Tri-City athletes shine among state\'s best

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Tri-City athletes shine among state\'s best

This story was published Sunday, May 28th, 2006

By Rene Ferran Herald staff writer

Where does one begin to describe one of the best days for Tri-City girls at the 4A state track and field championships in some time?

With Kamiakin senior Michaela Haggett\'s dominant victory in the

100-meter hurdles, Saturday\'s first final of Star Track XXIV at Edgar Brown Stadium?

Or perhaps Richland junior Kayla McKeirnan\'s equally dominant win in the 400, setting a school record in the process, sandwiched by a third place in the 100 and fourth in the 200?

What about the Kamiakin 4x200 relay team, the same quartet that two hours earlier had been edged in the 4x100, coming back to capture a state title?

No, what sums up the day best might be the sight of those same Braves runners an hour later, standing atop the awards podium, clutching the second-place team trophy. Four athletes compiled 44 points to put a scare into Olympia\'s 14-deep squad that finished with 50 points to win the team title.

\"That says that we\'re very competitive and have a lot of heart,\" said Haggett, adorned with the four medals she won this year before heading off to Weber State. \"It\'s a great finish to my career. I started off just happy to make it to state, and to come out winning two events, getting the second-place trophy, is so great.\"

Haggett did her part with a sizzling run in the 100 hurdles, winning in a wind-aided 14.45 seconds and punctuated by thrusting her hands in the air in celebration.

Haggett sat out the first part of the season recovering from a stress fracture in her left foot, and the impromptu celebration expressed both the joy and the relief of making her comeback complete.

\"I wanted that race so badly,\" she said. \"It feels just as good as I thought it would. There is definitely a difference between being ranked first in the state and winning state.\"

Haggett had no idea how prophetic those words would be until the 4x100 final. The Braves came in with the state\'s leading time, but Garfield built a 5-meter lead going into the final leg and sophomore Megan Chapin held off a fast-closing Kendyl Pele to give the Bulldogs the victory by seven-hundredths of a second in 48.48.

Senior Brittany Sparks, the third leg on both Kamiakin relays and nursing a left knee injury, felt she\'d let the team down in the 4x100 and came out determined to redeem herself in the 4x200, another race in which the Braves had the state\'s top time.

After solid runs by Haggett and sophomore Olivia Johnston, Sparks blazed through the first half of her leg, building a lead that she handed off to Pele.

\"I really wanted to prove to everyone that we can do it,\" Sparks said. \"I didn\'t hold my end up in the 4x100, but I made up for it in the 4x200.\"

Olympia\'s Joana Houplin passed Pele at the top of the curve, but the Braves junior got the lead back at the top of the straightaway, then held on in a finish that resembled a horse race more than a track event -- five runners spread out into Lane 5, where 200 winner Bianca Greene of Garfield tried desperately to catch Pele.

Kamiakin\'s time of 1:43.06 was a season-best and No. 7 all-time for the Mid-Columbia region.

\"I knew Kendyl would come through,\" Sparks said.

Pele, who finished sixth in the 100 (12.53), smiled at the compliment, then added, \"It was crazy. Brittany got me the baton just in time. On the corner, I knew I had her. I just waited to make my move once we straightened out.\"

Johnston added the final points to Kamiakin\'s total with a second-place finish in the 300 hurdles. A stutter as she came to the hurdle at the top of the straightaway cost her both a personal-best (45.07 was two-hundredths off her regional winning time) and the title, as Kent-Meridian senior Jessica Duran powered to victory in 44.66.

Still, considering Johnston hadn\'t broken 46 seconds until a week ago, she\'ll take it. \"I wanted to win, obviously, but I\'m satisfied with the outcome,\" she said. \"I knew if she was going to beat me, it would be on the straightaway. She\'s so strong.\"

Duran had had a frustrating meet to that point, placing seventh in the shot and 100 hurdles and not making the long jump finals. \"But I\'m so happy now to get a state title my senior year,\" she said. \"This is all I wanted.\"

The Bombers nearly made it onto the medals podium as well, missing out on the fourth-place trophy by two points -- 30 to Wilson\'s 32.

