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Sports >  High school sports

Trio of Lewis and Clark athletes set to compete at state meet

UPDATED: Wed., May 25, 2022

Lewis and Clark track and field athletes, from left, Ali Groza, Bridget Burns and Audrey Thronson.  (Keenan Gray/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Lewis and Clark track and field athletes, from left, Ali Groza, Bridget Burns and Audrey Thronson. (Keenan Gray/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Keenan Gray FOR The Spokesman-Review

It’s a coach’s dream to see one of their athletes qualify for a state event. The joy they see in their athlete’s eyes knowing all their hard work has paid off makes them feel a sense of warmth and happiness.

Kevin Swaim has been in the middle of those experiences on numerous occasions for as long as he has been coaching at Lewis and Clark High School, but he’s never once taken more than one distance runner at a time to a state track meet. This year he’s taking three.

At last weekend’s district meet out at Central Valley High School, seniors Audrey Thronson and Ali Groza and junior Bridget Burns punched their tickets to this year’s State 4A meet Thursday through Saturday at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma. It’s the first state track meet to be held in three years due to the worldwide pandemic.

“Going to state with one athlete is fun, but to have three kids makes the experience a lot more enjoyable,” Swaim said.

Both Groza and Thronson qualified in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races, finishing first and second in both races at their district meet. Burns qualified for the 3,200 finishing in third.

“It’s the first time this season that we will be competing in the 1,600 and 3,200 outside the GSL,” Groza said. “It’s fun to be able to push each other at a district and city level, but to be able to get all three of us out and try to go with some other people we haven’t really gotten to experience this season should be good for us.”

This isn’t their first experience racing at the state level though. Back in the fall, the LC trio led the Tigers to a second-place team in the state cross country meet. Thronson placed fourth, Groza was 15th, and Burns came in at 22nd.

“We’ve had the opportunity to go to three state cross-country meets to a point where our senior year we were already familiarized,” Groza said. “Now we’re with the same competitors we see from cross country but in the 1,600 and 3,200, and we’re in a completely new environment. It’s definitely the biggest meet we will have ever been to and we’re excited.”

For Groza and Burns, it’ll be their first time being at this state venue, whereas Thronson has been there before. Thronson got to watch older sister Katie, a 2018 LC graduate, win a state title in the 3,200 and finish second in the 1,600 her senior season in Tacoma before she continued running at the University of Tennessee the next fall.

“It’s not super new to me but to now be competing in one is much different than just watching it,” Thronson said, who will also run for Tennessee next fall. “It makes me a little nervous, but we’ve been to big invites to prepare for something like this.”

Over the last two years, the pandemic took away every opportunity for athletes to compete across the state, especially those in the class of 2022. Track and field has been hit with the biggest burden since there hasn’t been a state meet in three years.

For a lot of the senior athletes competing this weekend, it will be their first and last state high school track meet. In some ways, there was some good that came out of the pandemic, coach Swaim believes.

“With a post-pandemic mindset, we see all kind of effects that it has played on kids, but I think both of them really got focused in their own way,” Swaim said. “Ali does a lot winter stuff like Nordic skiing that assists with her fitness, and Audrey’s very focused on running. Both of them in their own ways got really dialed into a training regimen, and they are seeing the reward for that.”

And for an athlete like Burns, only a junior, she’ll be one of the lucky athletes to have another opportunity to compete for a spot to state next season.

“I’m really excited for it because going into it I have nothing to lose,” Burns said. “Since I have another year, I’m just going to use this as learning experience and a great opportunity for growth.”

Racing begins for the LC trio late Thursday afternoon with Thronson and Groza slated to run the 1,600 at 5:15 p.m. All three will hit the track for the 3,200 on Saturday at 4:25 p.m.

“Just looking forward to the experience of being over there with those three,” Swaim said. “The goal in mind is we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by running with some really fast people. Some top five finishes might be realistic if everything comes together the right way.”

Who to watch:

4A

AJ McGloflin, Central Valley

The 6-foot, 10-inch senior high jumper set a new school record last weekend in the long jump going 23-00.25 at the district meet, putting himself in consideration to not only win one state title, but now two. He will high jump on Friday at 10:30 a.m. and long jump on Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

Rodney Minette, Central Valley

Rodney Minette completely dominated the GSL this spring and was a big contributor to the Bears district title winning team last weekend taking home the shot-put title with a throw of 53-2.5. He finally gets his shot at the state’s top shot putter in Bothell’s Luka Vincic on Friday at 10:20 a.m. for the right to earn a state title.

Emma Van Gemert, Gonzaga Prep

A return to the state meet for Emma Van Gemert means another opportunity to place on the podium, or perhaps win a state title. The Prep senior, who was fifth at state in 2019, ranks third in 4A this season with a personal best jump of 37-2.25. She jumps on Thursday at 3:10 p.m.

3A

Zachary Travis, Mt. Spokane

The second high jumper out of the GSL vying for a state title in the boys high jump is junior Zachary Travis. His district winning jump of 6-6 from last week ranks him first in 3A. He’ll jump on Friday at 2:00 p.m.

Lakotah Henderson, Mead; Andrew Stenihart, North Central

Two of Washington’s top vaulters hail from the GSL this season with jumps of 14-06 and 14-03. Mead senior Lakotah Henderson won last’s weeks district title, while NC senior Andrew Steinhart was second to him based on attempts. They both vault at noon on Saturday.

Emily Hutchison, Mead

After helping the Panthers last week securing a district team title, senior Emily Hutchinson feels really good about her chances at the shot put and discus this week after a great meet. She’s currently ranked first in discus, which she’ll throw Thursday night at 5:40 p.m., and third in shotput, which she’ll throw Friday at 1:50 p.m.

2A

Gavin Hoskinson, West Valley

Senior Gavin Hoskinson has been floating around the 13-06 barrier all season long in boys pole vault, good enough for first in 2A. 14 feet is something he’ll be going for this weekend on his quest to winning a state title, which goes down Friday morning at 10 a.m.

Ellabelle Taylor, Rogers

Junior Ellabelle Taylor, the Pirates’ versatile athlete, has narrowed her events down to the 100 and 200 this weekend. She currently ranks first in the 100 and is fourth in the 200. She’ll race in Friday’s prelims at 11:35 a.m. (100) and 5:45 p.m. (200).

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