Alyssa Harmon knows there’s no margin for error if she wants to finish her high school track and field career at the state Class 2A meet.
The senior distance runner helped her East Valley teammates clinch the Great Northern League championship with a convincing win over rival West Valley Wednesday. But only two competitors in each event at the upcoming district championship meet qualify for the regional meet Thursday and Friday at West Valley.
“At this point I can’t imagine how emotional it’s going to be,” Harmon said. “I remember watching Brittany Duggar run the hurdles last year. She was winning the race and fell going over a hurdle and couldn’t run at state. I remember feeling so sad for her. This is going to be so much worse.”
Harmon owns one of the two fastest times in the 800 meters in the Eastern Region, which should translate into a spot in the state finals. But freshman teammate Brittany Aquino is in a difficult spot at 1,600, where West Valley’s McCall Skay and Cheney’s Sanne Holland both have faster times.
“The sad truth is that there will be a number of kids who have met state-qualifying standards who will have to stay home – qualifying standards only apply at the regional meet,” coach Shane Toy said. “This has been the best 2A girls track season – the 2A has out-performed the 3A and the 4A this year – and we’re only sending two kids per event to the regional.
“Look at the high jump for an example. The state qualifying standard is 5-foot-2. If you clear 5-2 at the state meet, you’re going to end up on the medal stand. We’re going to have several 5-2 jumpers staying home. It’s like that in every event.”
What’s more, Toy said, the regional meet at Prosser isn’t even a regional meet.
“They’re calling it a Gluing State qualifier,” Toy said. “We’ll have our two kids per event, and the other district will have 16. It’s just not fair.
“It’s about power. The other district has 10 schools and we have seven. They’ve stacked the deck in their kids’ favor. It means that we will have kids who would otherwise end up on the medal stand at state who are staying home. I’ve been coaching track for 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
For the Knights, it’s the difference between having the depth needed to challenge for a state track championship and not.
“That’s exactly what it means,” Toy said. “My 1997 team was really good, but I would have to say that this is the best team I’ve had. This is the deepest team I’ve had and the relay teams are better. This team won the Mooberry Relays, beating all the 3A and 4A schools.”
Part of that exceptional depth the Knights enjoy comes from the team’s dedication to building team. Seniors don’t just focus on their own times – they help bring along the next generation.
For example, Duggar, who owns the fastest 100 hurdles time in the state, but while she’s pushed herself to be the best, she’s also helped bring along freshman Zoe Novakovich, who has the sixth-fastest time in the region.
“I’m so impressed with how much better Zoe has gotten this year,” Harmon said. “I love watching the hurdlers and it’s been fun watching Zoe get better and better.”
Harmon has done her best to help with that depth by mentoring Aquino.
“Alyssa is just a special kid – she’s totally team oriented,” Toy said. “She’s really taken Brittany under her wing and helped make her better. They have a great relationship.”
“I love competing with Brittany,” Harmon said. “She pushes me to be better in the 800 and I push her in the 1,600. We always give each other notes before a meet. She keeps telling me how much of an inspiration I am to her and that makes me feel good. I’m glad I can help her because she is going to do some great things over the coming years. She’s right there with me in the 800 now – there’s no way that I was that fast when I was a freshman.