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NC’s Johnston and Mead’s Wright temper emotions in wins

TACOMA – Forgive Ben Johnston and Sam Wright if they weren’t celebrating the only championships for the Greater Spokane League at the first day of Star Track XXVIII Thursday at Mt. Tahoma High School.

Johnston was simply too exhausted after the North Central senior won the 3A 3,200 meters with a stirring duel down the stretch with Drew O’Donoghue-McDonald of Seattle Prep, clipping two-tenths of a second off his state-leading personal record with a time of 8 minutes, 58.68 seconds.

“It’s always hard,” Johnston said after getting his wobbly legs under him. “You can’t run a fast 2-mile without it hurting. You have to expect it to hurt.”

Wright was a touch disappointed but mostly shocked that he won the 4A shot put with a throw of 56 feet, 10¾ inches, well off his best of 58-2.

“It’s hard not to be happy, but that 60 is in the back of my head right now,” the Mead senior said. “I’m a little bit shocked with the throw that won. I figured I was going to have to PR to win, with Kjelby (Oiland of Ferris) and Derek (Eager of Tahoma) being such good throwers.”

The 3,200s were the only finals on the track in the three-day meet for 4A, 3A and 2A schools and there were just seven field event finals.

Most of the drama for Spokane was on the track, although Shadle Park junior Tyler Wilson lost the 3A pole vault in a jump-off with Blake Bier of Prairie.

There were also two notable runners-up in the 3,200.

Mead’s Andrew Gardner shaved 5 seconds off his state freshman record chasing after defending champ Shane Moskowitz in the 4A race, and it took a meet record for Amy Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak to beat NC’s Katie Knight in the 3A girls race.

There were four other records, including two big ones.

Christine Kirkwood of Othello broke three records with one throw of the javelin. The junior uncorked a throw of 162-10, which broke her sister Courtney’s school record, her sister’s 2A meet record and her sister’s all-time state record, which was 160-10.

Federal Way ran the fastest 1,600 relay in state history at 3:15.26 in the prelims. Wilson had the record at 3:16.09 with Darrell Robinson, the state’s greatest 400 runner, as the anchor in 1982.

Two more 1,600 relay marks were lowered, West Valley (Yakima) in 3A girls (3:53.73) and Sehome in 2A girls (3:59.64).

Boys

Wright was the first gold medalist, coming through in a back-and-forth competition.

He took the lead on his second throw, but Oiland, whose best was 58-1, took over at 55-6½. That held up until Eager started the finals with a 56-1¾, also a couple of feet off his PR. Wright went 56-9 on his fifth throw and added another inch on his last.

“In the back of my head I figured if I didn’t throw harder, I was going to lose,” he said. “I’m surprised I won with that.”

Johnston took the lead after a 70-second first lap and started clicking off sub 70s with O’Donoghue-McDonald and Mt. Spokane’s Allan Schroeder hot on his heels. With three laps to go, Schroeder went.

“I wanted to be in the lead group and go with 1,200 left,” Schroeder said. “It worked for a lap. They sped up, I tried to go with them. It was an awesome race.”

“I didn’t expect Schroeder to take off like that,” Johnston said. “It was a great move by him. I know it threw me for a loop.”

Schroeder finished third in 9:06.80, 2 seconds under Cameron Schwehr’s 2000 record.

Wilson had no issues in the pole vault, staying clean until his first attempt at 14-6, which he made for the first time last week. Bier also made it on his second attempt. At 14-9, which would have been a PR for both, Wilson had the best attempts, but the jump-off started after three misses.

The fourth attempt at 14-9 was Bier’s best effort. After each miss the bar was lowered to 14-6 and Wilson had his worst effort before Bier cleared to win.

Gardner ran on the heels of Ferris’ Adam Thorne until Moskowitz took off. Gardner couldn’t match the kick of the Central Kitsap senior, who finished in 8:59.27, but his time of 9:01.40 lowered his state freshman record by 5 seconds.

“My goal was to break 9,” Gardner said. “I’m so thankful I had Shane to take me out. He pulled me along.”

Girls

The 3A 3,200 was an impressive performance by three freshmen.

Neale and Juanita junior Tansey Lystad ran shoulder-to-shoulder in front of Shadle freshman Kendra Weitz and Knight before Weitz surged to start the second mile, which dropped Lystad.

“I was expecting the first part to go a lot faster,” Weitz said.

Weitz was outkicked, but she shaved 11 seconds off her PR with a 10:37.13.

Neale’s 10:31.75 was a record by .04. Knight’s 10:31.86 is 18 seconds better than the school record before she arrived.

“It was a PR,” Knight said. “I had to compensate (for the slow start). Luckily, Kendra was there for me again and did the work.”