By Tara Nelson
In a weekend filled with strong performances, 16 Blaine track and field athletes brought home 18 medals and set three new school records at last weekend’s state track meet at Mt. Tahoma High School. The boys finished 20th as a team and the girls 11th.
Sophomore pole vaulter Robin Taylor matched her state meet record by going 11 feet three inches in the air, almost a foot higher than her nearest competitor and almost two feet higher than the girl who finished third.
She did this despite having to use a different pole that the one she’s used to, which is roughly equivalent to a sprinter having to use brand new shoes in the most important race of the year.
Taylor said she knew she had the record when Ephrata’s Erin Boland dropped out at 10 feet 6 inches.
“I just decided to keep going,” she said, and finished the event as the lone vaulter. In three perfect leaps she managed to go over a foot higher than a basketball rim, to nail the state standard.
When asked how she’s able to be so exceptional in an event that requires the strength of a wrestler along with the timing and coordination of someone who juggles knives, head track coach Mike Grambo said “she’s just a fantastic athlete. She’s good enough that she can do this while running the second leg in the girls four by one and four by two relays.”
As an indicator of the level of competition this year, several athletes performed well enough to have won last year’s meet but only placed this year, although all nine runners from Blaine made it into the finals in their events.
Shayne Moore broke a school record with a 39.1 in the 300 hurdles but that was good enough for only third place at the state level. He tough-lucked out of his main event, the 110’s, with a false start, but will definitely be back next year to defend his district crown.
Smiling Douglas Ramirez, Blaine’s mainstay distance runner for the past four years, got a very respectable fourth in the 800 at 1:57:37 against national caliber competition led by Sehome’s Mason McHenry and Lynden’s Nathan Seely.
Alex Bresnan’s leap of 20 feet five inches in the triple would have gotten a medal last year but he ended up eleventh.
He teamed up with Tim Bradley, Freddy Johncox and Moore to finish fifth in the four by 400 relay with a 3:30.9.
Connor Oldham places 26th in the high jump with a sub-par, for him, five feet, 10 inches. Blake Stanovich threw the discus 132 feet four inches for 12th place and Bryan Chau’s 48 feet 1.75 inches in the shot put was good enough for 11th.
For the girls, team stalwart Bre Olason, a junior, got fifth in the 200 (26.13), sixth in the 100 (12.56). The relay teams got a seventh in the four by 100 and fourth in the four by 200 (1:46.56).
“When you look at this league,” Grambo said, “we’re doing all right. It’s filled with schools that have state and even national caliber competitors like Sehome and Burlington. Yet we’re able to not only be competitive but to bring home the medals. I’m proud of these kids.”
Veronica Rooney came home from the state tennis tournament in Seattle last weekend with a very respectable seventh place finish and a slightly different future that she anticipated before the season began.
“I’m primarily a volleyball player,” said the six foot 140 lb junior, whose court play reminds fans of 2004 Blaine graduate Jessica “Stretch” Summers, who went on to play NCAA division I basketball in Idaho.
At the tournament she had time to watch other people play, mix and mingle.
“Some people came up to me and said that my height could be a real advantage. I guess it is, as long as I remember to bend my knees,” she said.
As in the district tournament, the state tourney was a test of endurance. She played three matches on the first day that stretched out to almost 12 hours, beginning at 8:30 a.m. and thanks to a rain delay lasted until nearly 8 p.m. Some of the competitors didn’t finish until after 11 p.m.
She began by beating Klahowya’s Shelby Hunter 6-3, 7-6 which put her into the second round against eventual third place winner Katie Kelleher of Ellensburg, who won 6-2, 6-1.
That evening she played Black Hill’s Mari Pace and beat her handily 6-2, 6-1 which kept her in the double elimination tournament for the next day.
Saturday morning she faced eventual sixth place winner Kelly Sun of Washington High School, playing well despite in losing in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. “She was sooo close to a win in that second set,” pined head coach John Freal, who along with Semiahmoo pro Eric Cramer and Freal’s assistant Amanda Dahl can take credit for the Big V’s emergence into the tennis limelight this year.
“I know this year not a lot of people expected me to get as far as I did,” she said, “and next year expectations will be higher, so next year I’ll have to work harder.”
Rooney’s edge lies in her smart and strategic play, a dead-pan expression that reveals nothing to her opponents and an ability to cram that lanky frame into the corners of the court.
She expects to go to Gonzaga University in 2009, a pleasant green space amongst the pines in Spokane where so many Rooneys have gone before her that they’ve paid for their own building.
This was Freal’s 16th state tournament. Next year he’ll field a strong team that besides Rooney will feature this year’s juniors Alex Stolk, a close friend of Rooney’s and her equal on the court, Sarah Feenstra, Bailey Richardson, Samantha Probadora and Sarah Point-Moore, and the promising freshman Katey Conway.