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North Idaho athletes mine gold at state meet

EAGLE, Idaho – Post Falls’ Steven Beck got Saturday jump-started by winning the pole vault and North Idaho athletes closed the 5A State track and field meet with a flurry of gold medals.

Post Falls’ Wednesday Walton, Lewiston’s Zion Stuffle and Lake City’s Maddison Ward collected gold, all within 15 minutes, near the meet’s conclusion at Eagle High School.

In the final 5A girls event, Coeur d’Alene’s 4x400 relay fell just short in the closing strides to Eagle, but the eight points boosted the Vikings into third in the team standings. Eagle (102 points) won the title. Lake City was sixth and Post Falls 11th.

Rocky Mountain’s boys coasted to the championship. CdA was sixth, Lake City seventh, Lewiston ninth and Post Falls 10th.

Facing his final attempt in the pole vault at 14 feet, 6 inches, Beck brought out the “big boy” pole and soared over the bar.

“It’s a bigger pole and I knew it was going to give me more pop,” said Beck, who barely missed clearing 15-0 on his third attempt. “My coach wanted me to stay on the old pole. I was like, ‘We’re in it to win it.’ ”

Beck has been battling a foot injury. Going with the longer, heavier pole required him to extend his approach from six steps to eight.

“It’s the first time I used it in competition,” said Beck, who broke the tips of two vertebrae last year at state when he landed in the metal pit. “I only jumped once on it in practice but I just kind of winged it.”

The Lake City sprint records Ward set Friday didn’t last 24 hours. The sophomore was second in the 100 (12.16), but charged past 100 nemesis Brittany Rawlins of Eagle on the straightaway for a convincing win in the 200. Ward’s time of 24.68 was lower than the overall state record of 24.80, but there was debate if it would be recognized as a record because of wind conditions.

“Everything I’ve been working toward has been paying off,” said Ward, who became LC’s first boy or girl to win a state sprint title. “It’s really exciting knowing I can compete with all these girls in Boise.”

“She took nearly a second off her (regional) time in six days,” LC coach Kelly Reed marveled.

Walton trailed speedy Eagle counterpart Allison Jeffries on the turn in the 300 hurdles but not for long.

“When I came around for that last 100 I just starting smiling because I knew,” said Walton, who has signed with the University of Idaho. “I could feel myself gaining and I wasn’t going to let them beat me.”

Walton passed CdA’s Kaitlyn Gunnerson near the finish line to take second in the 100 hurdles behind Jeffries.

“She (Jeffries) goes all out in the first two hurdles (of the 300) so I focused on beating (Timberline’s) Lillian (Ball) to the first hurdle and slowly gaining on Jeffries,” Walton said.

Lewiston’s Stuffle also closed with a burst to win the boys 300 hurdles in 38.62.

Coeur d’Alene’s Makayla Strand placed second in the pole vault (10-6) and Krista Story was second in the 800 (2:19.26). Boise’s Emily Hamlin (2:18.74) held off Story in the final 30 meters.

“Once we got through the turn and there were the three of us I thought I had a chance,” Story said, “but Emily was so strong.”

The Viking girls didn’t have an individual champion but they accumulated points with depth and strong relays. Coach Linda Lanker pointed out that nearly all of the point scorers return next season.

Lake City’s Chris Baker was second in the 100 (10.92) and third in the 200 (22.15).

“He had a tremendous weekend,” Reed said.