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Pullman ends strong; Cheney 1st

Lanky Pullman hurdler Nick Cassleman is more than 6 feet tall. Niina Al Hassan is a foot shorter. But both were like-minded when it came to the hurdles during Friday’s District 7 2A meet at Eastern Washington’s Woodward Field in Cheney.

Cassleman, continuing the family business, blazed to superb 110 high and 300 intermediate hurdles times. The diminutive Al Hassan, who first spent time throwing the javelin and won with a throw of 125 feet, 3 inches, captured the 300 hurdles in 44.93 seconds. And the pair was part of state-qualifying 1,600-meter relay teams, the girls winning in 4:07.88.

They had major impact on a day when both Greyhounds teams finished second to host Cheney. The Blackhawks boys scored 164 points and the girls 162. Pullman teams totaled 116 and 159. The two schools combined to qualify in 36 events to state next week in Tacoma, more than half of the Great Northern League’s 71.

“That was at least as good as our expectations,” Pullman coach Mike Hinz said.

Cheney girls coach Tom Stralser likewise was pleased with the efforts of his team, pointing to some sterling times that match up with the best in state.

“We’ve had a couple of good things happen,” he said.

That the Blackhawks moved on athletes in 18 events, 10 for the boys, eight for the girls, wasn’t so surprising since both had swept undefeated through the GNL season.

Pullman, however, finished third in the boys race and in a three-way third-place knot for the girls, but advanced 18, 11 of them boys.

Cassleman, whose dad, mom and brothers all hurdled, was only in his fourth barriers races since suffering an ankle impingement.

It took a collagen injection to ease the problem and he improved each successive week. At EWU, he lowered his personal electronic best by a second to 38.68 after racing alone to the high hurdles win in 14.93.

“I felt really good,” he said. “It’s always a good sign when you have no big mistakes. The nice weather helped.”

Al Hassan is also a soccer standout, but she calls herself “more diverse in track.” So diverse that in June in Pullman she’ll run a heptathlon. The running, hurdling and javelin throwing she has down. It’s the shot put, considering her 5-foot-2 height, that needs improvement.

“The shot put is a little weak for her,” Hinz said. “She can do everything else.”

•Boys: Pullman also got a 1-2 finish by the Keithley twins, with Lance winning in a personal-best 14-0 and Travis clearing 13-6. The Greyhounds swept four flat races from 400 meters on up and won the high jump.

Cheney won both long and triple jumps, qualifying DeAngelo Jones and Nathaniel Youmans to state in both. Clarkston boys dominated the short sprints because West Valley put its eggs in the relay baskets. The Eagles – Diondre Ross, Kingston Smon, Alex Allison and David Gilman – blazed a 43.6 time. The 1,600 relay team timed 3:24.95 to edge Pullman by .61 seconds. Two-event state qualifier Cody Rollins had a 3-foot personal record, winning the shot put for WV in 53-8.

•Girls: Cheney’s girls have speed to burn, prompting Stralser to say the state veteran crew could score anywhere from 20 to 60 points at state next weekend in Tacoma.

“The planets have to align,” he said.

Shelby Maurer swept both sprints, Emily Stralser the 100 hurdles and the Blackhawks won two sprint relays. Jumper Mikaela Young set a school-record 17-10 in the long jump after leaping 36-8 for victory in the triple jump a day earlier.

Stralser said they were on target for a 48-second 400 relay until they bobbled an exchange.

State berths were divided evenly among five teams who advanced five or more. Deer Park’s Chantel Duenich won the 1,600, winning in a season-best 5:18.35, but didn’t run the 3,200, in which her sister took second the day before to reach state.

“The mile is my favorite,” she said. “In middle school I ran the 200 and 400. I let her have a chance, because I knew she could make it.”

Teammates Allison Ruygrock, second in both sprints, 400 winner Allison Gladhart and relay teammates join them.

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