TACOMA – It wasn’t roller derby, but it may have been the next closest thing.
Those who watched the State 4A boys 1,600 meter final Friday were treated to a race featuring multiple moments of contact.
Mead senior Andrew Gardner, who endured some of the jostling, pulled away with sprint-like form to repeat as state champion on the first day of Star Track XXXI at Mt. Tahoma High School.
Gardner won in a time of 4 minutes, 14.93 seconds.
“There was a lot of pushing, shoving, clipping on the back,” Gardner said. “I could have been a lot smarter and just gone out (with the lead). But I haven’t raced most of the guys from this side of Washington. So I just decided to let them do some of the work.”
Gardner got boxed in the middle of the pack twice by laying back. He was more than a little concerned both times.
“I was so scared,” he said. “All of a sudden the whole pack catches me and I’m in the back of the chasing pack. I started yelling at this kid next to me ‘Let me out, let me out’ and he moved out.”
Gardner started to pull away with 200 meters to go and he found an extra gear with 100 remaining.
He’ll get a day to rest today before returning Saturday afternoon to try to make it two straight in the 3,200.
“My coach was really smart this year just training me as a miler,” Gardner said. “So I have a lot of foot speed in me right now. To be honest the 1,600 was the race I was most worried about.”
The turnaround in a year for North Central senior Keith Williams has been impressive. He finished second-to-last in the 1,600 last year, but the field was chasing him Friday.
Williams led essentially start to finish to capture the 3A state title (4:14.60). Sophomore John Dressel of Mt. Spokane took sixth (4:18.45).
“I’ve had a good year and haven’t gotten injured,” Williams said of the difference between last season and this year. “I listened to my coach (Jon Knight).”
The pace started slow so Williams decided to take the lead and not relinquish it. Dressel pushed the pace in the third lap before Williams took over for the final lap.
Williams said he has to remained focused. He had prelims Thursday evening in the 800 and 1,600 relay.
“I’m excited but I can’t get too excited,” he said. “I can’t get too excited until Saturday evening.”
Ferris senior Damon Unland recorded a personal best by a half-inch to place second in the shot put (57 feet, 8½ inches). He took seventh last year.
“The rain made it really slippery so I couldn’t go hard,” Unland said. “My goal was to win. It was a little frustrating but I got a PR (personal record) so that’s all right. I can’t be mad about it.”
West Valley senior Terrynce Duke made up for lost time, winning the 2A title in the long jump with a leap of 22-1.
Duke turned out for track his previous three years, but commitments to AAU basketball got in the way. He never finished a season until this year.
He was all smiles Friday. Duke’s final mark wasn’t safe until the runner-up came within three-quarters of an inch on his last attempt.
“It was pretty intense,” Duke said. “I’m making up for every year I missed.”
Deer Park senior Daniel Amann took third in the 2A 1,600 in a season-best 4:12.96 as Patrick Gibson of Squalicum and Conner Johnsen of Sehome both clocked 4:11.85 with Gibson getting the win.
NC senior Katie Knight fell short in her bid to repeat in the 3A 1,600. But she wasn’t too disappointed.
Future University of Washington teammate Amy-Eloise Neal of Glacier Peak won (4:44.88) and Knight took third (4:45.84) behind runner-up Megan Beauchene of Kamiakin (4:45.34).
Knight’s time was a season-best.
“I was racing with some of the best runners in the nation,” Knight said. “When you race with amazing people things happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Knight said she was trying a different strategy.
“It was a tough race,” she said. “We were trying out a new strategy and I’m not much for kicking races. They make me nervous. We just didn’t go hard enough in the middle for my kick to be as effective as it could have been.”
Knight will try to defend her title in the 3,200 on Saturday.
“It’ll be a fast race,” Knight said. “It’s nice to have the 3,200 after the mile because the mile doesn’t take as much out of you. There are races sometimes where you don’t get the place you want but you have to be happy with your time. It’s just the nature of running.”
Cheney senior Sanne Holland was hoping to pull off a distance double, and she was in a good place through three laps.
But Holland faded in the final 200, finishing fourth in the 2A 1,600 in a season-best 5:07.30. East Valley freshman Brittany Aquino took fifth (5:14.52).
Central Valley freshman Briegan Bester took seventh in the 4A 1,600 in a season-best 5:01.99.
Rogers junior Tierra White tied for fourth in the 3A high jump (5-2).