Oh, there were the usual great races and the usual dominant winners. There always are at the Eastern Regional 4A and 3A track meet.
But the first day of the two-day state qualifying meet at Spokane Falls Community College Friday night was more about opportunity.
There was the 16th-seeded high jumper taking the third and final spot to state, or the sixth-place finisher in last week’s Greater Spokane League district meet finishing second in the long jump.
But when it came to seizing the moment, no one came through quite like Drew Sharkey. One of the top discus throwers in Spokane, the Ferris junior failed miserably last week. With a throw a good 30 feet short of his best, Sharkey finished ninth and sat dejectedly on a bench as the finals among the eight regional qualifiers went on without him.
One of those was senior teammate Anthony Canton, whose throw of 133-8 was a personal record, even if it was 10 yards shy of Sharkey’s usual effort.
“Anthony really stepped up and he PR’d big,” Sharkey said. “He got the eighth spot and he also made it in shot, so he scratched out and gave me the opportunity.”
His response to Canton was, “Oh my gosh, I love you. He’s a great teammate.”
His response in the ring was a winning throw of 161-0.
The Central Valley girls and Mead boys lead the 4A portion of the meet while the Hanford girls and North Central boys lead in 3A. There were only two running finals, the 400-meter relay and 3,200, as the meet concludes today beginning at 11 a.m.
The 3,200s produced two of the six records set, all in 3A. Shadle Park’s Nathan Weitz ran 9 minutes, 3.96 seconds to clip more than 4 seconds off the previous best by Hanford’s Adam Tenforde in 1999. North Central’s Katie Knight went 10:24.06, 22 seconds faster than the record time she ran last year as a freshman.
Sharkey thought his season was over until Canton made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“Our coach presented the idea and said it was totally up to him,” Sharkey said.
“It was his call. It was a very lucky move for me. He’s going to the Air Force and he has team before self. He said, ‘You can go. You have a chance to do better.’ ”
Sharkey spent the week working on his form but he knew he would have to do something different to avoid a repeat of district.
“I was relaxed,” he said. “Last week I was stressing out so I knew I had to come in relaxed because that’s one of my problems. I knew I had the kinks out so if just relaxed I’d be fine.”
That approached worked for Mead high jumper Kelsey Mix. After clearing 4-10 at district to tie for eighth at district, she had no expectations.
“I just didn’t feel pressure because I didn’t think I would go to state,” she said. “I just wanted to do my best, try to PR and I ended up going to state.”
She improved her best by 2 inches, covering 5-2.
For Rogers long jumper Davante Smith, the opportunity took a little longer to develop. He injured his left knee in the last game of his freshman football season. He didn’t make it back to the field – or onto the track – until he was a senior.
He was sixth at district, his jump of 20-7 coming up 7 inches short of his best. But when he matched his PR of 21-2 on Friday, it put him second, just an inch behind the winner.
“At first I was kind of skeptical but after I got that 21, I was thinking to myself, ‘I can do it,’ ” he said. “It’s an achievement for me. Freshman year I blew out my knee and I was out three years with three surgeries. Going to state and representing my school is an honor.”
Central Valley freshman Savannah Hoeskstra had her meet cut in half so she made the most of it.
After receiving the gold medal for winning the long jump at 17-8½, more than a half-foot PR, she headed for the coast and an ODP soccer tournament.
“Running hard, warming up good, being confident and listening to my coaches,” she said. “I kind of miss doing all four events (she had to scratch out of the 100 and 200) but the four-by-one was right next to the long jump so I was ready. When I have a good warmup I do a lot better.”
State cross country champion Kenji Bierig of Lewis and Clark finally put together a big race, pulling away from Andrew Gardner in the final 200 meters to win the 3,200 in 9:04.96.
“Honestly, I felt really tired at the 1,200 mark,” Bierig said. “I just wanted to stay behind him, keep contact and hopefully draw on something to put myself in position to win.
“It was definitely big for confidence, just getting back to good health. I missed (a late meet) with a cold.”
It’s no surprise Celena Ward is headed to state in the javelin, which she won by more than 13 feet with a throw of 130-2. Shot put is a different story, but with a PR of about 2½ feet, her 36-2 snagged the third spot.
“It hasn’t hit me,” the North Central senior said about the event she has done just four times. “I’m kind of shocked. I don’t even practice this, why am I going to state?”
Teammate Brittney Konynenbelt had mixed emotions after finishing fifth in the long jump. She locked up a state berth when she surpassed the automatic qualifying standard of 16-11¾ by a quarter-inch, but she wasn’t close to where she wanted to be.
“I’m happy I’m going to state, but I’m kind of mad,” she said. “I’ve been trying for 18. It made me less nervous. I’m excited I have another chance to show I can jump farther than that.”
Mt. Spokane speedster Chase Naccarato is headed to state in the long jump, an event after he just took up a little more than a month ago, and his second-place jump of 22-1 broke the school record.
“My coaches wanted me to try since I was a freshman, but I never got around to it,” the junior said. “I already had four events. I love it. It’s lots of fun. I never expected to go to state, but I knew if I competed I’d have a chance.”
For the second straight week, Weitz ran hard in the 2-mile, even though he didn’t need to do that to advance.
“I felt pretty good for the whole race,” he said. “The first two laps were a little slow, but I wanted to stay back and see how the race developed.
“You just take every moment and see what you can do in those moments. I think it’s best to grab every challenge you have.”
Knight had a similar feeling in the girls race as she ran a 2-second PR by pulling away from Kendra Weitz, who also had a slight PR, in the final lap.
“It’s always a pleasure to run with Kendra, seriously,” Knight said. “That wasn’t the original plan but sometimes you get into races and why waste good competition. If she’s going to go, it’s great to run with fast people. I wouldn’t trade it for anything and it was fun.”
There were some big-time improvements in Prosser while the Cheney boys and girls were grabbing team titles.
A big one was Othello’s Christine Kirkwood adding 7 feet to her state record in the javelin with a throw of 173-9.
Deer Park’s Bailee Jacka added 10 inches to her pole vault with a winning 11-7. Pullman’s Anna Guo went 18-5 in the long jump, an improvement of 7 inches.
Leading the way for Cheney was Janessa Day, lowering her times in winning two events, the 200 (24.65) and 400 (57.44).
Cheney’s Diondre Moore-Young won his four events, two with season bests, the 200 (22.28) and the 300 hurdles (39.42). Teammate Devon Johnson added 11 inches to his long jump (21-11).