Paul Huffman has never seen anything like it.
One of his Lakeside track athletes lost a parent to cancer just before the season started.
Two months later another athlete suffered a similar loss when a parent succumbed to a 5½-year battle with cancer.
The athletes got through the difficult losses thanks to the strength of each other. As it turns out, Jackie Mahowald and Chelsea Tremblay are best friends.
Tremblay’s father noticed a bump on his stomach. He went to see his doctor on Dec. 20 and was eventually diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and given two months to live. He died Feb. 19, a day less than two months.
Mahowald’s mother was initially diagnosed with breast cancer, but over time it spread to the bone and her brain. Two weeks before she died doctors told the family they had done everything they could do. She died April 14.
Jackie and Chelsea can talk now without getting too emotional. The losses, though, are still real and raw.
“Both of them are absolutely tremendous kids,” Lakeside coach Huffman said. “It’s just a situation that sucks.”
They were both members of Lakeside’s State 1A championship cross country team last fall. The 6-foot Mahowald also plays basketball.
They’re enjoying outstanding seasons in track. Mahowald is ranked No. 1 in 1A in triple jump at 36 feet, 7 inches. That jump came at the Central Valley Invite and broke the school record (35-5) set in 2004.
Mahowald also long jumps and runs a leg on the 400-meter relay.
Tremblay does the 400 and runs legs on the 800 and 1,600 relays.
Both hope to qualify for state in multiple events. The regional meet with the Caribou Trail League is Friday at Cashmere, where the top four in each event advance to state the following weekend at Eastern Washington University.
Mahowald wants to exceed 37 feet in the triple jump. Her goal is to win a state title.
Tremblay, who ranks 13th in the 400, hopes to earn a medal at state. She had a personal best by 2 seconds at district last week.
“For this time of the year that’s a big (personal best),” Huffman said.
Mahowald is the third oldest of seven children. Tremblay is the oldest of three.
They’ve taken on more responsibility at home because of the deaths of their parents.
Faith and friendship have been comforting to Mahowald and Tremblay.
Most friends can only imagine the pain Mahowald and Tremblay have had to deal with. They know what it’s like to walk in each other’s shoes.
“Nobody could understand how hard it was to deal with,” Tremblay said. “It’s ironic that we’re best friends. Jackie has been so helpful. She helped me make a photo collage for Dad’s funeral. We’ve been able to relate to each other through it.”
“It’s been a help to know what each other is going through,” she said. “She was the same way with me when my mom passed away.”
Understandably, they’ve dedicated their seasons to their late parents. And they would be proud.
Quite a comeback
You can’t miss the scar. It’s thick, red and runs 3 inches down her leg starting at her kneecap.
Few athletes have the resolve and determination to bounce back like Molly Barnhart of Central Valley.
You may recall that she suffered an ACL injury during the 2012-13 basketball season. Then nine months after that injury she suffered a second ACL injury on the same knee in a pickup basketball game.
That wiped away her hope of turning out for track. Or so she thought.
Last month, with her knee responding well to therapy, she got a release from her doctor to stand and throw the javelin. Her doctor eventually allowed her to walk up and throw.
Barnhart threw a season-best 116-1 to place fifth at district and qualify for regionals.
Back in her sophomore year, when she was healthy, she threw 124-9.
“The opportunity has been great,” she said. “It definitely has been an emotional season. I didn’t think I’d be able to throw.”
Now she’s thinking about walking on at EWU.
It would likely take a throw between 135 and 140 for Barnhart to qualify for state.
While it seems out of the realm of possibility, don’t tell Barnhart it can’t happen.
“If everything in the throw goes according to plan, I think I could do it,” she said. “It would be unbelievable if I could. Making it to regionals was my goal. I’d like to end on a (personal best).”
Quite the program
Brian Kluss has things rolling at Timberlake.
In his 12 years as head boys and girls coach, the boys have brought home seven trophies (three state titles, two seconds and two thirds) and the girls three (one state title).
Timberlake’s boys took third last weekend. The Tigers were led by the title-winning 800 and 1,600 relays. Austin Malloy, Quinton Reese, Daniel Buck and Ben Austin were on the 800 and Buck, Austin, Preston Rhodes and Josh Lampert were on the 1,600.
“We have been very fortunate and sometimes a bit lucky at Timberlake,” Kluss said. “Our success comes from several things. The first is the hard-working and dedicated athletes that have bought into what we have been doing here for a number of years. I also believe that in order to have a great track team you need great assistant coaches. The coaching staff at Timberlake is perhaps the best in all of the 3A level. The best part for me is watching the kids improve and seeing how they respond to the coaching they get from our staff.”