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Cheney’s Ham bounces back

Shaley Ham turned out for track as a freshman to high jump, but in her senior year the high jump had turned on her.

A consistent 5-footer and a state placer for Cheney as a sophomore, Ham’s senior year started out just fine with a 5-2 clearance in the Blackhawks’ jamboree.

“I’m not sure what happened, I put up a mental block when I no-heighted in Yakima,” she said. “Since then my mentality has been down. I couldn’t get over 4-10, I couldn’t get over 4-8 sometimes. I no-heighted more than I ever had. I told people I did better in eighth grade than I did my senior year.”

All that frustration was blown away, not quite literally, at the District 7 2A state qualifier Thursday at Eastern Washington University when Ham cleared 5-2, placing third to grab the final berth to state next weekend in Tacoma.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” she said. “High jump has always been my passion. It’s what I love to do, it’s what I came to track to do. Every year until this year I’ve been getting great heights, top 10 in state with 5-2 or 5-4.”

The seeds of doubt could have been planted last year, when only two advanced. She was tied with a pair of freshmen, Tasha Luu of Colville and Jennifer Nakata of Pullman, after clearing 5-2, so they went for the automatic qualifying height of 5-2¾.

Luu went on to win state at 5-4. Nakata, tied for the state lead this year at 5-4, was fifth.

While the two sophomores did the expected (both went 5-3, with Nakata winning on misses), Ham entered as the sixth seed and the cold, windy, overcast conditions at Woodward Field didn’t bode well for a big day.

“I feel amazing,” Ham said. “I didn’t PR, but just the fact I haven’t jumped that high in more than two months, it’s just a thrill in itself.”

It turned out to be a pretty big day, although there were only a handful of finals on the first day of the two-day meet.

One of the biggest was Pullman senior Niina Al-Hassan, the league leader in the javelin at 126-0, good for third in the state. She bumped that to 130-8.

“There was just a moment when the sun came up and the wind died down,” Al-Hassan said, who is the 2A state leader in the 300 hurdles and coasted in her preliminary race. “Actually, my coaches helped me get underneath the jav, rotate and be really fierce in my last few steps, so I was hoping to PR.”

Al-Hassan was a 125-foot thrower last year but didn’t crack 100 at state, a disappointment she erased by winning the 300 hurdles.

“I’m a hurdler that throws the javelin,” she said, adding she’ll run the 400 and 1,600 relays. “It’s fun to do something that’s not running but involves being technical.”

There was also a minor upset in the boys shot put. West Valley junior Tyler Poldervardt added an inch to his best and won with a throw of 50-10½, leaving league leader Reid White of Deer Park in second.

“Everyone had to throw in the same conditions,” Poldervardt said. “I’ve been putting it out there pretty consistently at 49, but I haven’t had a PR since early in the season. I knew I had it in me.”

He credited a year of getting bigger (15 pounds) and stronger.

“Probably the most important thing is quickness,” he said. “I’ve been throwing 52 in practice. There’s a big different between practice and meets, but I know it’s in me.”

For the most parts favorites moved on. Colville’s Ned Fischer ran a PR of 9:59.8 in the wind-challenged 3,200.

The meet resumes at 3:30 p.m. today.

Cheney is without Diondre Moore-Young, the 2A leader in both hurdles and league leader in the 100, who didn’t get his academic issues cleared up.