It wasn’t until Saturday, well into track season, that a familiar name appeared on the state top-10 list for 110-meter hurdlers: Walden, Newport.
Right, Aric, the third of the hurdling Waldens out of Newport, which has spit out seven of the last 10 State 1A champions with five hurdlers dipping under 15 seconds.
Aric Walden is the fastest of them all, going 14.56 in the state prelims before winning in 14.96 last year as a junior. He was a little late to the party this year, going 14.86 in an Oregon meet last Saturday.
Could it be weather? How about a torn ACL in a soccer game last fall?
“I cried a million tears,” Newport coach Barry Sartz said of the injury.
“I didn’t think I’d ever come back from it, because it’s supposed to take eight months,” Walden said.
Surgery was on Oct. 7, followed by a rehabilitation that the Spokane Shock’s Raul Vijil would recognize.
“If they said one hour a day, I did like four,” Walden said. “My scholarships were kind of disappearing. … Going to school is not really an option unless I have a scholarship.”
Needless to say, there were some anxious moments at the starting line last Saturday.
“I was really scared,” Walden said. “I felt ready, because I worked up to it so hard. My knee felt ready. I was shaking in the blocks. The gun went off and I got off to the worst start of my life. Kind of like my sophomore state meet (which, for the record, produced a state championship).”
So the time of 14.86 was reason for celebration. Even more, considering Walden hit the fifth hurdle and stumbled enough that his hand touched the track.
“I didn’t think I ran fast after that bad start and hitting a hurdle,” he said. “I was so excited. It was a real eye-opener.”
His goal hasn’t changed, but his confidence to reach it has.
“I want to run under 14,” he said. “I think I can. We haven’t even done speed workouts … I’m not that fast yet.”
And just for the record, only a half-dozen athletes in state history have cracked 14, the last being record-holder Nate Robinson, running 13.85 in 2003.
The Pasco Invite turns 50 on Saturday and the largest one-day meet in the nation is celebrating with some golden events.
The mile, 100 yards (the 10 finalists from 100-meter prelims), 110 hurdles, 1,600 relay, long jump, pole vault and javelin are going to be featured.
The girls mile could be hot, considering Glacier Peak sophomore Amy-Eloise Neale (4:48.01) and Northwest junior Maddy Myers (4:50.52) went 1-2 in Arcadia last weekend, leaving local star Baylee Mires in eighth.
“I ran really well for the first three laps, then realized it was four laps,” Mead senior Mires said. “It wasn’t my best race. I was pretty disappointed.”
The rematch is in Pasco. Throw in North Central sophomore Katie Knight, who is third in the state in the 1,600 – and it’s a race.
The boys mile should be just as impressive, with state cross country champions Nathan Weitz of Shadle Park (3A) and Kenji Bierig of Lewis and Clark (4A), Andrew Gardner of Mead and what runner North Central plucks from its distance stable.
Elsewhere on Saturday, junior varsities and 2A schools will be at the Big Red in Cheney and 26 schools have entered the sixth annual Undeberg Invitational, hosted by Ritzville and Reardan, at Medical Lake.
Before that, the Great Northern League gets off to a bang-up start tonight with Cheney and East Valley at West Valley, which will probably decide the boys title.