McKeirnan played a large part in putting Richland in trophy contention, scoring 21 all by herself.

Her victory in the 400 proved what her sprints coach, Leo Slack, had said a week ago that it would be McKeirnan\'s best event. Despite the disadvantage of starting in Lane 7, she was never challenged in winning in 55.76, shattering the school record of 56.70 set 25 year ago by Elaine Martin.

\"That didn\'t change my strategy,\" McKeirnan said of being on the outside of all her main rivals. \"I just wanted to get out fast and keep it steady.\"

McKeirnan\'s time is fourth-fastest

all-time in Mid-Columbia history and

No. 25 all-time in the state.

\"It\'s an amazing feeling,\" she said. \"I expected to do well in this race, but winning is a little different.\"

McKeirnan finished third in the 100 in 12.31, getting outleaned by Lake Washington senior Meagan Ferguson (12.29) but well back of winner Chanel James of Wilson (11.89). She finished her day by taking fourth in the 200 in 25.47, losing out in a blanket finish that included Greene (25.31) and a pair of freshmen, Franklin\'s Ariana Jones (25.41) and Bellarmine\'s Kelly Jacka (25.43).

\"Not bad,\" McKeirnan said. \"It\'s been a long, grueling two days. I got to finals in everything, and that was my goal, and I placed high in all three.\"

Richland\'s other points came in the 100 hurdles, as junior Caroline Hedel took third in 14.75 and sophomore Galia Deitz was sixth in 14.92.

Olympia won its first team title thanks to its depth. The Bears brought 14 athletes to Pasco and had eight entries score points, including wins from senior Sara Klein in the triple jump (37-81/4) and sophomore Kjersti Gedde in the pole vault (11-6).

\"I\'m so glad after four years to win a state event, but even more than that, I really wanted the team title,\" said Klein, who followed up a frustrating first day (second in the high jump, fifth in the long jump) by also placing fourth in the 100 hurdles. \"We lost our 4x100 team, which was upsetting, but we had other people step up.\"

Mount Spokane senior Megan O\'Reilly capped her stellar career by following up her state-record run in the 3,200 with a come-from-behind win in the 1,600 in a personal-best 4:46.58, No. 6 on the all-time state list.

Eastlake senior Jessica Pixler set the pace the entire race, but after holding off O\'Reilly\'s first bid at the lead with 200 to go, O\'Reilly got around her on the outside around the final curve and surged to victory.

\"I don\'t know how I went that fast the last 150,\" O\'Reilly said. \"I didn\'t ever think I could outkick Jessica.\"

Pixler bounced back nicely, outkicking Mead junior Nikki Codd to win the 800 in 2:09.72, moving into seventh on the state\'s all-time list. To do so, Pixler had to avoid the crash at the end of the first lap when Central Valley\'s Anna Layman and Everett\'s Cori Moore got tangled up and tumbled in front of Pixler.

\"I saw her fall, and I got kind of lucky because I had moved to the outside lane just as she fell,\" Pixler said.

Codd made her move on the backstretch, but Pixler -- a Seattle Pacific signee -- caught her about the same place that O\'Reilly passed her in the 1,600.

\"I was thinking if I just stuck with her, I was going to get her,\" Pixler said.

James and Greene\'s victories in the short sprints came without one of the state\'s all-time best, Decatur senior Princess Joy Griffey, in the field after she pulled out of districts with a viral infection.

James, though, served notice that she would have given two-time 100 titlist Griffey a battle by moving into 14th on the all-time state list with her victory.

\"I felt very confident,\" James said. \"I would have loved to have run against her. I think it would have been a good race.\"

Cascade (Everett) senior Whitney Hooks, who Friday became the first 4A athlete ever to win four titles in one event (shot put), added the discus title with a throw of 136-7. Wenatchee won the final event of the meet, running a season-best 3:55.31 in the 4x400.

n Rene Ferran can be reached at 582-1526 or via e-mail at