As most of the 38 athletes representing Coeur d’Alene at the State 5A track meet gathered in the gym before practice Monday afternoon to get their travel plans, several came out of the locker room and surprised head coach Linda Lanker with a giant birthday cake and flowers.
Taken back, Lanker said, “The best birthday present is what you did on Friday.”
If that success at regional last week, which makes both the Viking girls and boys contenders for state titles, is the best present, it wasn’t the first.
That would be extraordinary hurdler Morgan Struble.
The junior is one of the top hurdlers in the Northwest.
Her time of 44.24 seconds in the 300-meter hurdles leads the state and would be third in Washington. Her 14.78 in the 100 hurdles is second, and would be top 10 in Washington.
“She’s the best high school hurdler I’ve ever coached,” said Lanker, who has helped many of the best hurdlers in the area in recent years, along with those at Spokane Falls Community College. “That almost goes for college. She’s the real deal.”
Struble landed at CHS when her father was transferred from Missoula by NAPA and they picked Coeur d’Alene because her brother lived there and loved it. As for picking schools, timing played a part. There was a story in the newspaper at that time about Lanker’s affiliation with the national track program.
“We asked the schools about their sports programs and the athletic director was like, ‘We have Linda,’ ” Struble said. “That helped us decide.”
It’s proven to be a pretty good match.
Struble arrived in Coeur d’Alene as an accomplished hurdler, having finished fifth in the 300s as a freshman for Missoula Big Sky and third in both last spring.
“They were good (times), but they’ve improved a ton this year,” Struble said. “Linda started training me right when I moved here in August. That helped a lot. Her being a hurdler helps me. She knows what she’s doing. Part of it is I’m getting stronger. I had my form down pretty well, but her critiquing me has helped me, not perfect it, but get closer to where I should be.”
“She came in knowing how to hurdle,” Lanker said. “That made such a difference. There were some things we had to tweak. All we had to do was get her in condition and work on her strength.”
Struble would like to be an engineer in alternative energy.
“Hopefully with a scholarship to someplace warm,” she said. “Hawaii is my first choice.”
Right now the focus is on state, which begins this afternoon at Boise State
“I’m feeling pretty confident, but I’m really ready for some close competition that pushes me hard,” Struble said. “I’m at the times I thought I’d get by the end of the season. I was reaching those at the middle. I think now I’m going to be doing much better than I thought.”
“And she’s got a whole year to go,” Lanker said. “I got lucky. I feel fortunate.”
The Coeur d’Alene girls, fifth last year, have a good chance for their best finish since winning state in 1991. Struble and distance star Kinsey Gomez lead the charge against Mountain View’s sprinters.
The Vikings boys were second in state last year, their best finish since 1984 (also second place).
To get a trophy this year, the distance corps is going to have to score big. Eagle and Rocky Mountain, with a stable of sprinters, are favored.
In Washington, state- qualifying meets for area teams begin today. The District 2B and District 7/9 1B meets at Whitworth send three on to Cheney. The District 9 2B is today and Friday in Walla Walla, with two advancing.
The 4A and 3A begin their two-day meet at SFCC Friday afternoon, both advancing three. The one-day 2A meet is Friday at Prosser with four advancing. The 1A meet, with three advancing, is Saturday at Riverside High School.
Shadle Park junior Nathan Weitz blasted to the District 8 3A record in the 3,200 last Thursday night with a little help from state leader Vince Hamilton of North Central. Last Friday, NC’s Casey Adams edged Weitz by one-hundredth of a second in the 1,600 for another district record.
The runners behind them ran heady, energy-saving races, but all four in both races are capable of claiming one of the three berths to state.
Now it’s time to add Kamiakin’s Anthony Armstrong, who has the No. 2 time in the 3,200.
Unless they run top times, some deserving, probable state placers won’t be running in Tacoma next week.
All four GSL qualifiers, however, were under the automatic state-qualifying standard of 4:18.27.
A new athlete on the scene on this side of the state is Isaiah Brandt-Sims, a freshman at Wenatchee. He leads the state in the 200 (21.71) and 400 (48.50). He took the 200 lead from Mead’s Wes Bailey (21.78).
University pole vault coach Reg Hulburt, who has had more than his share of success, said, “That is unheard of.”
He was talking about one of his vaulters making regional – a beginner and a senior.
That would be Cady Markin, who is used to success. She won the State 3A all-around gymnastics title in February.
“I pole vault because it’s the closest thing to gymnastics and I miss gymnastics so much,” she said after clearing 10 feet to move on. “It’s really hard. I’ve got the run down, but it’s all about technique. … I want to pole vault in college. After 13 years of gymnastics, my body can’t take that any more.”
Aaron Castle of Newport increased his state-leading shot put mark by more than 2 feet with a heave of 63-3. He’s the first thrower in the state to crack 63 feet since 2007. It’s the 14th all-time throw in the state and fourth in the nation this year – and he’s only a junior. … Freeman’s Morgan Romey recovered from a broken hand in time to throw at the District 7 1A meet and added 3 feet to her season best with a 41-9. … The first area athlete to dip under 50 seconds in the 400 is Freeman junior Quinn Robinson (49.89). … Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak, who visited Spokane to run an impressive 2,000 steeplechase at the Mooberry Invitational, added the state lead in the 800 (2:11.07) and 3,200 (10:17.04) to go with her best in the 1,600 (4:49.06).