There is no guarantee that Darez Meriwether is going to make it to state, but the way the Cheney senior performed Wednesday afternoon the odds are good.
With Meriweather among those coming up big, the depleted Blackhawks captured the Great Northern League track championship by turning back hopeful West Valley and Pullman at Tom Oswald Field in Cheney.
After the Blackhawks won the league title last year, Meriwether thought his first trip to state was just a formality – placing in the top two at the district meet the next week. Instead it was others having a big day, especially in the 400 relay.
Now it’s time for payback and when his team needed him most, he was there.
He had three personal records and three wins in four events to help the Blackhawks turn back West Valley 81-63.
The Blackhawks have had time to digest the loss of state-placing horizontal jumper Nathaniel Youmans, who tore an Achilles in early April. Youmans and DeAngelo Jones gave Cheney a solid 1-2 punch in the long and triple jumps as preseason favorites for the State 2A title.
What they didn’t expect, with the league title on the line, was that star junior Diondre Moore-Young, the 2A state leader at both the 110- and 300-meter hurdles, would be out to tend to academic obligations.
“Since I knew (Moore-Young) wasn’t running the 100, I knew I had to pull it out, do my best,” Meriwether said about his big start to a sensational day.
After opening with a win in the 100 meters, Meriwether ran the opening leg of the Blackhawks’ season-best 400 relay (45 seconds), moved up from fourth to second behind Jones with a PR in the long jump at 19 feet, 23/4 inches and then had a PR of 23.2 in winning the 200.
Jones won the three jumps for the boys. Nashua Springberry won the 800 and 1,600 and sophomore Devon Poulsen had a 20-second PR for an upset win in the 3,200 (10:21.2).
“I’ve been PR’ing every race, I guess this is just a breakout race,” Poulsen said. “I had the confidence and both those West Valley guys were pushing me. I had to step up. I didn’t do it for me, I did it for the team.”
The Cheney girls were in a similar situation in their attempt to finish an unbeaten season, with Pullman hoping to pull the upset, especially after state-placing 100-hurdler and relay stalwart Emily Stralser pulled up in her specialty trying to come back from a hamstring injury.
Just like Meriwether, Chelsie Breen was there for the Blackhawks. She finished second in both hurdles, including a PR of 47.3 in the 300s that puts her second in the league behind Niina Al-Hassan, Pullman’s state leader, and helped Cheney run a season-best in the 400 (50.8) and 1,600 (4:05.5) relays.
The Blackhawks ended up with an 86-63 edge on the Greyhounds.
The key for Breen is being healthy. A soccer standout who will play at Idaho next year, Breen gave up club soccer for the spring so she could concentrate on track, a sport she wasn’t going to forsake with her future secure.
“I enjoy it,” she said, gasping for air after running the anchor leg of the long relay. “I finish things. We went to state in soccer this year and took second and I wanted to end this year at state in track.”
Sprinter Shelby Mauer was her usual impressive self with a season best in the 100 (12.4) and a PR while tying the school record in the 400 (58.9) to go with the anchor leg of the 400 relay and the leadoff leg in the 1,600.
“It’s amazing,” the senior said of her final competition at home. “Especially since the coach came up and said we needed to do this to win. It feels good to be champions. We all worked so hard and we knew Pullman really wanted it.”
Al-Hassan also won the javelin. Teammates Anna Guo (horizontal jumps), Jenny Nakata (100 hurdles, high jump) and Chelsea James (throws) were also double winners.
In the other GNL meet at Clarkston, Riverside’s boys and girls swept the Bantams and Medical Lake.