TACOMA – For four years, Mariah Cunningham of Central Valley worked for a state championship.
She played on a State 4A runner-up basketball team. She was close last year in track.
In her final field event Saturday, Cunningham broke through, jumping 5 feet, 4 inches to win the high jump as Star Track XXXII concluded at Mt. Tahoma High School.
Cunningham’s smile was golden, too.
“I accomplished my goal for the year,” said Cunningham, who has signed to play basketball at Eastern Washington University. “It wasn’t my best jump but it was enough so I’m OK with that.”
She cleared the same height as Mayson Douglass of Mead. But Cunningham won based on fewer misses.
“It feels really awesome,” Cunningham said. “I wasn’t ever expecting it so it was kind of a shock. When I was taking my last jump it kind of sank in that I’m the champion. It makes me really happy. I know what it’s like to be so close.”
There couldn’t have been more drama for Mead junior Carrie Jacka in the pole vault.
Everything was smooth sailing until she reached 11-9. She missed her first two attempts, but after switching poles on back-to-back attempts, Jacka cleared the bar with ease.
Then using that adrenaline, Jacka captured the state title by clearing 12-0 on her first attempt.
“I wasn’t attacking as hard. I couldn’t swing and then Laurie (Chadwick, Mead assistant coach) told me to get myself together and attack it way harder,” Jacka said. “I wasn’t nervous the whole time until I got to 11-9.”
So Jacka adjusted her pace on the runway and pulled through in the clutch.
“I was a little more determined,” Jacka said of her final jumps. And it got on a (stiffer) pole and stayed on it longer.”
Jacka transferred to Mead this year from Deer Park. She took sixth at the State 1A meet last year.
She was elated even if her even-keeled countenance didn’t show it.
“It hasn’t quite hit me yet,” she said. “I’m excited because my sister won her junior year and now I got to win and I can try to win next year.”
No area boys or girls teams captured trophies. Mead’s boys finished sixth (36) and CV’s girls took eighth.
The Federal Way boys and girls became the first 4A repeat state champs since Garfield in 1984-85.
Other top performances from area athletes: Mead sophomore Bryan Anderson took third in the 300-meter hurdles (38.95); Kayla Leland of Gonzaga Prep took fifth in the 800 (2:12.50); and Luke Hilmes of Mead took third in the discus (184-10).