You can preach the virtues of keeping your cool to Aric Walden all you want.
But if the Newport High School sophomore feels the need to panic, he’s going to panic – which is what he did Saturday after getting left in the starting blocks at the start of the boys 110-meter hurdles event during the final day of competition in the State 1A track and field championships at Eastern Washington University’s Woodward Field.
Walden, who was the top qualifier in Friday’s preliminaries in 15.08 seconds, found himself last at the first hurdle in the finals. Rather than trying to convince himself to stay calm and stick to his game plan, he lost it.
“That just scared the heck out of me, getting left in the blocks like that,” Walden said. “So I panicked, big time.”
That normally ill-advised strategy worked in this case, as Walden methodically picked off hurdlers, took the lead three hurdles from the end of the race and cruised to the title in a wind-hampered time of 15.18.
Walden’s effort, which beat runner-up Curtis Clauson from team champion King’s, helped highlight a day of boys finals that played out in sunny, but breezy, conditions and saw Walden’s senior teammate Josh Frye claim the pole vault title with a school-record leap of 14 feet, 7 inches.
In addition, Chewelah junior Will Lohman captured the shot put gold with a toss of 55-4.
Frye’s pole vault win came following an extended battle against Seattle Academy’s Oliver Miska and classmate Aaron Walden, who finished 2-3 after both clearing 13 feet.
“I can’t really explain the feeling,” Frye said after breaking the school record by an inch despite starting the event by missing on his first two attempts at the opening height of 12-6.
“That really made me nervous,” he said of his slow start.
In girls competition, Bellevue Christian rolled up 56 points to capture the team title over runner-up Chewelah, which finished with 49 points despite having only three state qualifiers.
Sophomore Samantha Beamer helped account for 25 of the Cougars’ points by taking second in the 400 in 59.64, finishing third in the 100 (13.60) and 200 (26.47), and placing fourth in the triple jump (35-11/2).
“We were hoping to finish maybe third or fourth, at best, so this was a big surprise,” said Chewelah’s Liz Cobb, a senior who backed up her winning effort in Friday’s long jump by finishing fourth in the 200 (16.52), fifth in the triple jump (34-101/2) and eighth in the 100 (14.02).
One of the most entertaining girls events was the high jump, won by La Center sophomore Katrina Chamberlain. Chamberlain, who also finished third in the shot put (36-5), cleared 5-6 and edged Freeman’s Leah Willard on fewer misses.
Willard, a senior, broke Freeman’s school record and her personal best by 2 inches.
“I’ve been chasing that school record since my freshman year when I jumped 5-2,” she said. “This was the best competition I’ve had all year.”
Freeman sophomore Talia Neiman finished third after clearing 5-3.
Kiona-Benton’s Whitney Leavitt won her fourth consecutive titles in the 100 and 200.
Leavitt, who will run at Eastern Washington University, captured the 100 in 13.05 and took the 200 in 25.49, running both events into a stiff headwind.
“The 100 was really slow, but what can I say?” Leavitt said. “I’m still pretty happy with my places, and I’m looking forward to coming back here to run again. This is a really nice place. I like how it’s a small town but has Spokane right outside of it.”
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