At the end of the girls 2B portion of the State 1A/2B/1B track and field meet Saturday afternoon, the St. George’s distance runners embraced something just as important as the medals:
The team championship – won in dramatic fashion in the final event of the meet– was merely frosting on the cake.
Needing to finish at least four points better than Okanogan, the Dragons’ 1,600-meter relay team did just that on a blustery day at Eastern Washington University.
Jora Gleason, Allison Hayes, Madison Ward and anchor Ashley Sande beat Ilwaco by less than half a second, while Okanogan finished third. That gave St. George’s the team title by the narrowest of margins, 71 to 70½.
The title was earned in the distance events and the bond between Ward, a junior, and senior Marika Morelan.
After Ward descended the podium after winning the 1,600, she gave Morelan, who finished second, another hug.
“I was getting pretty nervous for this race, but we’ve been training together for years, pushing each other,” Ward said.
Morelan, who won the 3,200 title on Thursday, returned the compliment.
“They’re completely different races, but watching her (Ward) … that helps me a lot,” said Morelan. Gleason took fifth in the 1,600.
An hour later, all three were reunited on podium after Ward won the 800 while Moreland and Gleason finished sixth and seventh.
That’s 33 points in two events, which set the stage for the winning relay effort.
Meanwhile, Gleason’s journey has just begun. A track newcomer as a freshman this year, she started the season with the sprinters.
“But the coaches said I had too much endurance and not enough speed,” said Gleason, who in the span of a few weeks migrated to middle-distance running.
“I’m already excited for next year,” Gleason said.
Two out of four isn’t bad, especially when you score 36 points for your team.
Scout Cai of Colfax capped a remarkable career on Saturday with a title in the high jump and runner-up finishes in the 100 and 200.
Cai narrowly lost in the sprints to Grace Hamre of Napavine, who also won the triple jump. Between races, Cai cleared 5 feet, 2 inches in the high jump to edge Karelee Maioho of Wilbur-Creston.
That helped the Bulldogs finish sixth in the team standings, with 51½ points.
She didn’t win gold, but Deer Park distance runner Moriah Duenich still found a spot atop the podium after a remarkable weekend.
It began with a runner-up finish in Thursday’s 3,200 and ended with the Sportsmanship Award, which is given to the athlete who does the most to encourage others.
As it turned out, Duenich needed a pick-me-up on Saturday morning. She set a fast pace in the 1,600, “but my body was done by the last 200 meters,” said Duenich, who finished third and collapsed at the finish line.
“I’m just happy that I finished,” Duenich said.
Meanwhile, Lexi Rolan of Medical Lake turned in a dominating performance in the 100, finishing in 12.46 seconds.
“I was just thinking this is my race,” said Rolan, who beat runner-up Lauren Newman of La Salle by more than a quarter-second.
Midway down the stretch, “I saw Lauren running next to me, and I thought I had to push it,” Rolan said.
Rolan also pushed hard in the 200, edging Newman by a tenth of a second to bring home her second gold.
Naches Valley won the team title. Lakeside was fourth.
One of the top athletes in this meet was a shy sophomore from Oakesdale.
Anne Hockett won both hurdles races and the 400 while finishing second in the 200 to score 38 points for the Nighthawks, who tied for the team title with Mount Vernon Christian at 69 points.
The 400 title was even more impressive because it was earned with a meet-record 58.30 seconds – more than three seconds better than runner-up Mary Fudge of Thorp-Easton.
After counting her blessings and thanking her coaches, Hockett said winning was the product of “digging deep in every event.”
The most versatile athlete? Gracie StrangeOwl of Cusick.
A sophomore, StrangeOwl overcame a bad case of allergies to win the 1,600 in 5:47.67 – more than four seconds ahead of Tiffany Byington of Republic.
Despite the fatigue from that race, StrangOwl shifted to the sprints, running the third leg on Cusick’s winning 400-meter relay team and finishing third in the high hurdles.
“I like all the races,” StrangeOwl said.
But she wasn’t done. In the final event of the day, she anchored the winning 1,600-meter relay to help Cusick finish third in the team standings with 64 points.