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North Central boys win fourth straight state track title

North Central's Andrew Wordell reacts to winning the State 3A 800-meter relay on Saturday at  Tacoma. (Patrick Hagerty / Patrick Hagerty)
North Central's Andrew Wordell reacts to winning the State 3A 800-meter relay on Saturday at Tacoma. (Patrick Hagerty / Patrick Hagerty)

TACOMA – North Central joined some pretty elite company on Saturday, so elite it dates back to the cinder track days of track and field, when records were incomplete and you have to trust a source.

Coach Kelly Walters became that source when the Indians won their fourth straight State 3A boys championship, safely getting the baton around the track at Mt. Tahoma to break a tie with Liberty of Issaquah.

The Indians did it in style, finishing the final relay in a tie for second for seven points to outscore Liberty 56-49.

“Every year is different,” Walters said. “This year, in my opinion, is the best team. We qualified guys in 13 events, 16 scoring possibilities … we had points from every different area.”

Walters’ research has found only two other big schools have won four straight boys titles, Wenatchee in the 1920s and Franklin Pierce through 1977. (King’s won its fifth straight 1A title this year.)

NC has scored 51, 51, 55 and now 56 points in its run, but what makes this title impressive is that only eight points returned from last year’s championship team.

The ideal day got off to a great start with the Indians’ lone champion, Andrew Wordell, in the 800 meters.

“It was pretty important for the team,” Wordell said. “We did have a couple of (disappointments). We’re still in it to win it.”

He won comfortably in 1 minute, 54.55 seconds, with sophomore teammate Keith Williams placing fifth.

“All it took was the training I did all year that led up to it,” Wordell said. “This is where all the hard work pays off. I’m not a huge kicker so I was going hard with 300 to go, just cranking it down.

“It’s amazing. It means so much to my team, to my family, everyone at North Central. It’s amazing.”

The Indians got big points in the 1,600 but like the 3,200 on Thursday, the race belong to the big kickers, with Shadle Park’s Nathan Weitz again breaking first and Kamiakin’s Anthony Armstrong getting him down the stretch. For NC, Casey Adams was third, Vince Hamilton fourth and Wordell eighth.

Armstrong won in 4:12.3, less than a second in front of Weitz, with Adams another second back.

“That was fun,” Adams said. “It played out a lot like last week. When you race against some of the top guys in the nation it’s not what we like but there isn’t any disappointment at all.

“All week we were strategizing about what we should do and when it came down to it, it was just try to get team points.”

“I knew there were a lot of people in the hunt,” Weitz said. “I could see that in the first half, there were so many guys up there. … With 600 meters to go, a number of us started to go. I just had to see what I had left. I knew Armstrong would come on. I tried not to worry about it and focus on the pace, keep on pushing.”

NC’s Gunnar Swaggar, who anchored the 1,600 relay team, picked up nice points with a third-place finish in the 300 hurdles and Billy Haven, who placed in the 110 hurdles, added an eighth in the high jump, even though he went 2 inches higher (6-4) than last year when he was seventh.

After an amazing 3,200 on Thursday that produced the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-best times in state history, three sophomore girls produced their usual fireworks in the 1,600.

Glacier Peak’s Amy-Eloise Neale won with a meet-record 4:46.56, pulling away from NC’s Katie Knight in the last 50 meters. Knight lowered her school record to 4:46.83, almost 5 seconds better than the previous record. Shadle’s Kendra Weitz, who gamely pushed the pace, was 4:53.69, shaving a second off her school record.

“I thought maybe I should test out trying to outkick her and she has got a kick,” Knight said of Neale. “It was hard. It was a fun race, nice weather and I PR’d.”

Shadle’s Katie Morris was third in the 800, which was about all the relative newcomer to the event could hope for as Lakeside-Seattle’s Madeline Rathbun won her third straight. Morris lowered her school record to 2:13.66 and still came back to snag sixth, just behind Rathbun, in the 1,600.

“I was told to expect to be third or fourth during the (800), then it’s up to me in the last 200 to see what I can do,” Morris said. “I thought I was fourth and I was happy with that, then I changed my mind and said I can’t just settle.”

Mt. Spokane’s Afton McKinlay had a satisfying finish to her career, even before getting fourth, with a career-best 25.49 in the 200. The lone senior on the 400 relay, she anchored the Wildcats to second place.

“We started out the season with a not-so-good 4x1,” she said. “It was a bit frustrating because our team was not getting any faster. These are young girls, but the weather didn’t help. At districts we got a big PR, then regionals and on to state. It was really cool.”

Mt. Spokane’s Courtney Bray and Britta LaVoie, sixth and seventh in the pole vault last year, were second and third.

They were both at their PRs when they went out and watched as Jennifer DeBellis of Columbia River went 12-6 to break the 2007 meet record of 12-3 set by former Wildcat Jordan Roskelley.

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