YAKIMA – Bron Shelton didn’t have much time to celebrate.
The Mead junior had to clear 14-feet, 6-inches in the pole vault just to make next week’s State 4A track meet, so he celebrated by increasing his personal record a foot to 15 feet. Then he raced off to race in the 400-meter relay.
But that ended in disappointment. Despite Shelton’s terrific third leg, the Panthers ended up fifth in the Eastern Regional at Zaepfel Stadium on the Eisenhower campus. Then his left quad cramped up and Mead coach John Mires elected to pull him out of the open 400 meters, an event he would have been expected to make today’s finals and advance to state.
“I’m excited, the pole vault wasn’t the event I was sure of,” Shelton said, though he was obviously disappointed as he rested on teammate Laef Barnes’ crutches. “I thought we’d make in the 4-by-1 and maybe I’d go in the 400. It’s funny, the only event I wasn’t sure of, I made it.”
The pole vault was won by Mike Uhlenkott of North Central, also at 15 feet, as Great Spokane League boys won all six finals and 18 of the 24 state berths on a windy and cool Friday night.
It’s not unusual for the GSL to dominate the boys side of the decade-old state qualifying meet with the Big Nine, but it is for the girls and they got off to a good start by winning three of the five finals and taking 12 of the 20 state berths. And that doesn’t even count Becca Noble easily winning her heats of the 100, 200 and 400. Despite the wind, the Rogers junior lowered her regional record in the 400 to 53.84 seconds.
“I wasn’t planning on going that fast but the first half I felt good so I kept going,” she said. “I’ll run for time (today) but I just want to make state.”
Shelton has had success in the pole vault, he won the State B meet at 13-6 for Glenwood as a freshman and went 13-3 for second as a sophomore when he was injured. But he didn’t know how that would translate against stiffer competition.
“The school I went to had 30 kids in the whole high school,” he said. “But my peers welcomed me with open arms.”
Shelton left Spokane in seventh grade to live with his uncle, returning because his mother missed him.
“My uncle doesn’t have kids and mom wanted me to have a man in my life. My dad lives in Minnesota,” Shelton said. “He loves sports. I was excited to move up in competition. I had a good coach in Glenwood but Mike Fleming is the best coach I’ve had.”
Shelton’s season got off to a slow start because of a quad injury but he was ready for the breakthrough.
“Coach Fleming has been working with me all week,” Shelton said. “He said to get my hands high and jump hard like I was reaching for a basketball hoop. In practice this week I cleared 15-6 on Saturday and was over 15 a lot so it didn’t look as high as it used to.”
Teammate and defending state champion Evan Garber won the 3,200 and Lewis and Clark took the 400 relay in the only two timed finals. In the field events, Andy Roof of East Valley led a GSL sweep in shot put, Marcus Miller of Gonzaga Prep won the long jump and Shadle Park’s Bryan Braman won an exciting javelin with a final throw of 184 feet, 7 inches.
Braman went into the finals in first place but had dropped to fourth when it came time for his last throw as three others passed him by on their last effort.
“At the beginning of the year I got a good throw, 188, but in the middle of the year I was in a slump,” Braman explained. “When I came out here I got a good confidence boost when I threw 179 and it put me in the lead. Then everybody threw 180 and it got me pumped up. I knew I had to step up.”
Mt. Spokane sophomore Megan O’Reilly and University senior Amy Dahnke duplicated their great 3,200-meter battle of last week’s district meet, though the wind slowed the time considerably.
O’Reilly pulled away on the home stretch, but the real battle was in the back, with Ferris senior Julie Devlin finishing fourth to make her first trip to StarTrack, which is in Pasco beginning Friday.
“I was pretty confident coming in but not totally,” she said. “I had no idea during the race.”
Her district time seeded her sixth. One of those faster was Wenatchee freshman Kristen Ballinger. On the seventh lap, Devlin went to pass and Balliner said, “No.”
“That was my incentive,” said Devlin, who will room with Dahnke at the University of Portland next year. “I figured I had to pass her strong.”
Briann January of Lewis and Clark won the high jump and made state by placing fourth in the long jump.
Corissa Hutchinson won the discus with a personal best by two feet 134-2 on her first throw.
“In practice I’ve been throwing in the 140’s so it didn’t surprise me but I’m really excited,” the Mead junior said. “That’s one more step to get 140 in a meet.”
The regional continues today with field events at 11 a.m. and running finals beginning at noon.
The weather wasn’t good, but compared to home it was great.
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