to get over 14.

“It was a good day. I matched my PR. I hope next year I’ll blast past it (the school record) in my first competition.”

Heidenreich knows Fryberger will sail past the school mark next year.

“He’s just getting started,” Heidenreich said. “We’ll get him on the 15-foot pole next year and he’s going to take off. He’s going to vault this summer and in the winter. Hopefully, he’ll take off and be where he wants to be next year.”

Freshman Morgan Willson of Colfax took second in the 2B 3,200, finishing in 11:30.95 behind winner Mikel Elliott of White Pass (11:30.0). Defending state champ Lisa Vandenburg of Northwest Christian-Colbert was third (12:07.05).

Willson led for nearly seven laps before Elliott caught her with 200 to go.

“I wanted to push myself,” said Willson, whose time was a PR by 34 seconds. “(Elliott) really pushed me. Even though I led most of the laps, I could hear her behind me.”

The balance of the finals in the field events and the majority of the running finals begin this morning at 10.

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