TACOMA – They were as stunned as their victory was stunning.
About 5 minutes after pulling a major upset in the State 3A girls 800-meter relay, the Mt. Spokane foursome of Ashlee Pedersen, Cheyenne Konrad, Katie Nilsson and Ciara Bland had yet to learn they had won.
Pedersen thought she and the ultra-talented Ellie Heiden of Kamiakin had arrived at the finish line simultaneously.
Pedersen and friends erupted in celebration when reporters told them they had won as Star Track XXXII concluded Saturday at Mt. Tahoma High School.
The Wildcats won in 1 minute, 42.25 seconds as they took nearly a second off their own school record.
Kamiakin, which beat Mt. Spokane by a second at regionals, finished three-hundredths of a second behind.
As the third leg, Konrad set up Pedersen well for her final 200 meters. She handed Pedersen the baton with a 30-meter lead.
Pedersen seemingly ran for her life, knowing that at any moment Heiden could overtake her. After all, until Saturday, Pedersen had always been second fiddle to Heiden in all their races.
“I wanted to give Ashlee a lead and give her a chance,” Konrad said. “I was thinking ‘Ashlee, I’m going to give it to you and you’re going to be ahead of all of them.’ We’ve been having a hard time with our handoffs the past couple of weeks. They were all smooth and went really well today.”
Heiden did all she could to cover the gap. As she rounded the corner entering the final 100-meter stretch, she found herself boxed in and had to sidestep a runner who was hugging the inside lane.
That might have been the difference.
When Pedersen was told the specifics of the final 200 meters, she became emotional.
“Oh no,” Pedersen said, troubled by the fact that Heiden had to work through congestion. “It’s kind of bittersweet. It’s fun because I’ve never won before. At the same time I kind of feel bad because I know she’s won every year in four events. We’re pretty good friends. So it’s kind of sad.”
Pedersen warmed up to the idea of being a state champ, though, giving credit to her teammates.
“We practiced our handoffs all week because that killed us at regionals,” Pedersen said. “I knew my girls really wanted to win this one.”
Heiden, who is headed to Brigham Young University, was gracious, allowing that had the race been an inch longer she might have overtaken Pedersen.
“Ashlee ran a phenomenal leg,” Heiden said.
Pedersen passed the praise on to Konrad.
“Chey gave me such a big lead,” Pedersen said. “They all tried so hard that I had to finish hard. I was worried about Ellie. I actually (didn’t know she was there) until we crossed the finish line and she was right next to me. She came so fast.”
Fourth a year ago, Deja Svastisalee of North Central now knows what it means to be a state champ.
Svastisalee had to come from behind in the 300 hurdles, taking the lead with 15 meters to go to win in a time of 44.79.
“My first 150 (meters) wasn’t as good as I wanted it,” Svastisalee said. “I just had to dig deep at the end. It feels awesome. I’ve thought about it for a lot of years. I just worked hard in practice all year and it paid off.”
A pair of defending state champs from NC weren’t as fortunate.
Sabrina Keys took second in the shot put, actually tying for first at 44 feet, ¼ inch but falling to second when the winner was deemed to have the best second throw.
It was a difficult finish to a week that started on a rough note. Last Sunday, Keys decided to play tackle football with some friends. She broke a tiny bone inside her throwing wrist. An X-ray confirmed the pain.
“I was struggling with that all week,” she said. “So I guess second isn’t all that bad for throwing with a broken wrist. (Playing football) is something I shouldn’t have done.”
NC’s Tanner Anderson allowed too much distance between himself and the ultimate winner of the boys 3,200, Joe Hardy of Seattle Prep.
Hardy cruised past Mt. Spokane’s John Dressel with 200 meters to go. Dressel had been the pacesetter for the first nine laps.
Hardy broke his own state meet record, finishing in 8:55.11. Knowing that he couldn’t catch Hardy, Anderson went after Dressel, and Anderson took second (8:56.39).
Dressel was third (8:59.78) and Kai Wilmot of NC took fourth (9:04.66).
“The plan was to go towards the end. It didn’t work, let me tell you,” Anderson said. “John (Dressel) was looking really strong. It was a fast pace. It’s got to be as fast as I’ve gone all year.”
Kamiakin’s girls completed a three-peat, finishing with 123 points – breaking the points record they set last year (118.5). NC finished fifth (34), two points out of a trophy.
Bellevue’s boys also had a three-peat (73). Mt. Spokane finished fifth (30) and NC took eighth (26).
Other top performers Saturday: Megan Murphy of NC took third in the triple jump (37-4); the NC girls 1,600 relay took third (3:57.24); Pedersen took fourth in the 400 (57.68); the Mt. Spokane girls 400 relay finished fifth (49.17); Lauren Dunnell of Shadle Park took fifth in the 3,200 (11:18.36); and Khalil Winfrey of Rogers took fifth in the 200 (22.54).